Season premiere review: ‘The Newsroom’

07.14.13 5 years ago 74 Comments


“The Newsroom” is back for a new season. I published an advance review earlier in the week, and I have some specific thoughts on the season premiere coming up just as soon as I have the confidence of a tall man…

I went on at length about my overall issues with “The Newsroom” in the review linked to above, and I also wrote exhaustively about almost every episode last season. While I find it fascinating to note the many different ways in which a writer as smart and talented as Aaron Sorkin goes awry with this show, I fear it just becomes piling on if I keep writing the same dissertation on the frequent failings (and occasional successes) of “The Newsroom” each week. So unless an episode strikes me as particularly outside the show’s usual norm (for good or for ill), the plan is to just do short discussion-starter pieces each week and see how that goes.

First, the season opens on a couple of different notes from last year, with the more muted opening title sequence, and then the framing device of Will and the staff giving depositions at some point in their future (the season proper begins in August of 2011) for the screw-up they made about this Operation Genoa. Both leaven some of the self-importance that was such a huge problem for the show last year, but only so much, especially because other issues remain in place.

For starters, we’re reminded several times of the chain of events that led to this fiasco, which included Jim going on the road to New Hampshire, which spins out of his desire to get as far away from Maggie and Don’s happiness as possible. That entire saga continues to be an entertainment black hole, and at one point we get the remarkable moment when we realize that Sorkin wants us to be sympathetic towards Don and feel like he has been deeply wronged by Maggie – when in fact everything between her and Jim came as a result of Don being a jerk in the first place. But no, Don is now a good guy, and also someone whom we’ll have to watch Sloan (or, as Charlie charmingly dubs her, “Money Skirt,” while also referring to Will’s new intern as “the sorority girl”) moon over periodically. Sigh.

We also get Sorkin’s usual derision of the internet, with Leona Lansing referring to illegal downloaders as “the fucking pajama people” – because the only people who use their computers to download entertainment, legally or via torrent, wear pajamas all day and live in their parents’ basement – but also an amusing internet-related gag, as we catch Will singing Rebecca Black’s “Friday” to himself during breaks in the newscast.

Sorkin also giveth and taketh away with Mac, who gets to demonstrate her competence in the early scene where she produces the live fix of the voiceover, then gets to demonstrate her ongoing ineptitude with technology when she doesn’t realize the story meeting is on conference call with the Washington bureau before insulting everyone there. I did like, however, her initial reluctance to go with Neal’s instincts about Occupy Wall Street, because while “The Newsroom” may be made with 20/20 hindsight, the characters are allegedly living in the present, and not everyone on that staff is going to immediately recognize what a big story OWS will become, or the drone program, etc.(*)

(*) Time for your weekly reminder about this blog’s No Politics Rule. Not discussing politics at all in regards to “The Newsroom” is nearly impossible, but the comments on the pre-season review quickly tumbled into things unrelated to the show (and, in some cases, by people who had actually watched the show) to more general philosophical debates about the philosophies, competence and good/evil of our country’s two political parties. If your comment is not directly applying to something happening on the show, and/or if it’s not civil (keeping in mind the rule where you’re supposed to talk about the show, and not each other), then it’ll get deleted.

All in all, not a premiere that reinvented what I thought about “The Newsroom,” but some clear signs that Sorkin at least considered some of the criticisms of the series before he began writing the new episodes.

What did everybody else think?

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