The Newsroom review – 1×02: ‘News Night 2.0’

Courtesy of HBO

You’d think with a title like “News Night 2.0” there would be some kind of forward motion happening. But instead of fixing last week’s problems, this second episode of the series only highlights them more. “News Night 0.5” would probably be a better title.

Let’s bitch it out…

I was relieved to see that the length of this week’s episode was cut down to a mere 60 minutes after having to endure last week’s 75-minute monstrosity. Going into this episode, I had hoped that Sorkin would focus on the more dynamic aspect of producing a news show (you know, the actual production), and tone down the idealistic sound bites. Instead, the episode begins with the entire staff sitting in the conference room having a lengthy discussion on the new rules for their show, focusing all content on historical context, reasonable argument, and relevance to the voting booth. This is supposed to be a narrative about the rebirth of a heroic American journalist and the journey is starting with a discussion of rules. Regardless of how important the rules are for journalism, they shouldn’t be given so much focus on a television series. What’s worse is that the discussion is structured like a classroom lecture, with schoolmarm Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) standing at the head of the table, wagging her dry erase marker at the fresh faced young bloggers and producers who hang onto her every ethical platitude.

It doesn’t help that the sets that have been used so far invite these lengthy conversations. Most scenes have taken place in the gigantic newsroom setting or in one of the adjacent offices, and aside from a few desks and chairs, these are all empty rooms with high ceilings. They’re designed like blank canvasses, waiting to be filled up with words and thoughts. This is not an actual world that people live and work in. A better set would encourage more motion and action, or at least break up the scenes better so that the dialogue doesn’t feel so static. Even the scene in which Will (Jeff Daniels) speaks with executive Reese (Chris Messina) about his show’s ratings is more interesting if only because it’s outside of the office on the streets of New York.

Other considerations:

  • At this point, it isn’t possible to make any substantive assessments of how well any of the characters are written, but this week is particularly painful for the two leading ladies of the series. Not only has Maggie’s (Alison Pill) story primarily focused on her love life in both episodes, but in this week’s outing an old relationship from college causes the disastrous guest appearances on “News Night.” And somehow Mackenzie’s seasoned professional from the first episode morphs into a bumbling technophobe obsessed with righting everyone’s opinion of Will in the second. What is up with these women?
  • The romantic musical theme that plays whenever Will and Mackenzie have a SERIOUS MOMENT has to go. Last week it played as we learn that Mackenzie was the one holding up the signs that inspired Will to go on his rant. Then it was just eye-rollingly overt. This week it plays as we learn that it was Mackenzie who cheated on Will three years ago, and the tune goes from overt to completely distracting
  • I have mentioned a couple serious problems for the show that I hope are addressed, but in all honesty, I would happily embrace them all for the next eight episodes if only to spend more time with Charlie (Sam Waterston). The man can rock a bowtie like no one else

And now I turn it over to you. Do you think this episode is “News Night 2.0” or “News Night 0.5”? Sound off in the comments below!

The Newsroom airs on HBO on Sundays at 10 EST

One thought on “The Newsroom review – 1×02: ‘News Night 2.0’

  1. While I love the premise of the show and what Aaron is trying to bring to the American masses, the fact remains that his fast-paced dialogue is hard to keep up with, especially when spoken by over-actors.
    We were looking for smart and sassy. Instead we got whiny, over rehearsed lines, and not enough time to digest what the hell they are all getting so upset about. Sorry to say it, but it’s hard to relate to many of the main characters, mostly because they are annoying – most terrifyingly so the buggy-eyed blond Assoc Producer (Alison Pill) who has so much trouble even attempting to be ‘real’ on camera, and the apparently awesome(?!) news anchor “who could be making more money elsewhere” Olivia Munn… Please watch her try to ‘anchor’ the news.. and you may have to mute the TV. Her voice is absolutely nauseating as she tries to read copy without understanding a word. You may have wanted to spend some time with a real news anchor before taking on this role, dear Olivia, because frankly in a real newsroom, you would be fired immediately for your singsongy delivery & presentation.
    If this is what we are being asked to consume from HBO, I’m afraid all the people who actually have done those jobs in the real world will be pointing and laughing from nearby.
    Come on people…