Until The Newsroom hits its stride, I’m keeping an eye on all Aaron Sorkin-related developments with this new section of the column. For now, everything in Sorkin’s universe is peachy with last week’s premiere episode checking in as the show’s second highest rated episode ever with 2.2 million viewers. You’d think The Newsroom would get a welcome spill over audience from True Blood, cable’s top program of the week, but the vampires that slay the Nielsen ratings were no help for McAvoy’s boys who took in a paltry 0.9 percent in the coveted 18-49 demographic.
Still, the critical reception was mostly positive and those who still have something negative to say about the show’s portrayal of women can take it up with starlet Olivia Munn.
“I think Sorkin writes all the characters the same,” Munn said in an interview. “If anybody criticizes my friends, that makes me very upset. I’m very defensive of the other women on my show because they’re really great people and great actors. They’re just telling a version of the truth that they know.”
Sorkin weathered some of that criticism by giving the exceptional Emily Mortimer something to work with other than incessantly nagging Will. In last week’s premiere, Mackenzie diced her way through a potential ethical dilemma, flawlessly commanding her control room with a calm grace that we’ve yet to see from her.
The development of Sorkin’s female characters is a bridge to the shaky new territory of episode two, “The Genoa Tip,” leads us into.
Realistically it could take three views to write a fluid review of this dense episode but I’ll have to settle for one. There are enough moving parts between the news stories and the queasy relationship drama to make us yearn for more Occupy Wall Street coverage as Neil’s aggressive pursuit of a rally destined to blow up was the only storyline that kept my head from spinning.
First we’ll tackle a story that was given little attention. Jim is still a producer wasting his time on the (primary) campaign trail. He continues to deal with the backlash of Will’s “American Taliban” comments assuring that other than a rude, mysterious competitor named Howie popping into Jim’s life, nothing has progressed from last week.
Will has been kicked in the teeth before and recovered but Sorkin is making his “American Taliban” gaffe out to be his Jimmy “The Greek” moment. “I’m not who I used to be right now,” Will says as he hands off his 9/11 coverage against his wishes.
Again, Sorkin is out to show us how much of a hero he wants Will to be. Just as CNN or Fox News does every September 11, the replay of the broadcast on that faithful morning in 2001 is re-aired. It is without a doubt the most scrutinized day of news coverage in contemporary media. It’s humbling to see The Newsroom try to recreate that coverage, which gives Will his most human on-air moment. Unfortunately its impact misses thanks to the crowded mess of news stories that Sorkin tries to neatly wrap up before the episode ends.
“The Genoa Tip” is flooded with stories that lack bite like Don’s odd connection/fascination with the Troy Davis trial and Jerry Dantana acting like a bewildered intern crying for a chance to be heard. Instead of sticking with Maggie’s relationship woes and her newfound confidant in Sloan or MacKenzie bullying Neil about Occupy Wall Street, Sorkin tries the throw everything at the wall approach and nothing seems to stick. Figuring out how to retroactively cover the news is becoming a task that is regrettably slipping through the fingers of the great Aaron Sorkin.
One bad comment can ruin a career but Will is far from done. Jeff Daniels is starting to show why he’s been nominated for an Emmy two years in a row. I think Sorkin has finally found his voice for Will and he’s allowing time for others in the newsroom to play to Will’s strengths. Let him be the alpha dog. He’s ready to challenge the government on anti-terrorist laws as the episode ends but lofty ambitions aside, The Newsroom needs to get out of its own way if it wants to make any real progress in becoming a viable player for HBO.
I hope Neil is right in his assertion that “prison really changes a man” and his involvement in the Occupy Movement redeems this train wreck of an episode.