It is highly ironic that a lot of this episode focuses on how the tabloid media has a morbid fascination with famous people’s private lives, in an episode that also features badly written office romance relationships with the same morbid fascination of the tabloids, only doing it without its own knowing sense of irony. But the performances help it along.
The Newsroom‘s high watermark is still Jeff Daniels, who has finally been given the major role on screen that his talent deserves. He’s done solid supporting work in small to big budget film throughout his entire career but has never had a great lead protagonist that he could really sink his teeth into.
His presence here is commanding and is forever watchable. While Sorkin doesn’t get the anti-hero traits as successfully as he did with Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, Will McAvoy is a really interesting character.
Just as it begins to lag down, the episode gets a little juicier as it comes to light that it is in fact Leona Lansing who is leaking stories to the press and trying to assassinate Will’s character in order to get him fired. These stories come in breach of his non-compete clause in his contract and therefore gives them suitable grounds to let him go, all because he keeps upsetting the relationships AWM (ACN’s parent company) has with people that News Night has been attacking. Although it is plot engines motoring at a speed of contrivance, it’s nice to get a piece of allegory about corporation influence on news and how it affects opinion.
On top of this, we get another piece of breaking news surrounding the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Despite reports of her death, ACN doesn’t choose to confirm death until it is confirmed. As they await the actual news from medical source, they find out that she isn’t dead, but just critically wounded.
It’s a brilliant piece of television, played out entirely to Coldplay‘s song Fix You. Once again the News Night team battles with corporate, even if it doesn’t agree with ratings. This is the kind of TV that makes you cheer and whoop, not some phoney, unoriginal office romance. It had me on the verge of tears. It’s so good in fact that it almost convinced me Coldplay were a half decent band. Almost. If you took this final 15 minutes and added it to a better preceding 45 and saved it till the last episode, you would have a remarkable season finale.
It is extremely relevant and the kind of writing we expect from Sorkin. The romance really doesn’t interest me. Hopefully by the time we get to Season 2, Sorkin will realise what works and what doesn’t and he will be able to structure the show accordingly. The great thing about television is that it has more room to grow than a film does. Two hours is nothing compared to the ten hours worth of material we’ll get for The Newsroom‘s first season. Just in the space of four episodes the characters have grown exponentially and they will continue to do so for the remaining six episodes and the upcoming second season.
As mentioned, this episode is remarkably uneven; some of it works and some of it doesn’t. That being said, anyone in their right mind would want to see Sorkin trying ideas out and failing rather than watch the most average showrunner put out the most middling, banal material. The reviews and the categorisation of the show as a drama haven’t done The Newsroom any favors. It isn’t as bad as most people say and the show is closer, much closer to a comedy.
If only people understood that, then the show would be a lot more successful.