Now that I’ve watched it more than 11 times, I’m ready to write some random thoughts about the first episode of season two of The Newsroom. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m still enchanted by the show, despite the fact that Bolivia Bunn is in it. Yes, she’s still terrible, but the show is still wonderful. Anyway, here are some musings on the first episode. Please chime in with your own in the comments section!
Salami Wrapped: The show kicks of with our hero, Will McAvoy, fielding questions from ACN’s lawyer, played by the fantastic Marcia Gay Harden. The crew is in legal trouble over the reporting of a black-ops mission called Genoa. Apparently genoa is a type of staysail. Since I have zero knowledge of sailing (other than that rich people and pirates enjoy it), the first thing I thought of was salami. Whether it’s salami or sail, the Genoa ordeal frames the season, with episodes revealing how the scenario developed, peaked, and went to hell. Writer Aaron Sorkin loves skipping around in time and he’s very good at it. Some see this device as Sorkin going back to the well, but as a fan I’m going to chalk it up to using an effective and time-trusted tool (like the parenthetical statements I’m so fond of).
MacKenzie McHale is a Hot Spaz: Sorkin was criticized for writing this character as a flustered nitwit that also happens to be the executive producer of the show. In the first ten minutes of the episode, Mac shows off her producer chops by fixing two potentially huge problems with a broadcast in a matter of seconds. In the hands of a lesser producer, the broadcast would have been ruined, but Mac saved the day (or night, as it were, since their program is called News Night). After that, she spends most of the rest of the episode being a flustered nitwit.
The critics that panned Sorkin for making McHale such a spaz are now accusing him of overcompensating. *sigh* I don’t know what the problem is; I totally believe that Mac is a sharp and capable woman that’s also romantically inept and sometimes socially disastrous. I fell in love with her character last year because Emily Mortimer made her strong, smart, and dorky (plus that accent). I don’t know why some critics have a problem with the show pulling back the curtain and showing (dramatically embellished) technical problems that happen during a news broadcast. I love that more people know what Avid iNews is thanks to the first season of The Newsroom. I love that this episode showed some of the behind-the-scenes issues a television producer has to deal with. And most importantly, I love that Mac saved the day.
Will McAvoy Sings “Friday”: This role has redefined Jeff Daniels to me. He owns it and crushes it in every episode — so much so that I have a hard time watching him in movies like Pleasantville and Dumb & Dumber. His portrayal of Will McAvoy is angry, vulnerable, insecure, gruff, endearing, and charming all at the same time. Will goes through the full spectrum of McAvoy moods in this episode, but also adds some outstanding comedy. While Mac was putting out fires in the control room during a commercial break, Will was singing Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” I’m amazed that he managed to make one of the most wretched and annoying songs of 2011 so entertaining. That’s simply masterful work.
Don Keefer 180: Wow. What the hell happened to Don? Arguably the coolest cat at Atlantis Cable News (which is secretly owned by Aquaman, in my head), Keefer started off last season as an angry dick and ended it as being an angry dick that you’d like to drink beers with. While he still had some of his trademark snarky zingers in the episode, he spent a lot of it being a dashing and sensitive ladies man. He resists the temptation of Bolivia Bunn’s character and deals with a major issue with his girlfriend Maggie in the most unimaginably considerate way possible. I mean, I know nice guys that would have handled Maggie way worse than Don did. While I still dig the character and am curious to see how he changes, the way he dealt with the Maggie/YouTube situation was just unbelievable to me — especially when you consider that he’s suppose to the “dick” of the group.
Maggie Goes Pixie: One of the early hooks in the show was Maggie interrupting Will’s legal interrogation. Her hair has been chopped off and she has a damaged aura about her. This is not the blonde, farm-fresh girl many viewers loved from last year. ACN lawyer Rebecca Halliday went as far as saying that she looked like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Apparently something awful happened to Maggie while she was reporting in Uganda. When the episode flashes back, she’s still the farm-fresh girl the audience is familiar with. Viewers are going to be wondering what the hell happened to Maggie in Uganda. Superficial viewers are going to wonder why she chose to dye her hair red. Perverted viewers will be wondering if red is her natural hair color and if the curtains match the drapes.
Charlie Skinner Rules: Sam Waterston’s character seems like the coolest drunken executive that ever lived. He’s the hard-ass that you dream about working for. Viewers love the character for his show-stealing scenes and episode-stealing lines. In this episode, he had several snappy Sorkin-esque lines, but they merely seemed like better quips than what everyone else had, rather than those awesome Skinner showstoppers from last year. Still, the character and actor are brilliant.
Jim Harper Goes Emo: While Don was the character male viewers wanted to drink with, Jim was the one they wanted to beat up. After getting his heart vivisected by Maggie, James Tiberius Harper (not his actual name) is having a hard time getting over his heart’s desire and being her boss. He volunteers for a crap assignment as an embedded journalist on the Romney campaign. Mac, being all too familiar with heartache, agrees to let her senior producer do a job that’s suited for a freelancer. Between his mopey sadness and pussified fleeing, you just want to punch Jim (mostly because he’s behaving in a way you can totally identify with). A real man (Don) would have fired Maggie and/or slept with her best friend. Jim runs away on the Romney bus (like I would have done).
Neal Sampat: I’m awfully fond of this character. He’s a dopey idealist that’s also a tech nerd. He’s also brown. Oh wait, no wonder I dig him. Anyway, I’m glad that Slumdog Millionaire is getting an early angle with Occupy Wall Street. All signs point to him falling for one of the Occupy organizers and getting thrown in jail. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all pans out for young Neelamani (it means the blue jewel).
Where’s Tess Westin?!?: The biggest problem with this episode was that there wasn’t any Tess. Hopefully this changes. Fast. Margaret Judson’s so sexy.
Sloan Sabbith…I Guess: It pains me to say this, but Olivia is really good in this show. Her character is sexy, funny, genius-level smart, and socially inept. Remember, that’s her character. Never forget that Olivia Munn is one of the worst people in Los Angeles…and quite possibly the world.