The boys and girls of Atlantis Cable News are back! Everyone’s (not everyone’s) favorite dramatization of not-quite current events, Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, has returned and my world feels a whole lot better. While I understand why some people hate-watch the show, I’m a sucker for Sorkin’s witty, dense, and rapid-fire writing. Here are some random thoughts and reflections on “Boston,” the first episode of The Newsroom season three.
Still dealing with the fallout of the Operation Genoa story, the News Night gang is trying to gain back the trust of the public. The crew is understandably skittish and gun shy. Thankfully, that didn’t get in the way of two important questions being asked:
Why did Greek yogurt suddenly become a thing? — Will MacAvoy
When did walnuts start going into chicken salad?!? — Elliot Hirsch
Bridesmaids to Bombings — The episode starts in Will McAvoy’s office, where our hero and his bride-to-be (and executive producer) MacKenzie McHale are discussing the amount of bridesmaids for their upcoming nuptials. Mac has nine bridesmaids pegged, but Will doesn’t have nine male friends to match up with them. Suddenly, Mac catches an explosion on a monitor. It’s the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, which serves as the real-news backdrop of the episode.
Don Still Rules — Meanwhile, the coolest cat in the newsroom — Don Keefer — is stuck in jury duty. He gets a text about the bombing and awesomely talks his way out of his civic duties. Don is far from the antagonistic prick he was in the first few episodes of season one, but his wit is still (entertainingly) razor sharp. I really enjoyed Don playfully taking jabs at Sloan’s “investigation” (more on that later) and Neal’s crackpot Internet sources. While this was a good Don episode, he wasn’t my MVP this show. That award goes to…
A Kindler, Gentler Reese — Speaking of no longer being an antagonistic prick, Atlantis World Media president Reese Lansing has done a total 180. Formerly a corporate overlord that only cared about the bottom line, Reese now onboard with News Night’s mission to do the news “right.” He supports the newsies, while also challenging them with the realities of business. In addition to dealing with the ACN crew, Reese has to deal with running all of AWM, his party-happy siblings, potentially disastrous quarterly earnings, and a bomb dropped by Sloan (again, more on that later). Chris Messina is fantastic in this role. His character is juggling a bunch of plots and he deftly delivers memorable lines concerning each of them.
Aaron Sorkin Hates the Internet: While it permeated several episodes of the first two seasons, The Newsroom writer’s disdain for the Internet is the loudest it has ever been in this episode. He rails on all the Internet writers that spreaded bad information on the Boston Marathon bombing. Innocent people were incorrectly identified as suspects by Internet writers and the Internet being what it is, the misinformation spread like wildfire. While Sorkin has a point in this particular case and there’s certainly a ton of crap Internet reporting, his preachiness comes off as antiquated. There are a lot of great resources on the Internet and there’s also a lot of crap reporting in old media. In fact, I’d say that it’s easier to find credible reporting on the Internet than it is on television. Still…love the dude’s writing.
Mike Tyson Olivia Munn Mysteries — The most unbelievable part of this episode was our dear friend Olivia Munn’s storyline. As you know, her character Sloan Sabbith has two PhDs in economics. Olivia Munn playing a character with dual doctorates is difficult to believe, but since her character’s social awkwardness often overshadows her intellect, it’s easy to forget that she’s supposed to be a financial genius. In this episode, Sloan is using her $24,000 Bloomberg Terminal to uncover a mysterious media buy. Yeah…right. Watching Olivia look at a Bloomberg Terminal, pretending to extract essential information was hilarious. It reminded me of Denise Richards pretending to be a nuclear physicist that uses her vast scientific knowledge to bail out James Bond. Suspension of disbelief is impossible.
Tag Team Promos — My favorite scene in this episode was ACN president Charlie Skinner and Will chastising the staff for cheering about a CNN retraction. Sam Waterston was brilliant, as always, while Jeff Daniels hilariously played the stooge. It reminded me of this Vince McMahon and Steve Austin locker room sketch. Charlie lead the speech, while Will comedically reinforced everything Charlie said.
Slumdog Snowden — The Newsroom’s Internet nerd, Neal Sampat, gets a beefy plot this season, as he received more than 27,000 stolen government documents. Neal mentioned Wikileaks in a previous episode and is the only character equipped to handle an Edward Snowden-like situation. Unfortunately, he asked for a few more documents from his mysterious source. Will points out that this constitutes espionage. I’ve been a fan Dev Patel since Slumdog Millionaire and I’m happy that his character has more to work with this season. I also love that he’ll be heavily interacting with AWM’s hired legal gun Rebecca Halliday, awesomely portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden.
Waldo Jim? — News Night’s senior producer is a background player in this episode, but I have a feeling that he’ll get more play on the romantic front in future shows. For reasons that don’t make sense to me, Jim’s girlfriend Hallie Shea (Meryl Streep’s daughter!) now works as Neal’s minion at News Night instead of running her own political website. You know, because the office needs another romantic coupling on top of the Will/Mac and Don/Sloan pairings. Jim recommends the former object of his affection, Maggie Jordan, to serve as Elliot Hirsch’s field producer in Boston. Will and Mac are skeptical, but Maggie comes through. After her triumphant moment, Jim gets a little twinkle in his eye. I’m hoping that Jim will have a Betty/Veronica situation, but don’t really expect one to get fleshed out since this season is only six episodes long.
Our Little Maggie is All Growns Up — Still traumatized by the tragedy she experienced in Africa, Maggie has exchanged bad haircuts for hellish stomach crunches. Working on the Boston story with 10PM anchor Elliot Hirsch, Maggie has to shift from field producer to on-air talent after she mistakenly gives Elliot some chicken salad with walnuts. Elliot is allergic to walnuts and his tongue starts swelling, rendering him incapable of coherent speech. After Maggie nails her television debut, Elliot gives her a tender, fatherly hug. I’m kind of meh on Maggie right now. She was adorably awkward in season one and annoyingly angry in season two. That said, I’ll always give her a chance. The character reminds me so much of my dear Zoe (Alison Pill’s awkward hand gestures are eerily similar to my Best Best’s).
McAvoy Rises — Will had a strange outing this episode. As expected, he was gruff and shouty throughout the show, but he started on a weak note. He absolutely failed at giving a pep talk, meant to invigorate the crew as they pursued the Boston Marathon story. Later, he served as Charlie’s John Oates during a dress-down speech. He closed out the show with a confidently angry soliloquy that we expect from him. While he’s the center of The Newsroom, I enjoyed that he wasn’t the center of this particular episode.
Coming Next — As a fan of The Newsroom since day one, I enjoyed this episode. It wasn’t the best, but I didn’t expect it to be. Since the final run is only six episodes long, there were a lot of plots to establish. This episode got them all running, while serving up the rapid-fire dialogue that Sorkin fans love. More importantly, it got me excited about the rest of the season. I’m looking forward to some Neal and Rebecca legal powwows. I can’t wait for Jane Fonda’s triumphant return as AWM CEO Leona Lansing. Most of all, I’m terribly excited to see Kat Dennings’ debut on the show. That woman is pretty close to perfection.
If you have a chance, let me know what you thought of the “Boston” episode of The Newsroom.