The Newsroom review – 1×04: ‘I’ll Try to Fix You’

Courtesy of HBO

A bevy of talented actresses grace the screen this week, from regulars Emily Mortimer and Alison Pill, to guest stars Katherine Hahn and Hope Davis. It’s just too bad their characters are all written like jealous harpies driven to excess by their possession of lady parts. But don’t worry, because Will McAvoy comes to the rescue to “civilize” these women and their brutish ways.

Let’s bitch it out have a reasonable yet critical discussion of this week’s episode…

It’s hard to believe that the same man writing for the female characters of this series also wrote for The West Wing’s CJ Cregg, a passionate yet always professional senior staffer. Yet in the past twelve years, his female leads have devolved from CJ’s composed stature to Maggie’s (Alison Pill) outburst during a staff meeting about Jim’s (John Gallagher Jr.) hook-up with her roommate. And that is the least of Sorkin’s offenses towards women in this episode. Maggie also needs to be informed by the men in her life about her feelings towards Jim by both Jim and Don (Thomas Sadoski) because she is unable to come to that conclusion herself. Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) actually gets some funny lines throughout the episode, like “This is an area where I do not excel.” But what motivates the line is simply an outdated assumption that women who are career-minded must be bad at dating.

Then come the women who Will (Jeff Daniels) dates throughout the episode and his attempts to “civilize.” While I may agree with Will in general that there is quite a lot of reality television and gossip sites that have no value whatsoever and are probably destructive for society, everything about Will’s approach and the context Sorkin sets up for Will’s diatribes are offensive. After Will lectures at Nina Howard, gossip columnist (Hope Davis), saying “I would have more respect for you if you were a heroin dealer,” my biggest problem with her throwing her drink in his face was that it was too clichéd a response. Every person who is associated with the TMI gossip magazine or Page Six in this episode is an empty-headed female obsessed with fashion and relationships, and even the supposedly “educated” women whom he dates turn catty at the slightest provocation.

I wish I could say this were a problem that the show might be able to correct over the next six weeks, but this hostility towards women seems to be a symptom of the show’s overall tone. The thesis statement set up in the pilot, that America isn’t the greatest anymore but it can be, is supposed to be hopeful. Yet with each passing episode, that thesis increasingly seems like an excuse for Sorkin to unleash on whatever angers him, which is apparently almost everything on television and the internet. Even the “cute” interactions between Will and Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) or Will and Charlie (Sam Waterston) are charged with hostility that could break out at any moment, and often does. This can add some welcome spice to a drama series, but such overwhelming hostility without understandable justification is tiresome at best. And in this series so far, it’s been outright offensive.

Other Considerations:

  • Another rollercoaster episode for Neal (Dev Patel). This week he gets saddled with the “fun” z-story of believing in Big Foot and trying to defend it with big boy science terms like “species diversity” and Power Point presentations. But at least he rebounds with a new girlfriend in Kaylee (the awesome Natalie Morales of Parks and Recreation and The Middleman).
  • I’ve counted at least four times that Will has directly declared that he is a Republican, and no instances where he’s defended a Republican position with any sort of conviction. Every week it seems more and more likely that Sorkin has Will declare his commitment to “Republican” positions to cover for the show’s liberal bias (and I say this as someone who agrees with most of the points being made).

As my patience with this series is wearing thin, so does my commitment towards reviewing it weekly. I may check-in come finale time just to see where things are at. Your turn! Do you think Sorkin has been fair or unfair towards the women he writes for? Are you even still watching? Sound off below!

The Newsroom airs Sundays at 10 EST on HBO.

5 thoughts on “The Newsroom review – 1×04: ‘I’ll Try to Fix You’

  1. Simply put: I agree. HBO is the home of ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Wire’. We are five seasons into ‘Mad Men’, and Rachel Maddow is the darling of the progressives, but Sorkin writes a show like this? The overture is self-righteously quixotic (Sorry, couldn’t help myself. ‘Don Quixote’ in the original French? Really, Mackenzie?). The structure and pacing of the plot is formulaic to a fault. And I don’t appreciate the women being written like ditzy crosses between Rosalind Russell in ‘His Girl Friday’, and Katherine Hepburn in ‘Bringing up Baby’.

    I will finish what I started, though. Must find out how this debacle ends.

  2. Don Quixote is Spanish, not French. That being said, I mostly agree with your statements, women need to be portrayed in another (and better) position than they are being now, specially Mackenzie, which is a character which seems to have a lot to say.

  3. Oh yes, exactly about ‘Don Quixote’ which is why I asked, “Really, Mackenzie?” I cannot imagine her spending time quoting it in the first show and being that clueless later. Are we supposed to think of her as more human when she makes a mistake like that? I have no idea. Instead, it seems like lazy writing. And, it’s not funny.

  4. . . . And no one should waste good alcohol on a bloviating butthead even though I agree with most of what Sorkin is trying to convey through his characters.

  5. Alright, I admit that episode four was not the highlight of Sorkin’s The Newsroom, but my problem with it was not the depiction of women. Though the female characters are not portrayed in the greatest light, I don’t find the male characters to be the brightest crayons in the box either. Will McAvoy is a narcissistic jerk. If his character was a woman, people would be complaining about how mean she is! What bugged me the most about episode four is it did not follow along with the same formula laid out by the preceding episodes. Usually the show contains hard-hitting societal commentary that leaves my brain with a little something to nibble on, and offers a great topic of conversation around the office at Dish the next day! What was episode four suppose to leave me with, whether Jim and Maggie get together? Frankly, I really don’t care that they obviously will fall for each other. Episode four made me lose faith that The Newsroom is the game-changer I had thought it to be. I am not ready to dismiss the show yet though, but I’m just going to record it to my DVR from now on instead of planning Sundays around it. At least I have the Hopper DVR that is known for its loads of recording space so, if the show does turn out to be the disaster everyone is making it out to be, no substantial memory was sacrificed to it. Till then, I think its worth keeping up with!