The Newsroom Season 1, Episode 5 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: Following what I and several others believe was the series’ best episode to date, this week felt like a mixed bag. Last week we learned more about our characters, their relationships, and even spent a refreshing amount of time out of the newsroom setting. This week we returned to the newsroom to watch our crew cover the protests in Egypt and Wisconsin in February of last year.

These news topics showed how the journalists are going above and beyond to present the news correctly each night, which of course, is one of the show’s central messages. Putting characters into danger, even if it was a new character such as “Amen”, helped portray just how passionate these individuals are about the news, and doing the news right way each night. Because of this, I felt this was probably the most appropriate topic that our crew has covered.

On the other hand, I rolled my eyes each time someone inside the newsroom sustained some sort of injury. I understand, as Will pointed out in his rant to Nina, that this was done to show that everyone on his crew is dedicated to delivering real news. But it still felt cheap and forced, as using injuries as comic relief always does, especially when it’s accidental (did we really need to see Jim run into a door twice?). Neal punching the computer screen and breaking his fingers was the only one that felt realistic.

Greg Kaplan: RU-DY! RU-DY! RU-DY! RU-DY!

Agreed with Vinny on a lot of fronts. The majority of the injuries sustained in this week’s episode, I have sustained as well. Only difference, at the time of the injuries, I was neither in a newsroom nor sober. However, I am happy to report I have never been beaten up by a crazy dude with a rock. Or so I think.

On a more serious note, what I loved most about the fourth episode in this debut season is we had an opportunity to experience the lives of these characters outside of the normal work environment. We had moments of realism that separated the news room relationships from the personal relationships.

This week, the show reverted back to its old tricks. Sorkin instantly tied all of these character’s relationships outside of News Night right back into the habits of what wasn’t working in the first three episodes. Mack’s relationship turned out to be nothing more than a rouse to get a wanna-be candidate for Congress face time on Will’s show. The Wisconsin striking teachers (how is this not a team name?) became another subplot to the winding road that are the Koch Brothers. Even as much as I like Neal’s character in this show, I really didn’t like the whole “if I was Egyptian, I would be this guy, so let’s get him on the show” bromance he had with “Amen”.

The good news about this week’s episode, nothing about it felt overly preachy. I mean, its hard to paint two sides to a story that has reporters getting abducted in a foreign country and underpaid school teachers in the American Northwest fighting for their rights against a governor in the wrong. No problem with the story lines News Night decided to cover. Instead, it really felt like Sorkin was trying to make The Newsroom force humor onto us with typical sitcom style situations in regards to the love lives of people on this show. I said this once before, and I’ll repeat it again. I’m not turning on HBO to watch a sitcom. I need a little bit more than that.

Also, Jim, buddy, how have you not seen Rudy? Are you American? I hate Notre Dame football and yet Rudy was one of the first movies to ever make me cry. Not just the players putting the jerseys on the coaches desk, but the sack he gets at the end of the game? Come on, man. You’ve seen Rudy. If you haven’t seen Rudy, you’re less of a man. Fact.

Michael Cresci:  I wish I felt differently from my colleagues so I could mix it up but…yeah.  This week wasn’t bad by any stretch, just a big step down from last week.  The whole “Amen” story line didn’t resonate with me the way Sorkin clearly wanted it to.  The stakes felt forced and served to back up the strange “We are warrior journalists!” vibe of the episode.    I like seeing Neal get more time, and he certainly did some solid acting, but I just wasn’t invest in this new character or his effect on Neal (though I can relate to punching screens because Rush Limbaugh is on them, he’s sort of a monster).

I too enjoyed the Rudy banter because it was a blend of classic Sorkin and the way people actually speak when someone hasn’t seen a classic that everyone else in the room has seen.  The ending it resulted in was cutesy and perhaps that was the episodes biggest issue.  It was spinning too many plates and as a result, things felt reductive and cutesy instead of character driven and meaningful.  Then again this episode did nothing to stop my rapidly increasing crush on Allison Pill (and we did get to spend time looking at Olivia Munn which is always a plus).

VG: The whole episode did feel a bit cutesy to me too. I don’t work in a newsroom, so maybe Kaplan can help us out here, but I don’t think that most would be decked out in so many Valentine’s Day balloons. The applause everyone gave Will at the end of the episode didn’t sit well with me either. Didn’t the entire newsroom have negative feelings toward him just a few episodes ago? I know that almost a year has passed in time and that Will has made more of an effort not to come of as an ass, but it just felt weird that the perception of Will had changed so much in just a few episodes.

Since we all agree that this episode was a little bit of a let down following last week’s, I want to switch gears for a minute. There have been several reports that Aaron Sorkin has fired almost his entire writing staff for season two. While I don’t think this will serve much significance in terms of the writing because Sorkin does the writing for each episode, it’s interesting to see the twists and turns the show has taken so far. It’s received extremely mixed reviews, already been renewed for a second season, and now has had the entire writing staff fired. What do you guys make of this?

GK: First things first, no. Newsrooms do not get decked out for holidays, not even Christmas. Why? Because nobody wants to clean up after its over. Pretty simple. I mean, seriously. The last time I can remember an area I was apart of that was decked out for Valentine’s Day was in the third grade. And that was back when we were forced to give everyone in the class cards or treats. Seriously.

As far as Sorkin offing his entire writing staff, hard not to see the irony in all of this, right? After all, Will has the power to fire Mack at any time without provocation seemingly. So, it feels right that Sorkin has the power to do the same for the show he’s working on.

In regards to how this could affect future episodes, and this may be more in Cresci’s field of knowledge, I get the feeling that Sorkin is more about surrounding himself with “yes men” than he is about finding writers that are going to challenge his authority. He has a very good idea of what he wants to portray in his language and on his show, so he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that would want someone to come in and undercut him at every turn and manipulate a script. I don’t think it matters who else is on his writing staff, because this will always be an Aaron Sorkin production in some way, shape or form.

MC:  Sorkin is sort of famous for insane writing tasks.  He insisted on writing every single episode of The West Wing and the schedule lead him to a sort of nervous break down and he left the show (it was much less enjoyable once he left).  The writing staff move is an interesting one that could affect the show in any number of ways but I doubt it’ll be significant as Sorkin is the main voice on display.  AMC recently let Frank Darabont fire most of the season 1 writing staff for The Walking Dead and then they fired Darabont for wanting to keep the show large in scope.  Matthew Weiner has fired writers because their name was on an Emmy winning script that he wrote most of.  Modern television has revolved around the rise of showrunners, visionary artists who have drastically changed the way we look at television.  This isn’t that uncommon and it makes sense that Sorkin, one of the earliest of these prolific TV minds would decide to axe a bunch of writers to keep things going the way he wants them.  At the very least it should shake things up and that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a show as inconsistent as The Newsroom.