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Stray Thoughts About the Newsroom Pilot

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Will McAvoy speaks truth to stupid!Since everyone up to and including Dan Rather has written a review of this thing, and there has already been endless argument both about the merits of The Newsroom itself as well as the contents of the reviews, whether reviewers grade Aaron Sorkin unfairly etc. ad nauseum, I’m not sure how much the world can benefit from yet another conventional review. So, I thought I’d approach this piece “stray observation” style.

  • At the journalism panel at the beginning of the pilot Jeff Daniels is seated in the middle while the liberal lady is to the viewer’s left and the conservative to the viewer’s right. Subtlety!
  • This very first scene begins the ongoing problem of what hell exactly type of news anchor Daniels’s Will McAvoy character is supposed to represent. Supposedly he’s a middle-of-the-road guy that everyone in America sort of agrees with, the “Jay Leno” of news anchors as the panel’s moderator suggests, but does such a figure even exist within American media anymore in these hyper-polarized times?
  • McAvoy’s speech definitely makes him sound like a mouthpiece for Sorkin himself, or at least a fictionalized version of Keith Olbermann. He’s certainly smug and pompous and self-satisfied enough to be either.
  • The credits sequence combines grandiose string music with images of the giants of mid twentieth century journalism. (Chet Huntley, David Brinkley etc.) This show is not kidding around with this stuff!
  • Will wears a leather jacket to work. What a cool dude!
  • Will’s confusion about the name/position of his young, female intern/assistant/associate producer/whatever is reminiscent of Mad Men and not in a good way, especially considering this is supposedly taking place in 2010.
  • Sam Waterson is awesome, and really having a lot of fun with his role here.
  • First walk and talk 15 minutes in!
  • “Simply put you are a smart, talented guy who isn’t very nice.” Self-referential much, Sorkin?
  • The Sam Waterson character and the Jeff Daniels character drink right in the middle of the workday just like the guys do on Mad Men.
  • And Will McAvoy smokes right inside his Manhattan office in 2010. A regular Don Draper (or at least Graydon Carter) this guy.
  • Also he’s such a playboy it’s implied he’s having sex with Erin Andrews.
  • So, in the middle of the episode the date April 20, 2010 (heh, heh) appears on the screen. This is every bit as distracting as it sounds and begins the most controversial aspect of the series. Unlike The West Wing which took place in an alternate timeline with a different president, or The Social Network and Moneyball, which fictionalized the true stories of real people, The Newsroom has completely fictional characters reacting to actual events that happened two years ago. It’s bizarre. The pilot episode involves our fictional heroes breaking the true story of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster by making a couple phone calls to highly placed sources they just happen to have random connections to. It’s a really weird strategy for a drama.
  • The long argument between Emily Watson’s character and Jeff Daniels’s character is one of the most absurd conversations ever put on film. It basically consists of two characters exchanging long soliloquies declaring their philosophies of life, like characters in an Ayn Rand novel or something.
  • Sample dialogue: “There’s nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate . . .I’d rather do a good show for 100 people than a bad one for a million . . .I’d like you to listen to these words which were written 500 years ago by Cervantes . . .reclaiming the fourth estate, reclaiming journalism as an honorable profession.”
  • They milk the “I have a blog” joke for all its worth. This old guy can not get over the fact that he has a blog!
  • James O’Keefe reference! (It’s 2010 in this show remember.)
  • There’s no script! There’s nothing in the teleprompter! Will McAvoy is at his best when there’s nothing in the teleprompter! He’s the anti-Ron Burgundy if you will.
  • Everyone claps for themselves after completing their first broadcast together. Home viewers can clap for them too it they’d like.
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