The Newsroom Season 1 Episode 3 Discussion

Throughout the first season of HBO’s new series The Newsroom, a few of our writers will analyze and discuss each episode in detail. Beware of spoilers.

For other episode discussions, check our pop culture page.

Vinny Ginardi: I didn’t expect to see Jane Fonda in this show, so I must say, that was a surprise.

But what was more surprising, and what I felt was executed beautifully, was how we met her at the beginning of the episode, but didn’t hear her speak until near the end. The mystery of who she was and what she had to say built over the course of the entire episode, and we she finally did speak, we saw what kind of power she has. Fonda’s character, Leona Lansing (no relation to fellow WaiverWire writer Zak Lansing as far as I know, and boy does Sorkin love using alliteration in names) is the head of ACN and threatens to fire our protagonist Will McAvoy if “News Night” doesn’t revert back to being the type of news show that it used to be (and exactly the type of show our crew is trying not to be).

What impressed me most with this episode was the jumping timeline. Several shows have attempted to alter the chronology of an entire episode, but it doesn’t always work or often adds little value to the narrative. But I felt that it worked well here. In the one timeline we saw the show progress over a course of several months, while in the other timeline we were witnessing the meeting between Leona, Charlie, and Leona’s son, with the two timelines intertwining at the end of the episode. Essentially, this was a clever way to show what “News Night” has done over an extended period of time, how it is being perceived, and the potential trouble it may be in going forward

Greg Kaplan: Vinny, I agree with you that the structure of this show is beautiful. That was a well executed episode as far as visual structure. Sorkin is masterful with his writing and his building of watchable television.

But, once again, my problem with this show goes back to the actual content that is being discussed. He’s picking easy fights. He’s picked a fight with the BP oil spill, illegal immigration and now the Tea Party movement. A lot of people agree with everything that Sorkin is pointing out in his writing. I am one of them, for the record. However, I’m having a very difficult time getting over the fact that this show is playing Tuesday Morning Quarterback. Really? You’re telling me that  Michelle Bachmann is a fucking nut? No way!

Its becoming more and more difficult for me to get over the story lines that serve as the launching pad for each week’s episode. I understand why Sorkin is doing it, and why it is necessary for the framework of the show. But, considering that the whole new-look News Night 2.0 is supposed to be “a show that brings you the middle without taking sides”, man, it really feels like this show is taking some serious sides. At any point doing this montage of bashing on the Tea Party, did we ever get a serious explanation from someone involved in the party that wasn’t made to look like a complete and utter fool? And I’m someone who doesn’t really care for the Tea Party!

Alright, moving on from that rant to another rant, it seems like while everything between Charlie, Leona and Reese was awesome in the conference room, everything else about the show seemed rather rudimentary. Sorkin spent the last two weeks creating these intricate characters with complicates lives and personalities, and we got nothing fun or unique from any of them this week. The interactions between Mack/Will, Jim/Maggie, Don/Maggie, Dev/Jim were all very sit-comy. I mean, I’ve seen those story lines before. They were in How I Met Your Mother. Not exactly HBO-quality entertainment. I have higher expectations.

Sorry if I’m coming off as really negative on this show, but I’m becoming really frustrated by watching it every week, Vin. I can’t lie.

Michael Cresci:  I’m also concerned about all the real world stuff that motors the show but I have trouble not loving an intelligent tearing apart of the Tea Party and it’s lunatic supporters.

Having Will call himself a Republican feels like a cheap attempt to seem two sided but as someone who tends to agree with the shows liberal pontificating, I end up not minding.  That could be the ultimate direction of the show, for better or worse.  That is, depending on  your feelings on politics and current events you’ll either love or hate the show.  Since I go in expecting Sorkin to preach my focus was more on the genius writing that we’ve come to expect.  The structure of the episode was great and I was impressed that they moved the show forward six months in one episode yet things didn’t feel rushed.  It allowed us to see the way a news story moves over a longer period of time and it got us past the early stages of the news team getting to know each other.

Beyond that I enjoyed the romance a bit more than Greg, though don’t find it particularly interesting in the case of Jim/Maggie.  Will and Mackenzie’s relationship continues to entertain because both actors are doing tremendous work with their well written characters.  Jeff Daniels continues to impress me every week with his stunning performance as he balances his gruff mega intelligence and deep hurt along with humor.

VG: I’ve taken a similar stance as Cresci. I know this show is a little bit preachy, but it’s not something that bothers me. As I’ve mentioned in previous discussions, several shows/movies/books have strong political or social messages behind them, they just aren’t as in-your-face as they are with The Newsroom. I do my best to not let the political views of the show interfere with how I view the show as a whole.

Both the Jim/Maggie/Don and Mackenzie/Will romantic relationships have kept my interest so far, though I believe that that Mackenzie/Will one is much more compelling, mainly because it feels more realistic. The main problem I have with the love triangle is that it seems a bit weak. We are supposed to root for Jim because he seems like a genuine fellow and root against Don because he is a womanizing workaholic. Because of this, this story is a bit predictable. I mean, to me it would be a twist if Jim and Maggie weren’t dating by season’s end.

GK: Exactly. Jim is almost too likeable. I need him to be more of a prick instead of always doing the right thing as far as Maggie’s love life is concerned. At least just pull her aside and be like “Listen, Don sucks. I’m better. You know it. Why aren’t we making this happen?” Furthermore, I think it really holds back the kind of character Maggie can really be by always having her run back to Don when, really, there is no reason at all to run back to him anymore. It was oen thing when they worked on the same news show and Maggie felt like she needed to work her way up the ladder. But now, she’s on a different show, with different goals and a different view of the world of news. It really feels like this love triangle has no spice. Then again, that could be the way Sorkin wants it, and by us being this upset with how its played out so far, that’s what he wants us to feel.

To me, the underrated character of the show so far is Blog Dude, Dev Patel. I have no idea what his name is on the show, just that he’s the Blog Dude. I want to see more of Blog Dude’s life outside of the office. We got a real quick glimpse at it when he answered his e-mail in bed, but I need more! This guy has potential!

MC:  Jim has been a little one note so far.  It’s not clear what his motivation is outside of having a crush.   Dev Patel’s character has worked in his tiny role and I too hope to see an expansion.

Going forward I’m curious to see how the dynamic of the relationships is paced alongside the seemingly high risk of New Night 2.0 not being accepted by the higher ups which is a high stakes story line that I’m eager to see fleshed out. Will Jane Fonda pull the plug on things and if so what direction does the show then go in?  Will that end up being this season’s main through line?  It’s interesting to watch Sorkin dive into this sort of show because it feels like he’s done it before and is plowing ahead with confidence but I still can’t quite grasp what this is going to be and that’s a lot of fun.