Before we get started on this week's recap of HBO's great new series The Newsroom, we feel the need to talk about the accusations of sexism thrown around after the second episode last week. Usefully, Britain's The Guardian gathered together multiple critiques of creator Aaron Sorkin's work (most of them scathing), which provided us with a handy summary of why people are upset with the show. Everyone from Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly to regular readers got quoted, but many of the complaints seemed off-base to us.
Our favorite one, from The Daily Beast's Jace Lacob, stated, about last week's episode: "MacKenzie's entire speech to Olivia Munn's Sloan Sabbith -- asking her to
come on News Night because of her shapely legs -- is
cringe-inducing; here MacKenzie not only reinforces a predatory male
gaze but condones it as necessary, even in the realm of 'serious news'."
Frankly, this incensed us. The scene in question -- which we mentioned in last week's recap -- is not in the show because creator Aaron Sorkin is a massive sexist. It's in the show because it reflects the hideous double standards we see across our news channels every day. Check out the women on the news -- the vast majority of them look like models (or at least ex-models). That certainly can't be said of most male anchors. The gender-based double standards applied to the men and women who present our news shows are obvious and everywhere -- women must adhere to very specific, limited physical standards; yet no one cares what the men look like as long as they know their material and wear a nice suit. What The Newsroom did last week was reflect that, not condone it.
Okay, rant over. Let's get to last night's episode, which started with News Night
anchor, Will McAvoy apologizing to viewers for "the failure of this program to successfully inform and educate the American electorate ... I was an accomplice to a slow and repeated and unacknowledged and unamended train wreck of failures that have brought us to now ... I'm a leader in an industry that miscalled election results, hyped up terror scares, ginned up controversy, and failed to report on tectonic shifts in our country ... We took a dive for the ratings."
Holy crap, Sorkin's done it again! For the second time in three weeks (the first occasion occurred in the first scene of the first episode), Sorkin is using his key mouth-piece in The Newsroom
-- Will McAvoy -- to call out the powers that be, while also pointedly listing every damn thing that's wrong with America. Ballsy doesn't even begin to cover it, but we're pretty sure this will piss off a whole mess of people this week.
McAvoy ends his apology speech with a vow to commit himself fully to reporting facts "based on the simple truth that nothing is more important to a democracy than a well-informed electorate." The next thing we see is the fallout of his honesty beginning (again), followed by The Suits Upstairs -- one of which is a silent Jane Fonda (yay!) -- complaining that the news that followed didn't use enough shock value in its coverage of the attempted Times Square bombing of May 2010. Downstairs Mackenzie goes some way to agreeing, stating: "You understand that we're making a conscious choice now to do the boring version of the story..."
Next thing you know, Will is in Charlie's office making a characteristically impassioned and articulate speech about how The Tea Party started as a "middle-class movement responding to bad trends" but was "co-opted by the radical right, which in turn has enslaved the Republican middle." Cue montage of Will joyously criticizing The Tea Party across a series of broadcasts, while The Suits continue to agonize upstairs.
Back in the newsroom, Mackenzie accidentally runs into Will's date for the evening -- a professional cheerleader named Danielle -- and has a response that goes from shock to over-enthusiasm to bitchiness within about 60 seconds. Oh, she's jealous all right, but accuses Will of going out with Danielle to "get back at her." The dialogue here is really funny, incidentally. Sample:
Mackenzie: "I loathe you right now."
Will: "You've got pen on your face."
Mackenzie: "I work with pens!"
Will: "Get a grip!"
Mackenzie: "I know!"
The following night, Will meets another one of his dates at the office -- and she's a brain surgeon. Meanwhile, Neil and James argue about Wikileaks at a bar, and then we're back to another Tea Party analysis-based montage, followed by Maggie having a panic attack during a staff meeting. As she exits, James follows her to make sure she's okay, stopping briefly to talk to Don (still Maggie's boyfriend despite last week's break up) who is entirely dismissive of her plight. James calms Maggie down successfully, even though she is resistant ("I wish your face would stop moving so I could punch it," she quips).
Neil later informs James that Maggie and Don have broken up and that he should "get in there." James, hesitant, utters the immortal words, "I'm not going to swoop in there like she's a rent-controlled apartment." Followed by yet another news montage (we're getting a little bored of those now) and Don being frazzled about the break-up. Which is probably why Maggie and Don are seen making out again in 10 minutes' time.
Maggie suggests Will stop bringing his dates to the office to annoy Mackenzie and, as Will begins to apologize to his ex, she introduces him to a man she has been dating for three months, resulting in much awkwardness, right before News Night
's election night coverage commences, with new economist Sloane Sabbith proving to be a force to be reckoned with.
Upstairs, Jane Fonda -- okay, Leona Lansing, network CEO (we're betting Fonda's marriage to Ted Turner is terribly useful to her right now) -- finally says something: "What in God's name has happened to News Night
in the last five weeks?" she opines. "What happened to human interest stories? He was great at that shit!" Then she says "fuck" a lot and demands that the show lay off the Tea Party or she'll fire Will McAvoy. We're looking forward to seeing how much ass she kicks in the next few weeks. We're hoping there will be less montages involved than there were tonight. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.