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Vinny Ginardi: My reaction to this episode summarizes my quick take on the series thus far. There were moments where I felt like I was getting some quality television and others where I was left scratching my head and rolling my eyes.
The Good: I really enjoyed seeing Will go too far on the air and consequently have the situation turned on him. For perhaps the first time in the series, Will didn’t seem like some superhero who couldn’t do wrong when hosting the news. It was refreshing and sort of humanizing for Will not to come out on top after a news show.
The Bad: Probably because it’s a Sunday night HBO show created by Aaron Sorkin where political views are often a centerpiece, this show is scrutinized like no other show on television . While I think it’s a bit unfair that the show is treated this way, I did have a major problem with this episode.
I’m against television shows and movies using therapy sessions to give the audience a more detailed look at a character. While it can be effective in short segments or when it is logical for a character to therapy, using it for a long period of time (such as most of an episode, as we saw here) can make it feel cheap and forced. The golden rule in creative writing is to show your audience something, not tell it. I don’t want to be told what is going on inside the mind of the main character through a therapy session, I want to interpret it based off of how they act or their interactions with others. For example, why not show more interactions between Will and Sloan instead of having Will tell us that Sloan has become a “little sister” to him? Maybe this is more of a personal peeve, but I can’t stand being spoonfed this type of information. Having the noncontinuous timeline where we jumped back and forth from the therapy session to the events within the newsroom allowed for Will to give his commentary on everything that happened in the episode. To me, it just felt unnecessary, especially when you take into consideration that the need for Will to go to therapy was created this episode.
Greg Kaplan: Before Vinny goes further with his rant against shows that use therapy sessions to help narrate a show, I agree and I disagree. In this nature, in this episode, yes, it really seems like a ploy to drive the story line because you need something to carry it from start to finish without leaving out the questions to why are we here and how did we get here. However, I wouldn’t classify every show that uses therapy sessions as a crutch to be as poor as this. For example, I think some of the best episodes and scenes from another HBO show, The Sopranos, uses therapy sessions very successfully.
Back to this week’s episode, I didn’t have the same distaste for the news angle of the show I normally do. I’ll admit, it was very uncomfortable having Will tear the Santorum aide a new one and I was really wishing for it to be over, but moments like that on television are hard to turn away from and make for great television. Instead, my major problem with this week’s episode comes down to the marginalization of the characters within The Newsroom.
Before this week, I generally thought the weakest part of the show was all the Tuesday Morning Quarterback-ing that went into every week how the news should have covered an event at the time it was happening, from the oil spill in the Gulf Coast to the Tea Party. This week, I kind of liked that the anchors got the Japan nuclear plant fallout wrong, or at least failed to report on it ethically. It showed that they could make mistakes and do the wrong thing, even if their motivation is to be correct and up-to-date like every other station.
Instead, I just hated how the characters were portrayed this week. On two separate occasions, Sorkin had Sloan do the whole “continue ranting about what the original conversation topic was, then stop in the middle when she realizes the topic has changed” thing. It got annoying. And, he really did ruin my favorite character on the show for me, which was Don. Going to Sloan for relationship advice seemed so far-fetched and out of place that it really didn’t fit into the framework of the show. If anything, from the beginning of the series, Don has been an over-cocky, self-motivated character that wouldn’t do exactly what was scripted for him to do. I feel as if Sorkin got to a point in his script and said, “Shit, what am I going to do next week to continue the drama in this love triangle? Oh! I know!”
Honestly, the moment Don saw Jim and Maggie in the conference room cleaning up the papers was enough. We didn’t need the going into Sloan’s office as she’s packing up to ask for advice business. It was forced. And it didn’t make for good television.
Mike Aurigemma: As a pretty big supporter of this show I have to say that I was definitely disappointed with this episode. There were a bunch of things that just seemed unnecessary to me that were just thrown into this episode. The love triangle has been a constant theme in this show and there have been TWO of them going on, which is just not necessary. But it is really the way that they have been dealing with them that is a problem.
