The Newsroom Recap: (Tea) Party Foul

Just as News Night finds its footing this week on The Newsroom, the suits upstairs demand that Will and company bow to the corporate overlords. No reason that shouldn’t go smoothly, right? Let’s roll the tape and review the major developments of “The 112th Congress.”

SORRY ABOUT THAT | The hour opens with Will delivering an on-air apology to the American people for holding nobody accountable for anything in the pre-Mackenzie era. The speech is long, eloquent and classic Sorkin; it’s right up there with President Bartlett’s “10-word answer” debate retort or President Shepherd’s “I am the American president” press briefing. Will’s recitation is intercut with flashbacks of him writing his mission statement and sharing it with his staff — the episode’s first (but certainly not last) use of this device. Will namechecks Mackenzie and praises her abilities before reassuring the viewers that she and he will bring them the news that matters. “Who are we to make these decisions?” he asks defiantly. “We’re the media elite.” Ooh! Journalism burn!

TEA-D OFF | First on Will’s accountability list: the Tea Party. Over the months leading up to the 2010 congressional elections, we see Will repeatedly confront party representatives about all the old chestnuts: gay marriage, government spending, whether or not Obama is a socialist, yadda yadda. It’s fun to see Will so fired up, but the necessary exposition takes too damn long. “Get there!” Mackenzie yells at Will during his meandering explanation of why he doesn’t like the Tea Party. It’s a light moment and an on-point critique; I’m not sure that this kind of talky boil-down is going to work on a weekly basis. Anyway, on the morning after the election, Charlie is called into a meeting with Atlantis Cable Network owner Leona Lansing (played convincingly by Jane Fonda), Reese (the ratings guy Will met with last episode, who happens to be Leona’s son, president of the company and an even bigger jerk than he previously appeared) and a few others. Bottom line: Leona “has business in front of this Congress” and relationships with some of the deeply pocketed people behind the successful campaigns. So Will will lay off the Tea Party peeps who are now members of said Congress, or Will will get fired. Charlie, who to this point has been not only protecting but egging on his newly awakened news anchor, has no drunkenly witty retort. (Pretty sure that’s a first.) The meeting frames flashbacks of the News Night goings-on; again, it works here, but isn’t something I think will serve the series well if used week to week… though God knows I wouldn’t want the task of making newsgathering – an important but ultimately not captivating activity – visually interesting.

LADIES, A MOMENT? | From the top down, News Night’s female staffers have me perplexed. Is Mackenzie a kickass veteran producer unafraid of her peevish boss and capable of transforming a toothless broadcast into something amazing? Or is she a daffy ex-girlfriend who can’t handle seeing Will date cheerleaders and brain surgeons (yep) and goes as far as bringing it up during a pitch meeting?  (Though I did have to laugh at Will’s dry response to her “warning” about how his fame and wealth would make young women want to sleep with him: “That didn’t sound like something that should come with a warning. That sounded like something that should come with balloons.”) So far, Mackenzie’s much more likable than Dana, her parallel in Sorkin’s late ’90s Sports Night — last week’s email snafu notwithstanding. But good God, woman, get a hold of yourself! And something tells me your new boyfriend, Wade, isn’t going help with that process. At least with newsroom newbie Maggie, the silliness is a little more understandable: She’s young, and her frequent looks of “how the heck did I ever get this job?” – as well as her slight resemblance to Kristen Bell – have endeared her to me. But her on-again, off-again thing with Don needs to be finished, pronto; even when I was working my first retail job at 16, I knew engaging in a sloppy workplace make-out session with my boyfriend wasn’t the most professional move in my playbook. And though I didn’t love Jim’s condescending ministrations during Maggie’s panic attack, the way John Gallagher Jr. said, “You’re safe. You’re awesome,” saved the scene and made me want to see them as a couple.

PREPARE JAZZ HANDS  | Sorkin’s fond of musical theater references, so let’s wrap up by listing them: Will brings up Audrey 2, the murderous Venus fly trap from Little Shop of Horrors; 10 o’clock anchor Elliot tells Don, “I am not the one who wants to be a star, Mama Rose”… then awkwardly explains that he was alluding to Gypsy; and Jim says that Will’s description of karaoke bar Hang Chew’s make it sound like Brigadoon.

