The Debate Debate
Writer/creator Aaron Sorkin's use of the The Newsroom as a soapbox to denounce all that is wrong with the current state of TV journalism was never more on display than during this Sunday's episode. Star anchorman Will McAvoy's (Jeff Daniels) battle for a serious, substantive debate among the Republicans vying to be their party's presidential nominee was doomed to failure -- after all, the series is set in the past and we already know that sort of grown-up grilling of the candidates never happened. But the mock debate featuring stand-ins playing Mitt Romney and company and Will asking hard questions and insisting on straight answers was clearly Sorkin's vision of what American TV journalism should be.
While fighting for a debate they could be proud of, the newsroomers were still burdened with the need to cover the tabloid stories of accused murderer Casey Anthony and accused sexter Anthony Weiner in order to raise the ratings so that they could land the debate in the first place. When the debate fell through, the staff happily returned to covering more essential but less audience-friendly stories like congressional jousting over the debt ceiling.
McAvoy revisited his shrink, trying to decipher his defunct personal relationship with executive producer Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) -- specifically, why he still can't forgive her for cheating on him with a previous boyfriend (who is now working on a profile of Will, which is inevitably reopening emotional wounds). Meanwhile, the far less convincing triangle of senior producer Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.), associate producer Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill) and her roommate Lisa (Kelen Coleman) seemed to be coming to life again.
What Worked/What Didn't
Worked: The casting of guest stars on The Newsroom continues to be one of the show's strengths. The unfailingly excellent Adam Arkin appeared as an old friend of Will's from their days in the White House of the first George Bush, now a GOP official arranging the debates. Didn't work: Sorkin's continuing habit of having one character complimenting the clever comments of another. This of course is Sorkin congratulating himself, and it reached a new low tonight when Will told executive producer Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) that he sounded Shakespearean. He didn't. And that bit featuring Will tripping over his own pants was one of those gratuitous moments of character-inappropriate slapstick that Sorkin can't resist. He should.
The previews for next week's season finale of The Newsroom showed Will's ultimate boss Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda) firing him. Do you think McAvoy will actually lose his job or is this a fakeout waiting to happen?
"There was a round of budget cuts before you came here and they cut some of the redundancies because they thought they were redundant."
-- A control room staffer explaining to Mackenzie why the backup measures for a power failure weren't kicking in.
"Will is a lonely guy, isn't he? He doesn't care about ratings because of the money. He cares about ratings because the audience makes him feel less lonely."
-- Brian (Paul Schneider), Mackenzie's ex-lover, evaluating his romantic rival.
"Do a little wrong to do a big right."
-- Don, trying to make Will feel better about peddling sensationalism in order to nail the debate
"Balancing your checkbook is to balancing the budget as driving to the supermarket is to landing on the moon." -- Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) scornfully dismissing a popular analogy.
"I have to sound authentically moronic."
-- Tech geek Neal Sampat (Dev Patel) explaining how he is passing himself off as a conspiracy obsessed blogger online