I know, I know. I missed last week’s The Newsroom, so I’m going to try to combine my thoughts on “The 112th Congress” with this week’s “I’ll Try to Fix You.”
If we’re going to compare them, “Fix You” was a much better episode. “The 112th Congress” flashed over a six-month period that you knew was going to end in Ominous Meeting With Jane Fonda. The whole episode is essentially one big montage with little snippets of scenes slipped in there. “Fix You” takes place another month later.
Here is my biggest problem with The Newsroom: it lacks development. Aaron Sorkin plays off formulas, archetypes, and clichés that we, as television audience members, know how to react to. I’ve said before that Jim and Maggie are the new Jim and Pam, but Sorkin cheats the system by giving these characters the mold of “will they or won’t
they” but none of the development. We fell in love with Pam and Jim after constant exposure to the little things that made up their days: the pranks to get through the mundane, her falling asleep on his shoulder, the faces he would make when her controlling boyfriend
Don Roy came by. There was a very gradual but very real progression that made us feel for them by the end of season two when it all came to a head and then end of season three when they finally went out. We cared about them because we saw all the little moments that made them fall in love.
Jim and Maggie, in contrast, have received none of that. By the time he talks her through a panic attack in the third episode, the person she’s on the phone with already knows all about her love for him and he’s already closely monitoring her on-again-off-again situation with Don. It’s as if Mac’s episode one mandate for Jim to have a crush on Maggie was all the development we get, and now we’re supposed to yearn for them in the way we yearned for Jim and Pam. There is no build up. There is no subtlety. Why, oh why, Aaron Sorkin, are you denying me subtlety?
So with that in mind, I am basically two people when I watch The Newsroom. There is the jaded me, who can feel herself being manipulated and hates this show for everything that it could be but is not. And then there is the romantic me, who doesn’t care that she’s being manipulated and still can’t help but be inspired as these people dash around to the overwrought soundtrack of Coldplay. That me, the idealistic me, doesn’t mind that the women in this show are often more stupid than is believable, or that by setting this story around real events, Sorkin gets to rewrite history his way while simultaneously detracting from his fiction. That me doesn’t even mind looking like an idiot as I gesture wildly at my TV, begging Maggie to just please choose Jim. Girl, your choice could not be any more obvious.
But that me does not write this blog. The jaded, TV junkie does. And that part of me is throwing up my hands at the dumb mistakes The Newsroom makes. Why have we almost progressed a year in the first four episodes of this show? Is there not enough material in that original concept of transitioning into a new type of show with a new producer who is also your ex? The first four episodes could have taken place in the first month of this fictional universe! Why am I being cheated in this way? Why does Maggie stay with Don for a year despite the fact that we’re only shown his douche-y qualities? Either Maggie is an idiot or he must have good ones. Show us the good ones! Show us why she stays with him.
I’m also not a big fan of Lisa, the roommate. The plot device of having someone listen on the phone while Jim and Maggie share an intimate moment on the rooftop could have been a good one. We wondered, Who was on the phone? Her mother? Her therapist? And then comes the reveal—her boobtastic roommate who apparently doesn’t care enough about the fact that Maggie is obviously in love with Jim to keep from dating/screwing him. What is the point of that plot device now? So her fashionista roommate can seem like more of a bitch? To depict women as catty and mean? None of this makes any sense!
I don’t even care about Will’s “mission to civilize.” Everyone else on the Internet is pointing out how ridiculously sexist this episode was—bashing tabloids, fashion shows, and reality television. Sure, it’s a little misogynistic, but you know what? It’s also true. Tabloids are stupid and so is reality television. In that vein though, Will, if you’re going to hate on the women who watch Real Housewives of Wherever, you probably shouldn’t show sympathy for the women who actually sign up to participate in that brain-eroding trash.
I want to like this show. I like the acting, I like the dialogue, and I like what I have seen of the characters, or rather, I like who these characters could be. But things ring hollow. They feel empty. The Newsroom is cutting corners in a big way, and that is such a disservice to something that could be truly good.
That said, I really do wring my hands over Maggie and Jim every single episode, because I’m a sucker and that’s that.
Last thought: Was there a point to Neal’s Bigfoot thing? I kept waiting for it to turn into a metaphor or a plot point, but was it just…a bad joke made worse as they beat it into the ground? Does anyone have an answer?