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Vinny Ginardi: After we experienced such giant skips in time earlier this season, I assumed we’d have an episode with Osama Bin Laden’s death as the news-story sometime this season. Unfortunately, for the second consecutive week, The Newsroom disappointed me with its delivery.
My biggest concern for the show when it first started seems to be in full force now. The Newsroom has fallen victim to its own premise. There is only so much a series focused on a newsroom can do before it feels repetitive and formulaic. The result is what we saw this week: Lame and unsuccessful attempts at creating subplots to try and provide some sort of variance with each episode. Did Will really need to be high during this week’s episode? Or did Don and Sloan need to be trapped on a plane? I get the message here. News can break at anytime, even at times when it might be inconvenient for those who deliver the news, but really, did these situations add any sort of entertainment value? No. If anything, they removed some of the seriousness from the episode and made it feel almost sitcom-esque.
I still do enjoy watching the show, but I’m growing tired of watching the same thing happen each week.
Greg Kaplan: I’m with Vinny on this one. Cheesy feels like an inappropriate word to use in an episode that carried this much weight, but did three main characters of this show really have to be stuck on an airplane when word came down that the United States had killed Osama bin Laden? Sure, its a heart-warming moment and it gives any human being chills. But, come on. That’s too obvious of a plant and payoff for any viewer to sit back and be like “oh man, ain’t that a coincidence…”
Also, I really do think a story line was drastically underplayed in this week’s episode. I think Sorkin missed a golden opportunity to focus more on the story of Neil’s girlfriend, who was mostly underwhelmed by the news of bin Laden’s death. The night of Osama bin Laden’s death was one of those nights where you’ll always remember where you were. I’m positive Vinny knows where he was. I know for fact where I was. I was in my dorm room at Marist College, working on a final term paper. It was a Sunday night, and the news of bin Laden’s death to me was not broken by a news reporter. It was broken by Dan Shulman, Bobby Valentine and Orel Hershiser. It was broken to me by these three individuals because the New York Mets were playing the Philadelphia Phillies in Philly on Sunday Night Baseball, which meant I actually got to watch the game since, for some reason, Marist didn’t carry SNY.
I remember hearing rumors of it on the broadcast (it was an especially long game that went extras, which turned out to be pretty symbolic of the entire night considering how often the White House pushed back the announcement). I remember going on Twitter and Facebook and seeing friends and the media begin to celebrate it. And yet, I fully remember being completely underwhelmed by the news. I can’t really put a finger on why I felt underwhelmed. I just did. I grew up 40 minutes away from the Towers. I knew kids in my home town directly impacted by the attacks. Yet, I don’t know. I really wasn’t one of those moments for me. I would’ve liked Sorkin to explore the true emotions that Neil’s girlfriend was going through, because those were the emotions I was going through, though certainly on a much smaller level.
To change topics almost completely, I will admit that Jim either redeemed himself entirely by showing his true colors as a Mets fan, or is completely dead to me for being a Phillies fan. I also mildly liked that he pretty much said “screw it” to the whole Maggie situation and wants to stay with Lisa. Good for him. And I’m still very confused by how to feel about Don now. He had some hilarious and highly entertaining moments on the airplane, but I really can’t stand the whiny-bitchness that Sorkin has written into his character revolving around this love circle. Doesn’t sit well with me at all.
VG: Greg, I’m with you all the way here. While a good percentage of people were celebrating Bin Ladin’s death, there were a number of people who had completely different reactions. It would have been interesting if this episode explored those reactions a little bit more. That being said, there were a few great moments in this episode in terms of looking at the reactions of those who would be most proud of the news. I know I said that having our main characters stuck on a plane was lame, but when Don put aside his outburst and ego to break the news to the pilots on the plan, the show reached an emotional level that we haven’t seen in quite some time.
As for the Jim and Maggie situation, I too was happy to see Jim realize that he does like Lisa and sitting around and waiting for Maggie is a bad idea. But I was more happy to see this for Jim’s character than as a viewer of the show. Seeing Jim approach the Maggie situation has been painful in the past, so it was an encouraging moment that he decided to move on. That being said though, as a viewer I am slightly disappointed because I don’t think this will mean the end of the Jim-Maggie situation, just that it will be prolonged even more.
GK: I didn’t mean to say that Don breaking the news to pilots about bin Laden’s death didn’t pull at the heartstrings. It did. But, I just have the feeling Sorkin was sitting around a dimly lit room while writing this episode thinking to himself, “Hmmm. What situations can I have my characters in to get the best emotional reaction from Osama’s death? Oh! I know!” The situations feel forced. On a plane, Lonnie nearly getting arrested meaning that police officers were in the newsroom. It all felt forced and unnatural, and that’s where my problem with the situations come from.
And yeah, happy that Jim made the decision to go after Lisa. Unhappy that this situation is playing out on HBO in a very sit-comy like atmosphere. Also, I don’t know about you Vin, but this show feels like HUGE time jumps, doesn’t it? Sorkin is assuming that we figure nothing big is happening from Point A to Point B. I mean, we’re seven episodes deep into this show. We’ve already jumped more than a year in show time. Pump the brakes! Breaking news doesn’t have to happen every week. It’d be really refreshing to see a slow news day here or there on The Newsroom so we can get better connected with the characters on the show. Sorkin totally botched this one.
VG: Hey, if the time jumps continue to be this big, eventually Sorkin will run out of time and have to create his own news events, which is what you truly want, right Greg?
All kidding aside though, I haven’t had much of a problem with the news stories that have been covered throughout the series. While I wouldn’t mind seeing a slower news day for an episode, covering a more important event creates a sense that the stakes are much higher. But I do agree. People who watch this show but don’t have any connection to media might think that that everyday is breaking with national-level news. That’s just not true. If anything, the huge jumps in time indicate how spaced out newsworthy events can be.
We only have three episodes left and it disappoints me that there isn’t an overarching plot or narrative. I suppose that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but television series’ tend to be much more engaging when there is a storyline that progresses each week. Instead, with The Newsroom, it is more of just a snapshot of what is going on during a particular day with the same group of characters. I’m curious to see if this will change come the second season.
GK: I just have one more thing to say about this week’s episode. How in the world was The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, THE FIRST PERSON IN THE UNITED STATES TO KNOW, that we got Osama? Really? He was Patient Zero?! And how does Charlie deduce that, wait, he’s tweeting that he’s proud to be an American. He has a cousin in the SEALs, OH! WE GOT OSAMA!
In no world does that sequence happen naturally. Ever. I refuse to believe it.