Despite less than stellar ratings and a sour critical response, The Newsroom is still consistently written about week after week. One might point to the pedigree of Aaron Sorkin and lead Jeff Daniels or the excellence that is expected to come from an HBO series. Let’s face it: even a bad HBO series is more watchable than most of what is on television. The much more likely scenario: the media loves to write about the media.
Somehow I missed this, but for the premiere episode, Gawker had longtime CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather write down his thoughts on a show we have to imagine is close to his heart. His response was exactly what you’d expect. Rather called the first season “one of the best dramas on television.” Again, clearly the media loves to watch the fake media do the news otherwise I might have turned The Newsroom off last season. What was somewhat surprising about Rather’s write up was his take on how realistic the show actually is.
“This is the way news organizations and newsrooms work,” Rather wrote. “This is the way most television journalists talk, think, work and live. These are the kinds of challenges and pressures they face, the weaknesses and strengths they have, and the mistakes they sometimes make.”
I tend to trust a guy who spent four decades covering the news. However, I’m not sure if Sorkin-esque dialogue lit up the floor of the CBS Evening News room.
“The Newsroom as a workplace is a fantasy,” Rather says. “But know this: There always has been and is still more idealism than cynicism, more decency and good intentions among television journalists than for which they are sometimes given credit.”
On the Frontlines:
Don’t say Dan Rather didn’t call it: The Newsroom has become a quality television program. As we get deeper into the season, the cryptic lawsuit that is the basis for the overall arc of season two is starting to be revealed and it has exceeded my expectations so far.
“Unintended Consequences” builds off last week’s effort by poking fun at the show’s penchant for self-important smugness while stirring up a few dramatic situations that in grand Sorkin fashion pay off toward the end of the episode. It all begins with Maggie’s testimony in what has been shown to be a wrongful termination suit. All along we knew that someone would have to take the fall for whatever it was that went down in Africa. Maggie, who is clearly shaken up by the death of a young African boy who was shot and killed in her arms, could be the person who took the fall but with five episodes left in the season there’s no rush to show all cards right now.
At the moment, The Newsroom is content with sticking it to the empty promises and broken ideology of Occupy Wall Street. The movement as a whole fits into the leftist, hold-everyone-accountable creed that Sorkin has written his newsroom into. Even so, Occupy Wall Street becomes the object of Will McAvoy’s scorn.
The OWS arc doesn’t hold as much weight as Africa or even Jim Harper’s perseverance but it serves to humanize Will for the hundredth time.
Speaking of predictable plot twists, Jim and Hallie stopped trading one-liners and started sharing saliva. What we didn’t see coming was Jim giving up his 30 minutes with the candidate for a woman who defined the term ‘ice queen’ in the first three episodes. Hallie has to deal with a sexist boss and that strikes a chord in the heart of Jim Harper. Once again trying to play the role of the hero, or hopeless romantic, or both, Jim is burned by Romney’s press spokesperson. It’s safe to say there will be some more articles this week from former Romney staffers on the accuracy of fictional campaign.
As the episode closes, Jim returns and Maggie is left reeling from the trauma she experienced in Africa. When separated, Jim and Maggie’s plotlines helped put The Newsroom on a two-episode winning streak. Now reunited, we’ll see if Sorkin can neatly run the Genoa and Africa arcs together and chip away at solving this big mystery he’s created.
The show is a lot more enjoyable now that they’re poking fun at past mistakes, misconceptions and most importantly its overall smugness.
Dan Rather’s “best drama on television” assertion is still too strong and The Newsroom probably will never get to that point. But the show’s final few minutes were juicy, dramatic baby steps and that’s all we can ask for.
Den of Geek Rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars