It is time to talk about ‘The Newsroom’

Posted: August 22, 2012 in Threat Quality
Tags: , , ,

ImageI’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.”


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).

ImageAmazingly, 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.


  1. Moff says:

    I am stunned by anyone who’s made it through more than an episode of The Newsroom. On the list of self-impressed things that make socially liberal people embarrassed for their side of the debate, it blasts past Bill Maher and Michael Moore to previously unseen heights. SERIOUSLY HOW DO YOU WATCH IT?

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    It’s on right after the Vampires Fucking show I watch with my buddy (who has the HBO), and we’re not all the way caught up with Breaking Bad yet, and there’s something about Bad Sorkin that’s kind of hypnotic. I’d say he’s trolling the audience except his intense hatred of the internet means he only just learned what trolls are (and it’s the subject of Dev Patel’s latest stupid subplot!).

    While I’m not going to defend the show – the things that are bad about it are Really Bad – there have been slow signs of improvement in the back half (this blackout situation notwithstanding).

    Unfortunately the things that are not improving are Emily Mortimer’s grating performance, Sorkin’s playing fast and loose with how news is actually gathered and reported, or the fact that the Maggie character is The Fucking Worst.

  3. John Jackson says:

    It really is crazy bad. I’m only watching it because Emily Mortimer and Allison Pill are the best in everything else I’ve seen them in. And Dev Patel and Natalie Morales are an outside second. I wonder why Sorkin takes the best actors and gives them the most incredulously improbable caricatures of people to portray. This show is making me like Olivia Munn because her character isn’t an ‘adorable’ babbling fool. She’s likable because she’s good at what she does and tries to stay away from things she doesn’t do well, because she fucks them up.

  4. Miranda says:

    Good grief, I thought the power outage was contrived when it happened, but I didn’t even make the very obvious God/Sorkin connection until just now. This show is such a train wreck. One of my Dish co-workers loves it and got me into it, but I’m not sure I have the energy to keep up with it next season. I think I might have to just add some DVDs of The West Wing to my Blockbuster @Home queue, which I have through my Dish account. Maybe it’ll wash the bad taste of The Newsroom out of my mouth.

  5. Jeff Holland says:

    “This show is making me like Olivia Munn because her character isn’t an ‘adorable’ babbling fool. ”

    I think Munn’s more limited acting chops are somehow working in her favor, because she’s WRITTEN as having a borderline-asberger’s social awkwardness. But Munn can’t quite pull that off, so she just plays her as being logical enough to not want to get involved with these lunatics’ antics if it can be at all avoided.

    Which means Dr. Dr. Sloan comes off as the only sensible person on the show (non-bourbon-drenched-bowtie-enthusiast division).

    Or at least that was the case until last night where she inexplicably revealed a crush on Don.

  6. John Jackson says:

    Oh … dear. Kinda glad I spent last night drinking with strangers now.

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