Now it’s your turn. How do you think Leona’s threat will play with the News Night team? Did Neal’s “technology is the future!” conversation strike you as a little dated? And did Sloan’s prescient mention of the debt ceiling change your mind about her worth to the News Night team? Hit the comments and sound off!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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48 Comments
  1. J says:

    I like the show, but the opening sequence is a snooze!

    • Michael says:

      In which case I’d politely suggest you might not fully understand the intention of the show.

      • David says:

        I disagree. The sequence is kind of boring.

        • You’re missing the point of the show, so let me explain it. The show is supposed to be going back to our roots and telling news the old way without a corporate agenda twisting it. It’s along the lines of Good Morning Vietnam where Robin Williams gets heat for telling the truth and exposing issues because it’s the morally correct thing to do, not keep people in the dark as to what really goes on by covering it up with other fluff.

          • TV Gord says:

            I’m sure everyone appreciates your condescending response.

          • David says:

            No, I am not missing the point. I have been around more than long enough to understand the underlying tones. That being said, the sequence is simply not that interesting. I hope you enjoyed acting superior to people that you do not know, however.

      • vicki says:

        Agreed completely! The opening represents the genesis of the whole show! Its an amazing homage to the great news icons of our life time!

      • J says:

        No, I do understand the opening. For someone who works in politics and majored in Journalism, i plenty understand the opening. But it is long and the old shots don’t mix well with the new shots, and the music is the most terrible part. Perhaps if the current shots were stills like the old shots, then it would jive more with me.

    • culcwongt33 says:

      I need to agree with the opening is kinda downer. I understand the show style is kinda “old” but doesn’t mean the opening need to be as old as well. On the other hand why not make it modern?

      • rowan77 says:

        Really? The style of the show is old? What’s old about it? It’s an hour-long romantic dramedy about a newsroom. People swear in it. They use the clever device of placing the show two years in the past so we can watch what unfolds from a different standpoint. The camera work is much like found footage. What about this is old style to you?

        The opening is a fond remembrance of great news anchors, which Will aspires to be. If you need something frenetic, hectic and akin to the ER opening (which would not fit the show at all), I suggest you either watch something else, or DVR the show long enough to fast forward through the opening credits.

    • wordsmith says:

      I think the problem is that it assumes we all have this powerful nostalgia for (and familiarity with) the Golden Age of News so that the images in the opening titles that should be stirring emotionally just look a little bland to a lot of us.
      It just doesn’t have the same majesty as waving flags and exterior shots of the White House, though that’s clearly what it’s trying for. Go rewatch the West Wing opening and tell me I’m wrong.

    • Frank Dracman says:

      I agree. IMO, the opening theme needs more pop. But…think back to The West Wing. It’s original theme was a limp and uninspiring until it was orchestrated to the theme that is now the rousing signature anthem of the definitive White House drama. Hopefully, like all the Sorkinisms that may find their way into The Newsroom, we’ll get a more inspired melody.

  2. JulieB says:

    In what way is newsgathering not every bit as captivating as a detective show? It’s the same formula with different costumes! In an era when almost every program is either a medical mystery or police procedural, I’ll gladly take some journalistic investigation.

  3. Suz says:

    This show should not follow True Blood. I watch both, and it takes 1/2 hr to decompress from TB to really get into Newsroom. Plus, I’d really rather be watching TB. Guess I need to just not watch this ‘live.’

  4. Cris says:

    Totally enjoyed this episode even of I did get lost a few times on what was happening. What’s with the female names: Sloane Sabbith, Mackenzie McHale, Leona Lansing….what is this, a Harry Potter universe? Come on Sorkin, don’t get lazy on the names! Olivia Munn normally aggravates the crap out of me and I never got her schtick but I like her here. Like the reviewer, I am confused on Mackenzie and if she’s really this tough person or not. And lastly, this Jim Harper and Maggie thing reminds me of Jim Halpert and Pam from The Office (even the Jum names are similar!). Ok…those were just some totally random thoughts that really don’t add to the conversation here but it’s been bugging me!

  5. cjeffery7 says:

    more olivia munn please!!

  6. Siria says:

    Great recap. I personally find Mackenzie totally annoying, but John Gallagher Jr. is just great. For a European it is also nice to see that we are not the only ones that have a problem with the tea party movement.

    BTW, Seymour is the main character in Little Shop of Horrors, the murderous Venus fly trap is called Audrey 2 (after the girl Seymour is madly in love with).

