I’ve put off on writing about The Newsroom because like most HBO shows, it really needs the context of the full season before you can really discuss what it did well, what it didn’t, and just who the hell would not fire Allison Pill’s character for her screaming incompetence and character flaws.
But we’ve only got one more episode to go, so I figure I’ve digested enough to at least talk about something that blew my damn mind:
Aaron Sorkin inserted himself into the narrative of one episode as God Almighty.
Here is what went down:
At the end of “The Blackout, Part 1,” executive producer Mackenzie MacHale (one of five women on this show with alliterative and highly improbable names, FYI) – BEST E.P. IN THE BUSINESS, we are constantly told despite the fact that she does dumb things like let a man who is stoned out of his gourd onto the air because he really really wants to break the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed – is distraught.
She has been forced to compromise her principles about reporting only Important News because it turns out that when she does that they lose half the audience to whoever is covering the Casey Anthony trial. So she goes about setting up a pre-taped interview with a woman who sex-tweeted with Anthony Weiner (who is not the actual person – but they are actual transcripts, which I’m sure is something HBO’s legal team is not worried about). This (imagined) woman is horrible, by the way, and just wants to get on TV. She is a fame-whore, and is treated like she’s got fricking leprosy by the rest of the staff.
ANYWAY, so poor Mackenzie MacHale, in a fit of frustration, if not professional decorum, shouts to the ceiling of the control room, “GOD, JUST GIVE ME A SIGN THAT I’M DOING A BIG THING BADLY!”
And so God – in the form of the man who wrote all of this business, Aaron Sorkin – responds by causing a power outage that shuts down the whole building.
And then Mackenzie MacHale says: “I didn’t know God had such crack comic timing.”
DID YOU SEE WHAT HAPPENED THERE?
God/Sorkin put his creation into a difficult position, purely to serve his cruel whims. And then he forced his creation to beg for him to save her. And so he did, in a spectacularly contrived fashion, which causes her to COMPLIMENT HIS COMIC TIMING.
Aaron Sorkin used his power over an entire universe and its inhabitants to give himself a pat on the back for his writing chops (even when they are used to incredibly lazy effect, as they are here).
Amazingly, it was not just comic timing, but a handy way to exit out of the first of a two-part story. Even more amazingly, this blackout lasted approximately two minutes into the next episode before the power came back on and she had to record the stupid interview with the Weiner-sexter anyway.
Because Aaron Sorkin is a malevolent god who also sometimes writes his way into corners and has to think fast.
By the by. This blackout was telegraphed fairly early on – okay, as early as the title card, yes, but within the episode itself, here is what happened.
The Evil Ratings Guy – a man who previously burst into the studio IMPLORING Hero Journalist Will McAvoy to just pronounce Gabby Giffords dead already because people will surely change the channel if he does not! – so, y’know, a real slimy dude – completely breaks character while talking to Hero Journalist Will McAvoy so that he can also cheerfully share information about the weather, and how at 98 degrees, “That’s when blackouts happen!”
But this isn’t just casual chit-chat. The weather is something this dude is really into. He knows about seasonal trends, where hurricanes are happening, and yes, which temperatures are likely to be related to suspiciously well-timed blackouts.
Of all Aaron Sorkin’s most recycled material (I think we’ve all seen that supercut of repeated dialogue and situations, but I can’t wait to see the revised edition that adds in that “doing a big thing badly” line he cribbed from one of the more affecting episodes of SportsNight), this is the one that baffles me the most.
Because Evil Ratings Guy is also a Weather Nerd. Jeremy AND Casey were Weather Nerds on SportsNight. Sam Seaborn loved talking about barometric pressure or whatever nonsense with Bartlet (who was an Everything Nerd, so we can’t really count him). I guarantee you that if Studio 60 had gone on any further, Nate Corddry wouldn’t have been able to shut up about cloud formations.
But I’m fairly certain this isn’t a real thing. My best evidence? I Googled “Weather Nerd” and did not find anything that looked like there’s a community of likeminded individuals talking about upcoming forecasts with knowledge and vigor (outside of weather reporters, and I’m pretty sure they have official titles).
Ultimately, the reasons these characters are Weather Nerds (usually for only one scene in one episode) is that God/Sorkin needs someone to mention any weather that may have dramatic consequences later in the episode, because otherwise it would just come off as a lazy way to break up a two-part story.
However, if anyone out there really gets off on heated conversations about high temperatures at the end of May (and who wouldn’t, it’s not like that’s usually held up as the epitome of banal conversation!), I look forward to your angry comments.
And if I am in a universe similarly crafted by a Sorkinesque deity, I apologize, O Lord. Please don’t make me suddenly do stupid things like call an entire staff in on their day off so I can present reasons I think Bigfoot is real.