Yes, I fully realize that this post is very late. Due to time commitments, and frankly a little lack of interest, I gave up recapping Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The Newsroom’ just over halfway through the show’s first season. I’d intended to weigh in with my thoughts on the finale, which aired two weeks ago, but couldn’t find the time. Well, now I have a moment, so let’s finally get this out of the way.
In the finale episode ‘The Greater Fool’, Will is depressed (as in, hospitalized for over-medicating on antidepressants) by a hatchet-job magazine article that ridiculed everything he’s tried to do with the newscast. Gossip columnist Nina (Hope Davis) has an inexplicable change of heart and warns Charlie (Sam Waterston) that she knows Will did a recent broadcast while high. Charlie eventually pieces together that the only way Nina could have learned this is if TMI had hacked and tapped Mac’s phone. He then gleefully reveals to network owner Leona (Jane Fonda) that her son ordered the illegal hacking, which causes Leona to back down from her campaign to destroy Will and the show.
Meanwhile, Sloan (Olivia Munn) gets a lucrative job offer on Wall Street, but turns it down to continue fighting the good fight on the air. Neal (Dev Patel) goes undercover with a group of internet trolls for what sounds like the least interesting news story in the history of investigative journalism (what possible revelation could he unveil – that internet trolls are jerks?), and winds up flushing out the nutcase who’d been making death threats against Will. Maggie (Alison Pill) decides to break up with boyfriend Don once and for all to be with Jim, but changes her mind when Don asks her to move in with him. Jim has apparently missed his shot, which is disappointing for him since his own girlfriend broke up with him to let him be with Maggie.
After wallowing in his own self pity for a while, Will rallies his spirits when he learns about voter ID laws sponsored by Texas governor Rick Perry that have intentionally disqualified countless voters in order to prevent them from voting for Democrats. Will then goes back on the warpath against the Tea Party, which he decries on the air as being “the American Taliban.” Because in Aaron Sorkin’s universe (which is totally divorced from our real world), that’s considered both acceptable and appropriate behavior for a responsible journalist.
Oh, and the stupid sorority girl that Will humiliated in the pilot episode applies for an internship with him, because his abuse apparently inspired her to stop being such a ditzy moron. Or something.
So, with all that said, how did the first season of Sorkin’s new series fare as a whole? As I’d written previously, I thought that the first four episodes of the show were kind of terrible. Things seemed to turn around by Episode 5, after which the show went on a decided upswing when the writing stopped being quite so preachy and condescending, and Sorkin appeared to recognize that his characters’ reckless and irresponsible behavior would have consequences. Unfortunately, the finale episode throws all that effort away and brings back the smug condescension in force. Will McAvoy is not only vindicated for his terrible journalism, but Sorkin defiantly preaches to the audience that, “This is the way it should be. This is how all journalists should behave.”
Aaron Sorkin knows nothing at all about journalism. He has created in Will McAvoy just another blowhard demagogue akin to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, and his only defense to doing so is: “Yeah, but I think he’s right, so that makes it OK.” No, that does not make it OK. This is not how journalists should behave. McAvoy’s “American Taliban” rant is so embarrassingly misguided that Sorkin really ought to be ashamed of himself for writing it.
I really want to like ‘The Newsroom’. The show has just enough elements of the classic Sorkin formula to remind us of his other, better work in the past. If you attempt to turn off all critical thinking about what exactly Sorkin is saying with the show, it’s fairly entertaining most of the time. Even the finale episode builds to a rousing, emotional climax. Sorkin uses his skill as a dramatist to fool us into disengaging that critical thought, so that we won’t contemplate how wrongheaded his ideas about journalism are.
I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy into this. I know that Aaron Sorkin is smarter than this and capable of better. If the show doesn’t get a lot more realistic in its second season, I may not be able to continue watching for much longer.