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Checking In- The Newsroom Season 2

Let me say this first. I really like The Newsroom. Out of the 30+ shows that I watch every year, it is easily top 5.  The pace is faster than I ever could have  imagined a show like this could be. A show about the inner workings of a television news program doesn’t scream upbeat and exciting. Yet, there I am, on the edge of my seat every week.  Also, this show has some of the best original characters you will ever see on the small screen. Not only are the main characters like Will, Mac, and Charlie fantastic, but nearly every supporting character is as well. Despite all of this, critics largely hate this show. It has two main criticisms and it is clear that Sorkin has tried to address these problems now that we are to the mid season.

The first criticism is that this is a show about a team that decides they want to do the news right. That means no bias and no agenda. They are there to do the news in it’s truest form. Report the fact and keep Americans informed. The problem with Newsroom is that the entire show is supposed to be based on those principals and it couldn’t be further from doing that. This is one thing that the critics and I agree on. I have a degree in broadcast journalism and this show does virtually everything that i was taught not to do in a newsroom. Sure there is always the entertainment vs. news argument and in that instance, The Newsroom got it right. News shows that cater to the lowest common denominator and cover tabloid journalism topics tend to have higher ratings. It was refreshing to see a show tackle that issue and show that news can be done without watering it down. But then they forgot the other issue of doing the news the right way. The whole not being biased part. Sorkin is a staunch liberal and you will know it if you watch this show for about 30 seconds. I have never seen a show push the writer’s political agenda more than this show does. Sure he tried to counter balance his agenda by making Will a republican, but it is still clear as day what Sorkin wants the message to be. Here’s where critics and I differ: I just don’t care. Sure, his liberal biased agenda goes against the fundamental purpose of the show. But so what?! It’s really good writing! I will admit right here and now that I personally am a Republican. I’m socially moderate and fiscally conservative. There have been no less than 1,000 things said on this show that i could be offended by. But you know what? I’m an adult that can have and adult conversation about politics and hear other differing opinions and not act like a jealous child. I have enjoyed some of the topics in the show and what was said because it has been a starting point for many good conversations. The fact remains that even if much of the dialogue is biased, it is ALL extremely well written and presented in an intelligent manner. It’s too bad more critics aren’t more intelligent.


Creator and Head Writer- Aaron Sorkin

Creator and Head Writer- Aaron Sorkin

At the halfway point through season 2, it is evident that at least Sorkin has heard these complaints. Sure, his political views are still easy to spot. Like when Will absolutely rips apart Occupy Wall Street or when Neil eviscerates a Ron Paul supporter. Yet, Sorkin has at least acknowledged the consequences that an anchor would face for calling the Tea Party the American Taliban. That would be really frowned upon. Sure there are biased personalities out there with shows on news networks. But will is a representation of the non biased anchor and is supposed to be like Walter Cronkite, Murrow, and Peter Jennings. They simply couldn’t say some of the stuff Will has said and now he is starting to pay for it. Will has been pulled off of the 9/11 anniversary coverage. He was officially condemned on the Senate floor. And maybe most importantly, at least for Will, his audience is starting to turn on him. And try as he might, Will still very much loves his audience. That leads us to hilarious scenes like we got in episode 6 with him going on his station’s morning show and making a fool out of himself. I always like the occasional reminders that Will needs to help him stay on course because honestly, we the audience need them too. Him being punished and having some screen time taken away from him has for the most part been a good thing. It has allowed smaller characters like Don, Neil, and Sloan to shine. The only downside has been that Will hasn’t had his big shining moments that I got used to seeing in season 1. The only thing close that I have seen has been when Will bails Neil out of jail. Even with that though, I’m still waiting for the one Will speech that I will still be talking about next season.

Will's best speech this year while getting Neil out of jail

Will’s best speech this year while getting Neil out of jail

The other major criticism of The Newsroom, and surprisingly the most brought up, is that it’s hard to keep interest in a show that does nothing but cover topics that the audience has already lived though. They don’t think that its interesting for us to watch a show that’s all about the night we got Bin Laden or the BP oil spill. This is also the criticism that I could not disagree more with. This is a show about people who do the news. Why would we not want to see what goes on in a newsroom as a big story is unfolding? Such as in season 1 when they showed every other channel saying Gabby Giffords was dead and they had to make the call whether to run with that or not. Or more recently I have loved how we have been taken step by step through the beginnings of Occupy Wall Street and the US drone strikes. I have been thoroughly entertained watching how they pick what stories they will done and showing how they decide how it is presented to the public. Why should we the audience care about this? Because a major news outlet is one of the most important things in our lives. Whether you read the paper, the internet, or you watch TV, whatever news source you use has more influence on your lives than most people in your life ever will. They report what you know and how they convey that and in what light and tone influences what you think more than you know. Why would we not want to see that process?  I for one have loved every single second of it.