    • Kimberly Roots says:

      Amended — The strains of “Suddenly Seymour” were so loud in my head, it overtook all common sense.

    • Dennis says:

      The left always demonizes the tea party movement . The tea party movement should be applauded for the fact that they are at least trying to do something, right or wrong they are trying instead of just supporting the party line they are trying to promote change. The country needs more people to do this, to try and break out of the 2 party comfornt zones and get out there to promote change. The occupy movement almost did this they just didn’t take it to the voting booth protests are all well and good to get attention but voting promotes change

      • Stephen says:

        Nobody with a brain would watch this show; a bundle of clichés wrapped in a stereotype. This proves that if you give space to time, time will fill space. But, for some people, zero is better than nothing. After all, truth is nothing but a feeling and winners need losers. So, I say this to all liberals, if you always do what you always have done, you’ll only have what you have now. I’m just followed my intuition, but as a conservative, there’s nothing here to fear but fear itself. Have a nice day.

  7. David W. says:

    I liked the episode but could have done without Will’s line about the minimum wage. Equating lowering it to slavery is the kind of stupid statement the beauty contestant from episode 2 would have said, but it shouldn’t come out of the mouth of the supposedly brilliant news anchor. What happened to making the best possible arguments?

    • Brendan says:

      It wasn’t equating lowering the minimum wage to slavery, it was just saying that taglines like ‘creating jobs’ need context.

  8. Donna says:

    I really liked this episode because it was fast paced and interesting. I am learning what goes o behind the scenes of making a news show and it is fascinating. I hope Will and Mackenzie get back together and Maggie & Jim start a relationship. This is the type of show you have to watch twice to catch everything that was going on. Great show!

  9. rowan77 says:

    Interesting recap. I agree with most of it, but Seymour is the name of the main character. The plant from outer space is named Audrey II. You may want to fix that.

  10. Sg.Grant says:

    Anyone else think John Krasinski could play John Galliger Jr’s character’s brother?

  11. This is a Liberal equivalent of beating you over the head with the bible.

    • TV Gord says:

      Ha! The best synopsis I’ve read yet. Even though I tend to lean toward Sorkin’s POV, I hate being harangued about the things I’m supposed to believe (whether I do believe them or not).

  12. Claudia Costa Chaves says:

    Just a little piece of trivia, Mr Ausiello. In The Little Shop of Horrors, the murderous and ever hungry Venus flytrap was named Audrey 2. The anti-hero shop clerk was Seymour. “Suddenly Seymour” is one of the most delightful duets in modern musical theater.

    • Ashley says:

      Ausiello didn’t write this article. Which, may I just point out, makes the fact that you’re correcting an error kind of funny. And no, I’m not mentioning it to be a jerk, but it is a little amusing, no?

  13. robbushblog says:

    I don’t have HBO and can’t watch this show (and probably wouldn’t anyway), but is Jeff Daniels supposed to be a news anchor or a commentator? If he is supposed to be a news anchor, why would he be injecting his own personal opinions into his newscast? Are they not supposed to appear unbiased? I know they’re not in real life, and seem to think that they appear that way to the viewer, but at least they are not outright in their bias by editorializing as part of their broadcast. Of course, I don’t really watch ABC, CBS or NBC’s evening news any longer. As far as I know, they might do that now.

    • Britta Unfiltered says:

      This particular episode he was giving his own personal opinions on air because he was doing an editorial, which are always nothing but a journalist’s own personal opinions. I’ve seen much worse given in my own local news that are much more biased. My personal favorite…an editorial on how the economy was strong in the state because the state had such a great furniture chain, and we should all immediately run out to this particular chain to buy furniture because they had such a great business model. It wasn’t so much an editorial as an obviously paid advertisement spot with the word “editorial” over it, and I stopped reading that newspaper after I read that.

  14. daviduter says:

    Was arguing with someone last week who hated this shows politics and refused to watch another episode. My argument was I really couldn’t care less about the politics and creative license, as long as I was entertained. But after getting beat over the head over and over last night, I started to see his point. I am straight down the center if you were to average all the issues, but found last night’s bashing so over the top, they may have lost me. Sorkin can’t continue to do that and expect much an audience. Needs to tone it down significantly.

