The Newsroom Review: “Bullies” (Season 1, Episode 6)

The Newsroom has split critics down the middle. Some love it, some hate it, but there is no denying that for its audience, it satisfies on almost all levels. For an HBO “drama,” this is easily one of the most instantly watchable and easy on the brain shows around. That’s not saying that its simple or dumb, but unlike Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones, it doesn’t test your patience with a massive cast, epic locations and an equally epic storyline. The Newsroom keeps it simple, making it sharp and funny with characters who are very clear cut and easy to like and hate.

It’s Sorkin’s writing style that makes the show work, he never talks down to his audience but he doesn’t want to bore or alienate them either, his number one priority is to make it entertaining. And if I’m honest, despite all its flaws, The Newsroom is perhaps the most entertaining show on television. This week’s episode entitled “Bullies” is once again a Sorkin story told with a broken narrative structure. He did the same thing numerous times on The West Wing and used it to Oscar winning effect on The Social Network and now he’s done it again. The formula works very well for Sorkin, it allows characters to explain a story in incremental bits until we get the full picture and emotional hit of the story.

This week’s episode opens with the usually infallible Will flubbing his closing comments on the show, concerned for his well being and why there has been such a mess up, Mac inquires only to find out that Will hasn’t been sleeping. Mac tells him to go to see his therapist, Abraham Habib, who Will hasn’t seen in 4 years despite paying for weekly appointments. He doesn’t want to go but hopes to get some sleeping pills out of the meeting.

When he arrives at the office, followed by a bodyguard, Will discovers that Habib died 2 years ago and his now 29 year old son, Jake, has taken over the practice. From there we flashback to the preceding couple of days before Will gets to the psychiatrist’s practice.

After a slew of poor comments made under aliases on the News Night website, Will adds “fixing the Internet” onto his to do list, which also includes fixing the news and restoring civility. He decrees that all commentators to the News Night programme cannot hide behind anonymous names and must state their occupation and their qualifications, if any.

Another Sorkin soapbox moment, the man has been very outspoken on Internet commentators in the past and The Newsroom is yet another one of his creations that speaks out against the phenomenon once more.

However, the ideal situation for a temperately moderated message board does not prove to be successful. The system that Neal sets up for Will is hacked and he receives a credible death threat. This disturbs Charlie and Mac, who insist that Will has a bodyguard tail him. He doesn’t like the idea but the insurance company overrules him.

Enter (bizarrely) Terry Crews (who will never find a way to crawl out of the hulking meathead typecast) as Lonny Church, who surprisingly has no trouble engaging with Sorkin’s dialogue in an amusing manner.

Another pressure on Will is that Don is looking for a replacement to anchor the 10 o’clock show due to Elliot being unavailable. Will vouches for Sloan Sabbath, the economist for News Night, who will finally have the chance to prove she is a capable news anchor as well as being a overly qualified contributor with “a great pair of legs” who is apparently fluent in Japanese. The good news for her is that she could be set to make a splash on ACN as one of her contacts, a spokesperson at TEPCO in Tokyo, has told her that the Fukushima Power Plant is leaking more toxic radiation than the company cares to admit.

He has, however, told her this off the record and to try and get him on the record she turns to Will for advice. In a rotten mood, he tells her to pursue the interview no matter what the situation and push as hard as you can, not allowing him to lie. This works out disastrously on the air though. Sloan’s contact appears on the show but the translator doesn’t accurately represent him, leading the fluent Sloan to converse with her friend in Japanese while they are on the air.

This leads her to spill the beans about the reactor leak reaching a far more dangerous level, which is information that was told to her off the record and shouldn’t have been broadcast. For her sloppiness and unmediated outrage, Sloan is put on suspension by Charlie, despite standing up to her boss in a great moment: “Don’t call me girl, sir,” she yells at him.

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