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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Newsroom, Episode 6: The Wit Is Back, but Idiocy Abounds

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2012 at 10:20 AM

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As you may have read, we hated last week's episode of The Newsroom, in which the sharp dialogue was replaced with self-conscious pap, and the fast-paced storylines were replaced with schmaltz. So what did we get this week by way of recovery? The pace is back on track and the cliches are minimal, but everybody is being an idiot to an unrealistic degree. Let us begin the recap! 

The episode starts with Idiot Incident No. 1: Will McAvoy fudging his closing lines on News Night in an unbelievable manner -- He calls himself someone else's name. He later admits to Mac that the gaff was caused by his inability to sleep, but tries to reassure her with the news that he's going to see his psychiatrist for the first time in four years.

At the shrink's office, Will discovers that his regular doctor has been dead for two years and the practice has been taken over by the deceased guy's son who is only 29. Will reluctantly meets with him anyway and we learn that Will has a history of taking anti-anxiety medication and that he has just received a death threat -- which is probably why he entered the doctor's office with a (remarkably witty) bodyguard.

Flashback to Will, on his show, reading out offensive viewer comments (from writers named "Lollipop Lollipop" and "Surrender Dorothy") picked from the News Night website. He's so irritated afterwards, he demands a new web policy. Cue the following awesome exchange:

Will: "Can you imagine Walter Cronkite saying "Lollipop, Lollipop" as many times as I have in the last 10 minutes?"
Neal: "Not unless he was in an a cappella doo wop group."
Will demands Neal implement a system where comments from viewers on the News Night website be accompanied by the writer's name, age, occupation, and level of education. "The result will be civility in the public square and a triumph of populism," Will declares. "I'm going to single-handedly fix the Internet!"

And thus, we realize that The Newsroom is officially back on form after last week's heinous disaster. And then it gets better. While dealing with a right-winger objecting to the building of a Muslim Community Center being built near Ground Zero, Will gives a lengthy list of crimes committed on American soil in the name of Christianity, then says: "We weren't attacked by Muslims, we were attacked by sociopaths. And I, for one, would join you in protesting a community center for the criminally insane -- but no one is suggesting building one."

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We'd like to note that for all its flaws, it is moments like these that reveal the real value of The Newsroom. This show says everything we wish American news stations had the balls to say. It says everything that The Daily Show says, without softening the blow with a joke. This is Aaron Sorkin's fantasy of what news would be like if stations were less concerned with advertising dollars and more concerned with rational thought. And even if these things only get said with hindsight on a fictional show, at least someone's saying them eventually.

Back to Episode 6. All that awesome crap Will just said? He gets a death threat because of it from someone who knows exactly where he lives. In the midst of stressing about that, Charlie tells Will to also expect yet another tabloid story about a complaint filed against him, at the station's HR department, on Maggie's behalf (a bystander made the report, not Maggie). Maggie explains to Jim why Will had yelled at her. She was asked to send flowers to a board member whose wife had died and Maggie sent a card that said "So sorry for your loss. LOL." Because she thought LOL stood for "Lots of love." So that's Idiot Incident No. 3. Idiot Incident No. 2 is Maggie also admitting to Jim that, while it was being invaded, she got Georgia the country mixed up with Georgia the state. We hate how dumb the show is making her this week, for the record. Another inconsistency for the show. 

Luckily, Sloan Sabbith is being a brainy pants to make up for it. Concerned that the threat from the post-tsunami nuclear reactor disaster will be worse than the Japanese are admitting, she has a conversation (in fluent Japanese) with a contact over there, via telephone. Just as she's learned that Fukushima is "going to a level seven," Don informs her that she's filling in for Elliott on his show tonight and that she is literally the only person available to do it. "You're expanding," Don says. "Oh, come on! I gained four freaking pounds!" replies Sloan, the woman with two doctorates who speaks Japanese. Idiot Incident No. 4 is even more unrealistic than 1 through 3. And yes, we'll say it -- kinda sexist. Sloan is then expressly told not to mention the Fukushima stuff on air.

Will gives Sloan a pep talk about doing Elliott's show, in which he tells her that she's not hard enough on guests and to not stop until the truth about the reactor comes out. The result is that during the interview with the spokesman from Fukushima, and his translator, Sloan scolds the translator for not relaying what the spokesman is saying accurately, and starts interviewing the rep directly, in Japanese, and ignoring Don's calls to go to a break. She then reveals what she was told, off the record, earlier -- that the nuclear emergency is going to go to level seven. Don, understandably, has a meltdown in the control room ("Go back to Japanese!") and Charlie suspends her.

Back to Will's therapy session where we find out his father was an abusive alcoholic and that he blames himself for Sloan's actions. Meanwhile, Mac sits down with Jim, Neal, and Maggie to find out what they've dug up on Will, in an attempt to figure out what else the tabloids could potentially use against him. Nothing of note shows up, but Mac finds out that Fox offered Will a late night talk show in 2006. This is news to her, so she immediately accuses Will of having no intention of marrying her back then.

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Will immediately pulls a Tiffany engagement ring out of his desk, explains it was meant for her, places it in front of her, and explains that Fox was using him as leverage, he knew he was never going to get a show there and he didn't bother telling Mac because it was embarrassing. Mac gets teary eyed ... Cut to Will, in therapy, admitting that he only just bought the ring -- after finding out the office was trying to dig up dirt on him. Sneaky, sneaky!

Sloan is packing up her boxes when she finds out that the Japanese spokesman has been forced to resign and publicly apologize because of her on-air statement. She is distraught. Flash back to an interview Will did with Sutton Wall, a gay, black campaign advisor to Rick Santorum, during which Will vehemently attacks the advisor and implicitly accuses him of hypocrisy for working for a homophobic candidate. Wall eventually breaks down and starts yelling back some valid points at Will, just as aggressively -- "I am not defined by my blackness. I am not defined by my gayness. And if that doesn't fit your narrow expectation of who I'm supposed to be, I don't give a damn."

Quick question. Is The Newsroom allowed to make things up like this? Or did a similar scenario actually occur in real life? We're ashamed to say we don't actually know if any of the right wing presidential nominees found themselves with advisors whose beliefs differed from their own, but we do know that Wall is a fictional character (at least according to Google), so attaching him to a real person that recently decided he might want to be president one day seems like shady ground to us. Jump in if you know what's going on here.

Cut back to therapy and Will draws a parallel between his interview with Wall and his (awesome) meltdown in Episode 1, when he yelled at a student for assuming that America was the greatest country in the world. "I was the bully," he admits.

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Don asks Sloan if he should be worried about Jim and Maggie, and Will's bodyguard hits on Mac.

Charlie figures out a way to not have to suspend Sloan -- He demands she go on air, say that she's not fluent in Japanese (even though she is) and apologize, in order to save her job and the job of the Japanese spokesman. All this despite the fact that Fukoshima has just officially moved up to a level seven. "It won't be our proudest moment, but it'll save the guy's job," Charlie says. "Save his honor."

Back to therapy and Will's psychiatrist tells him he needs more of it, to come back weekly. We then see Will putting the Tiffany ring in his desk and ripping up the receipt for it. He still has hope that things will turn out with Mac! We still have hope that this show can bounce back -- less of the unrealistic idiocy next week, please.

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