I may have had a revelation after this week’s episode of ‘The Newsroom’. I’m not 100% certain yet, but I think that I may not hate Olivia Munn anymore. (“Hate” is perhaps a strong word. I’ve just always found her very annoying.) This is particularly strange in that her character makes an incredibly stupid blunder in this episode. First Channing Tatum makes a good movie that I like him in, and now this. Is there nothing in this world I can trust?
‘Bullies’ is the second episode of ‘The Newsroom’ in a row that I’ve really liked. Considering that it’s the sixth episode of the series to air, that could be seen as a serious problem. For the moment, I prefer to imagine that Aaron Sorkin has realized the mistakes that he’d made in earlier episodes (either on his own, or from network feedback) and is attempting a course correction. We’ll have to see where the rest of the season goes to determine whether I continue to feel that way for long.
How has the show improved? For one thing, Sorkin seems to have acknowledged the smug, condescending tone that his characters have adopted, as well as their poor journalism. While attacking a campaign aide (a black, gay man) about the hypocrisy of working for an outspokenly homophobic bigot like Rick Santorum, Will is taken to task on air for reducing the man to his own simplistic definition of how he thinks a gay man should think and vote on political issues. Will may have believed that he was being a heroic champion of gay rights, until he’s forced to admit that he was the bully all along. Human beings, homosexual or not, are much more complex than he’d given them credit for. Well played, Mr. Sorkin.
Meanwhile, it’s April of 2011, and the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan is melting down. Officially, a spokesperson for the company claims that the crisis is under control. However, he tells Sloan (Munn) off the record that things are much worse than anyone will admit. Because Elliot is on vacation, Sloan is asked to fill in as anchor of the 10 PM newscast. While interviewing the same spokesperson (who happens to be a friend) on the air, she refuses to accept his denials and blurts out what he’d told her earlier. This is, of course, a huge breach of journalistic ethics, which creates the appearance that she (and therefore also the network) makes up facts without actual evidence. A few minutes after the broadcast, Charlie (Sam Waterston) reams her out in the middle of the newsroom for her incompetence, as well he should.
Later, Charlie devises a solution where Sloan must apologize on air and pretend that she mistranslated what the spokesperson had said earlier. This will allow the Japanese company to save face, and will only make the network look bad temporarily. In return, the company will announce that the crisis has escalated. A fluent Japanese speaker, Sloan is incensed that she must lie on the air and apologize for telling the truth. Both Charlie and Will order her to suck it up and do it anyway.
I don’t know whether Munn actually speaks Japanese or is just really good at faking it. (According to Wikipedia, she worked as a model in Japan in her youth, so I suppose that she might.) In any case, she’s very good in the episode and seems to be a better actress than I’d given her credit for.
The episode also has an amusing storyline where Will is assigned a bodyguard (Terry Crews) against his wishes after he receives death threats from someone on the internet. Crews is very funny in his interactions with Will and the network staff.
Albeit a little early to tell, ‘The Newsroom’ appears to be on an upswing. I hope that the show can sustain it.