The beginnings of a story

The beginnings of a story

Sorkin has obviously worked on this criticism as well. In fact, it seems he worried about this one even more. While we still have the same format from last year, covering real life news stories from the past couple of years. But he also gave us a major storyline that is all for the show in Operation Genoa. Sure in season 1 we had the illegal phone taping scandal but that was a secondary storyline that just helped tie a few episodes together. Season 2 is built around the story of Genoa that we now know is fake. It has been an interesting format to say the least.  We have gotten glimpses of the present day, centered mostly around staff meetings with the lawyer team for Jerry’s lawsuit, but for the most part each episode has been a flashback of some sorts to show us how we got there. It has been brilliantly constructed. This has led to some of the best episodes to date over the past four episodes. We were teased with what might have happened to Maggie and why she changed her hair, and what we got was an episode that took place almost entirely in Africa and what I consider to be one of the best episodes of the series. All of the flashback stuff to Jim while he was covering the Romney campaign was gold. Now that the storyline has caught up with present day, we were treated to what might have been the best episode to date in Red Team III.  It’s all about the entire team finally laying it all on the line with the lawyers and a look back at the moments that the Genoa story unraveled. It was quite simply, brilliant television. It was the first and only time that I haven’t loathed Jane Fonda. So, no I never thought there was a problem with the format of the show before. Despite that, Sorkin has gone more than out of his way to answer his critics and the show is better for it. Now we get the best of both worlds!

Alison Pill, excellent as always in one of the most emotional and best episodes to date

Alison Pill, excellent as always in one of the most emotional and best episodes to date

I can’t say enough about the acting on this show. Despite his political agenda, Sorkin is still writing some of the best dialogue on TV. Jeff Daniels is absolutely deserving of his nomination for best actor at the Emmys. He knocks every single line out of the park. Of course the other main actors are great too in Emily Mortimer and  Sam Waterston. And I have always enjoyed John Gallagher and Alison Pill as Jim and Maggie. They continue to get their own side focus on the show and its great. Gallagher especially is just perfect for this show. The ones that I really want to point out there are standing out more because of the subtle changes to the show which is in turn giving them more meaningful screen time. Thomas Sodoski is quickly making Don one of the single best characters in all of TV and he is doing it in very limited screen time. I have loved him from the get go (you’re a F*%#g newsman Don!), but many didn’t like him at first because of his position between Jim and Maggie. However, if you can’t love what Sodoski has made done into this season, then you just don’t have a soul! One thing that is making him so great is his interaction with the next person I would point out, Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbith. As the awkwardly brilliant/smoking hot anchor, she was great in random comedic spots in season 1. She still has been this season, but her character has grown leaps and bounds. I don’t think there is anyone on this show that has owner their role more than Munn has this season. Kudos. And I would to not mention my favorite character/actor this season in Dev Patel who plays Neil. I think out of everyone, his screen time has jumped up the most significantly. I have loved his evolution from just the social media/website runner, which he still is, to becoming a full-fledged journalist. The storyline with him finding Occupy Wall Street at their beginnings and fighting for them to get notice was truly inspiring. He sunny demeanor and the passion for the stories he conveys, coupled with his youthful humor and (sometimes blind) loyalty have been a joy to watch this season. In fact, the one actor that I have not enjoyed so far has been Grace Gummer, who plays Hallie, Jim’s new girlfriend. It’s not that she is terrible, I just don’t think she quite lives up to the high standards the rest of the cast sets. She is the Sansa Stark of The Newsroom.

Nobody's character has grown more this season that Munn's Sloan Sabbith

Nobody’s character has grown more this season that Munn’s Sloan Sabbith

All-in-all, I am really happy with this season so far. I have loved the new storytelling direction it has taken, while still sticking to its roots as well. With just three episodes left, I am dying to find out where the news team goes from here. At the end of episode 7, Leona tells Charlie to get the audience’s trust back. Mr. Sorkin, you have mine. Sure you can pick it apart for all the political rhetoric, but why? It’s just TV. Sit back and relax and try to just enjoy some of the best writing and storytelling that is currently airing. Critics, Will is on a mission to civilize. Maybe you should pay attention.

About Evan Swafford

Evan Swafford
Evan is a semi reluctant insomniac, who has used his extra time to watch way more TV than is healthy for a normal human being. All his other time is devoted to movies, gaming, and being a sports fanatic and stat geek. Evan has a degree from MTSU in Electronic Media Journalism which he now uses to grow some of the best trees and shrubs money can buy. You can hear his useless knowledge every week on the Free For All podcast.