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The Newsroom Bugs The Tux

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Jeff Daniels, Olivia Munn, and the world's most electronically-advanced tuxedo

Sunday’s fourth episode of HBO’s The Newsroom consisted of a whole lot of what the show, and Aaron Sorkin in general, do badly- smug speechifying, grown adults falling to pieces over romantic entanglements in the middle of the workday, the depiction of grown women as emotionally needy children- with a touch of what it does best.

I’m referring, mainly, to a montage of the “News Night” crew reacting to and reporting on the Tucson shooting in early 2011. What you think of the latter sequence may hinge on how you feel about Sorkinese, or perhaps about Coldplay.

But earlier in the episode was one of the strangest plot twists in TV drama history, one that’s somehow gone mostly unremarked-upon in most recaps I’ve read of the show. Throughout the episode, protagonist Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) goes on dates with various women, all of which go awry to some degree, and each time the intimate details of the evening end up in a gossip column a day or two later, with the stories presented in a way unfavorable to Will.

Will at first believes that the women themselves are leaking the info, but then his crusty boss (Sam Waterston) realizes that the owner of the network (Jane Fonda) gave him a tuxedo as a gift- and that the tux must’ve been bugged! Therefore, the bosses of the network are listening in on all of Will’s assignations, so they can find embarrassing stuff and eventually fire him. That he wasn’t actually wearing the tux during most of the incidents appears to have slipped Sorkin’s mind.

Along with the News Corp. phone-hacking case, the plotline appears to be somewhat inspired by the Larry Mendte/Alycia Lane saga in Philadelphia in 2007. To make a ridiculously long story short, Mendte and Lane were feuding co-anchors at KYW, Philly’s CBS affiliate, and news stories unflattering to Lane began appearing in the local press with surprising frequency. It turned out Mendte had been illegally logging into Lane’s email and forwarding incriminating stories to the local press, an action for which Mendte was both fired and indicted on federal charges. Lawsuits on the matter are still pending.

So the bugging of the tux, in addition to being implausible and ridiculous, was probably illegal, and certainly not the sort of easily-discovered risk you’d expect a TV network-owning corporation to take, especially against a Keith Olbermann type who would likely expose it loudly and immediately. But how much you want to bet that doesn’t happen, and the show probably doesn’t even mention it again?

Not to mention, if it was possible to bug a tux, wouldn’t someone have tried it in a James Bond movie by now?

In the meantime, perhaps “bugging the tux” will become the new “jumping the shark” or “nuking the fridge.”

 

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