When Jeff Met Jane
Jeff Daniels lost his status as the biggest star on The Newsroom with the arrival of Jane Fonda as Leona Lansing. The character is clearly named for disgraced hotel honchess Leona Helmsley and revered movie studio head Sherry Lansing. But in a bit of sledge hammer irony, the role is a female version of Fonda's ex-husband, media mogul Ted Turner.
Sorkin's fantasy of The-News-The-Way-I-Wish-They-Did-The-News reached a new apex when anchor Will McAvoy (Daniels) apologized on air for the previous timidity of his program. He then proceeded to more than make up for lost time by covering the 2010 election season with a relentlessly scalding assault on "Tea Party" extremists.
Will taunts his current executive producer/former lover Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) with a procession of knockout dates. Meanwhile, the relationship between senior producer Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) and associate producer Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill) advanced a notch this week with Jim's caring response to Maggie's panic attack.
What Worked, What Didn't
Worked: News president Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) and his boss Leona each devoured their half of the scenery as they clashed over the fate of the willful Will. Didn't work: The constant rush of pop culture references pouring out of the mouths of every character -- Rocky II, Gypsy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Inception, etc. Clever dialogue is more than reading the back of a Trivial Pursuit card.
"Abolishing the minimum wage WOULD create jobs. You know what else would? Slavery!"
-- Will, in a montage of acerbic on-air comments.
"What happened to human interest stories? Obesity, breast cancer, hurricanes, older women having babies, iPhones? He was GREAT at that s–t!"
-- Leona, very unhappy with the new Will
"Name me the freedom you had the day before President Obama was sworn in that you don't have today!"
-- Will, the montage continuing
" I'm not gonna swoop in like she's a rent controlled apartment."
-- Jim rejecting the idea that he go after Maggie on a romantic rebound
"Michele Bachmann is a hairdo!"
-- Leona dismissing Charlie's comparison of Bachmann to Joe McCarthy