As Vinny mentioned it seems like the show is trying to completely tell you everything that the characters are thinking and leaving very little left to imagine for the viewers. I knew how Don felt about the situation with Jim and Maggie already there was no need to shove it down my throat anymore. And the same goes with the relationship between Sloan and Will. This show really has to rely on the characters and in this episode it absolutely failed.
I thought the idea of making both Will and Sloan look wrong were great, but the way the Sloan situation was handled was just too cheesy for my taste. If Sloan were to have been suspended that could have brought something more to the show and created another viewpoint from someone who was punished for their actions. Instead they ran away from that storyline.
I really liked the idea of how they are handling actual news and real stories that have occured. But I do not want to give them too much credit for how they are handling the situations because they are looking at the stories and know how they have turned out. The reporters at the time did not have the ability to already know what was going to happen. I am still glad they are taking this approach, but at times I think I gave the show too much credit for talking about those situations from the past.
Jeff Balinski: Why is nobody pointing out how utterly stupid the character of Sloan is? Her actions in this episode do not make any sense. When first asked to do the news, she refuses, that is, until she finds out she can wear some Gucci. Really?! Could Sorkin write these women any worse? Don’t even get me started on the Georgia part of this episode.
So Sloan does the news for the most shallow of reasons, but then has a big show of conscience because of a pep talk she receives from Will. Again, really?! None of the women on this show can make their own decisions. They always need the men to make it for them. Sloan shows integrity by shouting “I don’t want the God damn pay” after being told she is being suspended for her on air lapse of judgment. Where does this integrity come from? This is a woman who is told she is being put on TV because of her legs, and only filled in on the news because she would get to wear pretty clothes. I just don’t follow the logic. She is strong at points and then completely hopeless at others. It would be maybe passable if it only pertained to Sloan, but it also hurts to see Mackenzie and Maggie portrayed the same way.
VG: This show has received a fair amount of criticism for its portrayal of women, and rightfully so. Mackenzie (sending out the mass email), Maggie (losing the source), and now Sloan have all made major mistakes throughout the series, and most of the time it’s the men who come in and correct the situation. I’m not sure if it’s Sorkin intent or not, but so far the show has had a negative view on women overall.
And having Sloan take offense to being called a “girl” doesn’t make up for it.
The most frustrating part of Sloan’s character is her inconsistency. When we were first introduced to her she seemed like a strong, independent woman. When she was referred to as a “pair of legs” earlier in the series, she was insulted. She wanted to make a name for herself because of what she knows, not how she looks. She seemed intelligent and highly motivated. You know, someone who would jump at the opportunity to host the 10 o’clock show not someone who would react to it with a “Do I really have to?” type attitude.
I had been looking forward to seeing more of Sloan but this episode let me down because her actions contradicted what we had seen from her up to this point.
MA: Vinny I think you really hit on the point that bothered me the most in this past episode. The inconsistency of all of the characters so far has been really unsettling to me. It seems like Sorkin does not know what kind of role he wants certain characters to play yet in the show. Sloan is clearly one example, but as Greg mentioned Don has really been all over the place. In the first couple of episodes he could care less about anyone else and was a pretty bold character and someone who could at times take it to Will. Now he thinks he is the reason Elliot went out and got beat up and is worried that he is losing his girlfriend to Jim. This to me is extremely worrisome going forward because Sorkin is not really helping develop any of the characters so far, but is instead breaking them down.
There definitely does seem to be a Sorkin push behind so many storyline that we have seen throughout this season. I was hoping he did not put his imprints all over this, but it is most definitely going that route. This could very easily lead to this show losing a lot of its firepower if the viewers do get sick of his beliefs.
GK: I agree with everything that’s been said so far, and I’d take Mike’s last point one step further. I’d say, as it currently stands, there is nothing overly compelling about this show that separates it from anything else we’ve seen on television. It all feels very recycled and overused, but it gets renewed because it has the name Aaron Sorkin attached to it. I believe the reason a lot of people are selling on this show is because we all expected something better and different than what we have seen recently. Instead, we got taken for wanting something that we aren’t getting.
At this point, I don’t know if its ever going to get any better. And yet, the sad part is, we’re going to keep watching, which is almost equally as disappointing.