High highs, excruciating lows
The Newsroom Season 1 Episode 3 recap
I like high-low fashion, that whole concept of a skirt you spent way too much on paired with a Forever 21 tee and shoes you would never tell anyone were by Jessica Simpson. It makes me feel like I’m getting away with something, like I’m savvy, because I can pair one with the other and still (hopefully) pull off a look.
I wonder if Aaron Sorkin likes high-low – or if he even knows the concept? I don’t imagine that a man as successful, prolific, and busy spends a lot of time trolling for deals in Old Navy. And I know it’s kind of an odd association but I cannot stop thinking about “high-low” when I think about The Newsroom.
There are shows where you can see the original ideas have given way to sort of a mediocre mishmash, and I don’t like it, but I can understand it. It got noted to death or there was a creative change or whatever, and some things got better but some got worse; ergo, mishmash. But The Newsroom is not that.
It is so good and so bad in the same damn show. One has nothing to do with the other. This is actually kind of a feat, and I don’t know how it’s been accomplished. The level of discourse and accuracy and painstaking storytelling involved in the news stories is nothing less than incredible. It’s never been done before, telling a rolling history of the recent past, at least, not in this way – and when the show is in production, I’m utterly sucked in. They are seamlessly integrating real and constructed media clips and events, and it feels almost euphoric in its lofty goals which, often, it hits – especially when it’s about the ballet that is the control room and studio floor working in tandem.
And I should point out here that in three episodes, Jeff Daniels has disappeared into Will McAvoy. I buy that guy, at least in his job. I buy that he cares about what he does, and is experienced enough to be good at it. Lovely moment this week with “nod if you copy” and the nod is not a giant head bobble, but a small, understated affirmative. Really nice work here. And though I banged my head on the screen during Will’s overwrought apology, the montage as he systematically eviscerated Tea Party members over a period of weeks was, without question, the high point.
But the lows – oh, my God, the lows. Working from production to, you know, completely not – who the hell was the lackey who had to make the powerpoint presentation with his face forever in shadow but looking a little too much like the president of the company? I did giggle a little bit at Mommy’s little boy being excused from the room, and YES Jane Fonda was a sight to see, but we all know that meeting was overwrought and overlong and would have ended with even more overt instructions, i.e. “Will tones it down tonight or he’s done at the end of the week”. Mostly it was a chance to see Sam Waterston mug, and I’m not exactly complaining about that, because goddamn he is entertaining, but come on.
Don, on the other hand, is someone who I expected to bother me more, but who doesn’t that much. We get that he’s a douche, yes, and he would have been the first to deny people emails because (shrug) “eyes only, babe” but I know guys like this who really would, in their heart of hearts, like to do more important work, but feel like they’re the only ones caring about the practicality of the situation – ratings, viewers, mandates. He thinks he’s the only guy in the boat, that he has to shoulder it alone, and if being kind of a dick is the way to get through that, well, so be it.
So if Don can be layered, and clearly flawed in our eyes but not actually bad enough to be a villain or ignored, then please, please, someone tell me why Mackenzie and Maggie are both so completely and totally false?
I’m trying to decide if they have the same problem or different ones. Maggie is insecure and panics and just needs the love of a good man, but right now she’s with the wrong one (whom she makes out with, in full view of the office, ruining not only her character but his. Nobody would do this. Not the anxious new producer. Not the executive producer. It is utterly and completely impossible. If you want to hook up in a TV studio, that is what voiceover booths are for. GOD.), while Mackenzie is a bumbly flutterbudget who loses the plot of her insults and makes good TV but is insecure about other women and just needs the love of a good man, but right now she’s with the wrong one.
I’m not trying to be a curmudgeon about this; I’m just really trying to understand. Is it levity? The show needs some comic relief so it comes in terms of screamy EPs trying to denigrate an ex’s dates, which is not only incredibly insecure but telegraphs said insecurity to the entire room? Whither the woman who knew, only two episodes ago, exactly how Maggie should play her situation with Don? Why does Maggie, who has panic attacks and knows this, find that Jim’s smug condescension (which at least she was able to call out) is the thing to calm her down? As opposed to what Don would provide…smug condescension? I’m just at a loss here as to when these women are going to be allowed to inhabit the traits of actual professionals who have a modicum of control over themselves in their personal lives? Don’t get me wrong, people who have it all under control are boring in life and boring on TV but the ways in which they’re out of control are just so …easy. So surface. So low in the level of discourse about adults and how they relate to people around them.
Oh and WTF was with Will and “the boys” going out for a drink? If we’re going to say that news is still misogyny in its roots, Leona notwithstanding, can we actually say that? Why does Tess get to go home but Neil get to go for a drink? Sigh.
Lainey makes fun of me because I scream at this show but I can’t wait to watch it. Because I keep having hopes. I want it to improve. And like I said, high-low isn’t mediocre. But sometimes mediocre can keep its balance. The Newsroom is so good and so bad, in the same measure, that I can’t predict what will happen. But since it’s been renewed for season 2 already, place your bets now.
(Lainey: maybe this is why Duana was so chill for her wedding. I sat beside her last week as she watched this episode, losing her mind at her computer. Like a crazy person. And then totally calm when we realised we were missing some place cards.)