Monday, July 23, 2012

The Newsroom 1.04: "I'll Try to Fix You"

“First of all, I’m a registered Republican. I only seem liberal because I believe that hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure, and not gay marriage.”

So “real” TV critics, you’ve done it again. You made me dread watching an episode of “The Newsroom” that I decidedly didn’t hate once I actually watched it. Sure, there were some problematic moments, but there were moments that were Sorkin at his best. If you’re a massive Sorkin fan like I am (he pretty much introduced me to good quality drama on television), there really isn’t much to dislike about “The Newsroom” or this episode in particular. I take issue with Sorkin’s views on and portrayal of women, but I enjoy the rest of what he does so much that more often than not, I can forgive him for not doing right by his female characters. This episode was one of those times when I can forgive, if only for the absolutely fantastic closing sequence of the episode, dealing with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It was the type of high-emotion television at which Sorkin excels. I also appreciated that this episode tried to make Don a little less of a douche. He’s still an ass, and Maggie needs to break up with him permanently ASAP, but at least he’s starting to grow a bit of a spine at work.

The episode begins on New Year’s Eve, which seems to be a theme with the television I’ve been covering here in MTVP lately. There’s a big party going down at News Night, and Jim is for some reason trying to work right in the middle of it. Maggie helps him for a little bit, but then Don arrives at the party and she becomes more concerned with making out. Don’s tired of having to compete with Jim for Maggie’s attention, so he decides he should try to set up Jim with Maggie’s roommate Lisa. Maggie doesn’t love this idea, obviously because she has a thing for Jim. Lisa arrives at the party, acting quite insecure, and Don goes through with the set-up even though Maggie tries to stop it. Jim and Lisa continue to see each other a few times after the party, but Jim lies to Maggie about it. Later in the episode, Maggie and Don are talking before bed, when Don puts a plan into motion to further drive apart Maggie and Jim. He convinces Maggie to call Jim about a news story, and then while she’s on the phone with Jim, he calls Lisa’s phone, which has a very distinctive ring tone. It turns out that Lisa and Jim had been having sex in the next room. Jim and Maggie fight about this at work the next day, and it’s stupid enough that it really doesn’t warrant any more space here (Jim tells Maggie that it’s a good thing she’s jealous, basically).

In other love triangle news, Mackenzie has the brilliant idea to have Wade pitch a story to Will about how DoJ’s prosecution of financial crimes has been underfunded. Will is only slightly chilly to Wade when he’s making his pitch because he really does genuinely find the story interesting. Neal, on the other hand, spends the entire episode pitching a story about Bigfoot, which is just kind of stupid and really only serves to gather the team at the end of the episode to be ready to spring in to action when Rep. Giffords is shot. Anyway, after work, Will goes out to a party, and Sloan sets him up with a pretty blonde who just happens to be a gossip columnist for TMI named Nina. When Sloan finds out her identity, she tries to get Will away from her, but instead of retreating, Will begins a “mission to civilize” and starts lecturing her about how writing a “takedown piece” on one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey is a horrible idea. Nina doesn’t take Will’s advice- she throws a drink in his face instead. This little confrontation finds its way into Page Six the next day.

Throughout this episode, Will is seen dating what Mackenzie describes as a “Netflix queue” of women. And he ruins things will all of them thanks to his stupid “mission to civilize.” His date with one of them, a friend of Sloan’s, ends when he finds a gun in her purse and decides to lecture her about it. There’s a really funny conversation between Will and Sloan in the aftermath of that one where Sloan warns him not to be seen in Page Six with another woman too soon, because her friend is angry and armed. Will and Sloan have good chemistry for sure, but I’m pretty sure Sloan deserves better. Will does not heed Sloan’s advice, and he gets another drink in the face and Page Six write-up when he lectures a woman for talking too much about the Real Housewives. Sloan warns Will that her friend is really angry about this. I like that even though Will is an ass, he has to feel consequences for being one. He’s not a martyr in all this at all.

After the second drink is thrown in his face, Will has a bit of a sleepless night, and on Saturday morning, he gets called into the office by Charlie. Neil is doing a really stupid presentation on Bigfoot to the rest of the crew, but that’s not why Will was wanted at the office. Charlie informs Will that a huge takedown piece featuring his escapades with the date with the gun has been published in TMI by Nina. Charlie, Will, and Mackenzie are having a huge fight about this when all of a sudden Charlie realizes who is behind it. Someone had to leak all this information to the tabloids in the first place, after all. It’s Leona. She promised to create “context” to fire Will if Will didn’t tone down the show, and that’s what she’s doing now. I’m definitely curious to see how News Night will fare in the battle with the suits.

Will and Mackenzie are still fighting post-meeting, mostly because Mackenzie can’t believe that Will accepted a non-compete in his contract in exchange for the authority to fire her. All that stops abruptly, however, when Maggie, who has been relegated to the assignment desk for fighting too much with Jim (sigh) reads the mother of all news stories on the wire. The shooting has happened in Tucson. The staff suddenly swings into action to Coldplay’s “Fix You,” and it seriously made me cry. I remember so clearly sitting on the couch in my old apartment when the shooting happened, just unable to tear myself away from updates. The shooting was a horrible tragedy, and Sorkin successfully brought all those emotions bubbling back to the surface. NPR reports that Rep. Giffords has died, and other news outlets start to run with that story. Reese runs down to the News Night studio and demands that they do the same. Don, however, says no. They aren’t going to pronounce someone dead before a doctor does. And so Don has his one non-douche moment. And the News Night crew is right of course- she’s very much alive.

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