    He needs to re-read what he had Daniels saying at the opening about taking both sides of the argument and the facts. B/C last night was anything but both sides, it was straight up bashing.

  15. jj says:

    I think Dana was far more likable… Mac seems kind of silly.
    But this is like Sorkin’s greatest hits… or at least like he’s trying to make it be. Not sure if he’s succeeding yet.

    • Mick says:

      I agree with Dana being way more likable and to me she seemed immensely more capable. I may not have liked her condescending “date other people” spiel to Casey but I just liked her more in general.

  16. Allison says:

    I’m under 35 and I get all those references in the opening – I love it and the music is great. What I didn’t get was Allison Pill’s character being old enough to know who Gomer Pile was. lol.

  17. I am loving this show, the stories are fascinating and the characters are all likeable (well for me), and I am a little bit in love with Jim already, his up and coming bromantic friendship with Neal, and hopefully courtship with Maggie. I know we are only a couple of episodes in but I cant wait to see more of Sloane and hopefully more of Jane Fonda. Also would love a douche off scene between Reece and Don!

  18. aunt_deen says:

    I liked the panic attack scene and I didn’t think Jim was condescending at all. I’ve known people who suffer from them and things that would otherwise sound condescending are often exactly what the sufferer needs to hear.

  19. Britta Unfiltered says:

    My one thing about this episode that I want to say…I have noticed that Sorkin really likes to use the word “elite” a lot (see his Oscar or Golden Globe acceptance speech, can’t remember which one it was), and I don’t think it has the same connotations to him that it does to most other people. Most people bristle when someone describes themselves as being elite because it sounds super arrogant. I personally find elitism to be incredibly snobby, even though in my own way I am an elitist. I just hate to admit that I am because it sounds awful to describe yourself that way. And I hate myself for being like that, as I don’t really want to be a snob. But Aaron Sorkin wears elitism proudly, like a medal. I bristle at it.
    .
    And Sam Waterston’s silly bow-tie is starting to grow on me a bit. I still giggle whenever I see him in it because I can’t get the Jack McCoy image out of my head, but it is growing on me.

  20. M3rc Nate says:

    Really really enjoy the show, id say my problems so far are that i dont need ANOTHER neurotic female character (Mackenzie McHale), them being one half of my pet peeve (the other half being whiney b*tchy teen boys). I mean she comes in and is supposed to be this strong professional woman to run the show but is gushing her personal feelings all over her workplace, i cant imagine a less professional woman, in the middle of the news room going up to his dates and acting how she did.
    Second the whole “love triangle” of a hyper/anxious/neurotic/dysfunctional girl, the awkward/smug geeky guy and the jackass/dick/d-bag boyfriend….its like the third episode and im already DEAD tired of this…and i can only imagine its going the last the whole series in one way or another.

    Other than that…i wish this was a real news show…obviously with how the internet is going and how TV is just for commercials and the owners to push their opinions/agendas….the internet will become the free open space to have a news show that doesnt have someone looming overhead telling you what news stories you can and cant run because how it affects investors/ratings/etc.
    I think the ending scene was so telling about news organizations…in the end , they end up relying on the people they are reporting…so how can they be unbiased. That and they are corporations, so they need to make money.
    I love Jeff Daniels, Olivia Munn so far, and the Slum Dog actor is doing great. Good show.

  21. bobbie says:

    I like the opening. You don’t have to be nostalgic for the old newscasters to appreciate it. But it would help if you wanted news to be news, not fluff. I noticed that they used the term crazy in some of the conversations about the tea party, and you know information and facts should trump crazy, and that’s what they’re trying to do. They made the distinction between the original intest of the tea party and what it’s become. Corporatism overtakes everything, and this episode is demonstrating that……… It’s about the fight to make facts more important than craziness, mob mind-think. Anyone who wants to appreciate this should watch “The Century of Self” by Adam Curtis – a miniseries describing how we got here. I believe the whole series is available on YouTube.

  22. RD says:

    To me it’s a bit like ‘broadcast news’ with a sledgehammer.I really want it to lighten up. A lot.

  23. Jack says:

    I FN LOVE THIS SHOW!

  24. Judge & Jury says:

    Why would anyone pay HBO to watch fake news people report fake news when the can simply watch ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC do the same thing for free?

  25. orchardist says:

    Apologies for the funky “\”‘s all over. Word press is acting up.