Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Newsroom 2.01: "First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers"

“The day will come when we have an HR rep who cares what goes on on this floor. And on that day, sir, I will dance upon your grave.”

Sloan’s quote up there at the top of the post pretty much sums up how I feel about the romantic drama storylines on “The Newsroom.” AWM should seriously be firing like half the News Night staff. I work in a mostly young professional office, too, and it's not a real life soap opera at all. The AWM HR office should be all over this crap, especially the Jim and Maggie drama considering he’s her direct supervisor. Are any of these folks capable of acting like normal, professional adults? Sure, bad idea workplace romances happen, but the number of them happening all at once in this show is astounding. Am I just being naïve? As you can tell from this opening rant, the workplace romance drama is still alive and kicking on the season 2 premiere of “The Newsroom.”

Early on, this episode sets up what will most likely be the ongoing framing device for the season. Will is being interviewed by an AWM lawyer over a major national security story News Night reported that turned out not to be true. The story was about “Operation Genoa,” and it was a flub so bad that News Night had to issue a retraction. The deposition sets up some of the more minor storylines that are going to be playing out too. Will and the lawyer go back and forth about how if Jim hadn’t been in New Hampshire and if they hadn’t gotten somebody named Jerry to fill in for him, none of this might have happened. We’re left wondering, of course, why Jim left for a little while, and what went wrong when he left. We also learn that there’s been some pretty significant fallout to AWM for Will’s “American Taliban” line. Reese was left out of a House committee meeting about SOPA, poor baby (yeah, I know it’s serious that AWM felt those repercussions, but I just can’t feel bad for Reese).

The choice to use both fictional and real recent past news this season is an interesting one. On the fictional news side, we’ve got “Operation Genoa.” Sorkin always used fictional current events in “The West Wing,” so this seems promising to me. Also, knowing that it’s something the News Night team is going to royally screw up helps cut the sanctimony of the times when they’re perfectly right about actual news stories. On the actual news story front in this episode, we’ve got a few gems from August, 2011. I actually lived just outside of DC at that time, so these political stories bring back some nostalgia for me. There’s the very beginning of Occupy Wall Street, which we see through the eyes of Neal, as he’s chasing it as his first big break story. There’s planning for the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Believe me, when you spend the anniversary in one of the cities that was attacked, it’s not something you’ll forget. Charlie pulls Will off the 9/11 coverage because of the flack he’s gotten for the “American Taliban” comment, and it really upsets Will, who has to be loved by everyone. There’s also the DC earthquake, which caused damage to the Washington Monument that still hasn’t been completely repaired today. The biggest loss we experienced in our apartment was that our freezer door opened and dumped stuff all over the kitchen floor, but it was still memorable for us East Coast lifers not used to earthquakes.

Anyway, to touch on the personal drama a bit, Jim gets broody when he sees Don and Maggie happily flirting with each other at the office. And again, this is why workplace romances are bad news, people! Consider that your public service announcement for the day. When a lower level grunt who has been on the Romney campaign trail breaks his ankle in a drunken stupor, News Night needs somebody to take over the Romney coverage temporarily. After thinking it over for a while, Jim decides that he needs a break from being around Maggie, and he volunteers to go himself. Because Mackenzie went over to Afghanistan when her relationship with Will first imploded, she’s sympathetic and allows it, even if everyone else at News Night thinks it’s a horribly stupid idea. The new assignment doesn’t really go well for Jim. Because of AWM being blackballed by the Republican establishment, he’s not allowed on the bus and has to drive behind the rest of the press corps. Picking Don doesn’t work out so well for Maggie, either. Maggie’s cousin e-mails Don a YouTube video of her freak out by the Sex and the City tour bus, and he breaks up with her. Oh and Sloan is still all awkward around Don, especially since he’s temporarily supervising her while she’s filling in as 10:00 anchor.

We also see the beginning of the sequence of events that will lead to the potential lawsuit that was introduced at the beginning of the episode. Jerry is the new senior producer that Mackenzie brings in from the Washington bureau to fill in for Jim. Jerry is determined to use the opportunity to put his own stamp on ACN’s news coverage in general. He’s especially interested in the consequences of drone strikes in Pakistan. With Mackenzie’s support, he put together a panel, including Sloan, to talk about the issue on News Night. Mackenzie suggests that Jerry use Jim’s regular national security expert, but Jerry wants to bring in his own guy, a former Air Force officer who now teaches at the Maxwell School. You know you’re a policy wonk when the name checking of Maxwell makes you laugh hysterically. What can I say? I have a lot of former and current Maxwell School coworkers, and whether there are more employees from Maxwell or my own alma mater is a continuous source of rivalry and humor in my office.

The actual panel is kind of a disaster. Jerry’s source is a bit brash in putting forth his opinion that drones are a good thing, and Will deliberately passes up a chance to counter his argument, even with Mackenzie screaming in his ear piece to do so. This is because Will wants to start looking tougher on terrorism again. Like I said, he has to be loved by everyone, so losing the 9/11 tribute was a big blow. After the broadcast, Jerry talks to his source. It becomes pretty clear that this arrangement is mutually beneficial. The source is trying to help Jerry launch his career while Jerry is trying to give his source credibility in academia. The source promises Jerry a make or break story. He says it will make Jerry’s career and bring down the Presidency. It’s Operation Genoa, and it is supposed to be big.

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