The Newsroom's first 3 Episodes of Season 2
Last season I blogged about every episode of The Newsroom, as you may have noticed, I have not continued with my per episode review. This season I have just not had that much to say. Last night they aired, episode 3 of season 2 called "Willie Pete." This was the first episode of the season that I have actually enjoyed. So far I could describe season 2 in one word: Boring. All the things that we love most from any Sorkin script has been MIA until this episode. We want great dialogue, snappy scenes and most of all we want to be school on our use of language and on our moral codes. Anything he has ever written from The West Wing to Money Ball is out to teach us a lesson. I say that with affection and pride that is not a criticism. The idea of "moral" television heads way back to Gene Roddenberry and goes all the way to David E Kelley. I like "moral" television quite a bit. In Season 2, however, Sorkin is not doing things as well as he did in season 1.
One of the main differences is that he has all his characters ahead of the curve. In season 1, each episode was constructed so that the character and the home viewer was surprised by the episode's news. Be it the oil spill or the assassination of Bin Laden, both of us were shocked by the news. This was the first reason I fell in love with the show because it really showed how even though Sorkin is only going back 2 years in our past, none of us remember any of it. In season 2 however, the characters are "seeing" the future perfectly. One character has predicted the Drone controversy even though no one was talking about that during the Romney-Obama campaign. If you remember the story was Obama wasn't tough on war not that he was a cold killer assassin. Another character is foreseeing the Occupy Wall Street movement way before anyone saw what it would become. This fundamental change of having us be in the know and the characters be in the know but EVERYONE else is stupid; is a mistake.
Wait. Wasn't I trying to praise episode 3? I was and I got off the track. And that is my point. What I have really discovered about The Newsroom is that like no other show ever, it really does perplex me. Normally I can pin point a show in a couple of seconds. This series is so close to being a great show and then it misses the mark by a huge amount. In "Willie Pete" there are scenes of utter genius: Jim asking why reporters don't act like lawyers, Charlie and Will discussing all the gangster movies, Will charming a reporter by playing "What the World Needs Now." These moments all call into play the current dilemma of our country. How we focus on these pop culture moments while real damage is being done to our freedoms and our lives. This why this show is so important. We are allowing the deconstruction of our very society, just so that we can see what people have had for dinner on Facebook. But when he allows his characters to also stand apart and see the future perfectly, it loses a bit of humility. I know, I know humility was never part of any Sorkin characters. I think the main difference is that The West Wing was a fairy tale and The Newsroom is not.
When the Newsroom gets it right, it is brilliant. When it goes off the path, it leaves us cold and almost bored. Still, I will take every moment Aaron Sorkin gives us because we need it. We need it now more than we need, with all due respect to Burt Bacharach, Love, sweet Love.
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