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"The Newsroom" Recap: I’ll Try To Fix You

Graham Clark |
July 16, 2012 | 3:05 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston star on The Newsroom (via HBO)
Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston star on The Newsroom (via HBO)
Once again, this program teeters nerve-wrackingly, and occasionally delightfully, on the edge of being dangerously cheesy.

In the previous three episodes, the show’s power stemmed from real-world tie-ins or brazenly constructed, one-dimensional character interactions. That appears to be changing though, as enough of The Newsroom’s plot and characters have been exposed for events to be knotted together in a meaningful way.

 

This week’s episode opens on New Year’s Eve. A now-familiar backroom pow-wow with MacKenzie McHale and Will McAvoy leads to debate over the American government’s ability to tackle financial crime. Things turn personal when McHale’s new boyfriend steps up, saying regulators like himself are stretched too thin due to lacking funds.

Neal Sampat gets the episode going with a built-up bit about his believing in Bigfoot. The gag is a longshot, but some humor manages to leak out as he asserts the claim to great chagrin. Unfortunately, the “Bigfoot is real” chuckle gets beaten to death posthaste, brought up five more times over the duration of the program.

Bouncing back from his barbed debate with McHale, the show’s stalwart anchor strikes up a chat with a gossip columnist by the name of Nina Howard. It’s an opportunity for McAvoy to fussbudget about the nature of modern entertainment: “pollution,” he calls it, “that makes us dumber.”

The remarks net him a face-full of champagne, and a column in the New York Post that derives him as a wanton groper.

Relationship drama between Maggie Jordan, Don Keefer and Jim Harper plays out much like they have in episodes past. Keefer pushes his peers buttons, causing trouble by hooking Harper up with Jordan’s roommate Lisa.

The focus bounces between McAvoy and Jordan for most of the episode. In another Newsroom-standard office convo, Charlie Skinner and McAvoy sit down to discuss his public image problems. Offering no comment in response to the Post piece, and the staff gets back to the hard-news business. Their broadcast focuses on gun control, and false allegations leveled at President Obama.

Love lives degenerate for both McAvoy and Jordan. He finds himself caught between jilted romantic partners, all threatening to speak out on his ways as a would-be womanizer. Meanwhile Jordan is crushed: Harper lies to her face about his interest in seeing Lisa, while her boyfriend Keefer is content to watch her struggle in agony.

Things then appear to hit rock bottom for McAvoy — his most recent romantic entanglement drops a story on the front page of TWI magazine, giving a blow-by-blow of her night eating, smoking, copulating and engaging in light gunplay with the anchor. In a move with as much finesse as a lead pipe bludgeoning, a flashback to last week’s episode suggests that these character attacks have been orchestrated by McAvoy’s own corporate management.

Outside the office, Sampat continues to pitch his bigfoot bit. Jordan reverts to her uncharacteristically outspoken and spiteful mode, spitting out weird jabs at Harper. He checks Jordan by assigning her subordinate work, then apologizing for his fib. Their touch and go flirtation at this moment sets a new standard for being remarkably unevocative and plastic.

Fate once more steps in to radically gel the staff’s disparate perspectives. This week’s deus-ex centers on the shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The team scrambles to get the facts and break the story, with heated phone calling and heaping volumes of F-bombs dropped by nearly all members of the team. Only thanks to the efforts of these crisis-tempered journalists is the news delivered, and the day saved once again.

If the plot of The Newsroom is a façade, cobbled together for the sake of discussing ethical media making, Sorkin seems ready to share some impassioned insight. However, if the program is meant stimulate emotional feelings and present personal relationships with gripping prowess, there’s still some work to be done. The sparks Sorkin keeps scratching out between Maggie and Jim have yet catch in any real sense, and so long as this centerpiece of the program remains stilted it’s going to be tough to keep our hopes up as viewers.

 

Contact Graham Clark here, follow him  @hello_thankyou



 

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