Monday, July 23, 2012

tv review: 'the newsroom' S01:E05

Is it just me, or is The Newsroom getting a little better?

Okay, I admit, there were a number of elements in this episode that flat-out did not work.  The romantic subplots are a tangled stupid mess that would embarrass most reality television (which I find a little ironic), but at this point, I think the show seems to be aware about how much the previous episodes' romantic elements didn't work. It's what they do with it that I find significantly more interesting.

This is something I've been meaning to talk about in sequential art, particularly in TV: what happens when you make a mistake? Not a little flub with continuity or a character doing something he might not ordinarily do, but something so inane and idiotic that it sends everything careening off the rails, the kind of mistake that might damn an entire season if dwelt on in the wrong way. For me, Glee is the archetypical example of a show that has had far too many of these mistakes, and has made many attempts to rectify them as the show advances, for better or worse results.

The first thing you can do is ignore the mistake, hoping that against all odds, everyone will forget about it and move on. The second thing - far more difficult - is to carry the mistake into the show and somehow wring something usable out of it (the best example of this on Glee was the fake pregnancy subplot in Season 1, which was stupid in the extreme, but did give us the best acting performance of Matthew Morrison's career when he found out). It's the second choice The Newsroom attempts tonight with addressing the romances and the stupid gossip paper coercion plot, and while I can't say it works, it proves a fascinating study of where it can work, and where it can't.

Where it does work is when Will and Charlie work with whatever means necessary to kill the stories of the love triangle between Will, Wade, and MacKenzie, even to the point of possibly paying off the gossip columnist. Now, at this point, Will backs out on this (and unleashes another tirade of scorn against the columnist that I enjoyed more than I should have), and you see him maintain a vestige of integrity and dignity here. He realizes that the best way to deal with columnists like this is to ignore them so they'll lose interest and go the fuck away. And I can't lie when I say that Charlie's takedown of the morning anchor's gossip story was satisfying, as was MacKenzie's dumping of Wade.

In fact, I'd argue MacKenzie scored a lot of points with this episode. Her admittance of ignorance on the economy was a little hard to believe, but I do like the banter between her and Sloan (who's rapidly becoming one of the few characters I like on this show), and I do like that she's willing to learn and get over some of her issues at the same time. It gives her more of a backbone, some strength that actually makes her a bit better.

It's a shame that the other romantic love quadrangle (this one between Maggie, Jim, Don, and Maggie's roommate) just doesn't work. I'm divided between whether or not it's the script's fault or the actors here - as much as I despise the hackneyed Valentine's Day plots, I honestly can't say that any of the actors involved in this plot have any romantic chemistry with each other, particularly Maggie and Jim. It's a real shame that this plotline takes up so damn much of the story - particularly considering the actual main plot of this episode is kind of excellent.

Yeah, I'm not kidding. Between Don's frustrated goal to make Elliot a more dynamic reporter (which resulted in Elliot getting brutally beaten with a rock) and Neal's subplot surrounding the Egyptian YouTube journalist that he develops a connection with, a lot of this subplot worked excellently. It furthers my theory that whenever this show focuses on the news (or even Sorkin's soapboxing - he's getting a little better at fusing it into the story, although some moments still come across as very heavy-handed), it can actually be pretty damn good. That's not saying the plot entirely worked - I wasn't a fan of Neal's new backstory with the 7/7 train, and the 'Rudy' moment involving Will was just silly - but for the most part, things actually did come together to present a somewhat compelling narrative. And if I'm being honest, I can completely get behind Neal's rage when he punches the monitor with Rush Limbaugh's fat face on it.

But once again, the best moment of this episode came from Thomas Sadoski's character Don, after Elliot comes back to the station from Egypt. Elliot is beaten and dishevelled, but Don still wants him to go on the air. This raises some scepticism from Charlie, who ultimately vetoes the idea, but it shows something interesting regarding Don (who is rapidly becoming the most developed character on the show, along with just being my favourite). Not only is he willing to put Elliot on to beat Will in the ratings, he also wants his anchor to come across as a hero - he's living vicariously through Elliot, because he wants to show that newsmen can take punishment in their jobs, and he wants people to respect them. It ultimately ties back to Don's paradoxical ambition - he's never taken the spotlight himself, he just wants to push his man to the stars. 

That being said, I do think that any of the physical comedy in these episodes really needs to go by the wayside. It's cornball humour and it's never been all that funny, and it really does a number on the tone these episodes are trying to push - particularly considering the tone's all over the place at the best of times. The other main issue harming the tone is the complete lack of subtext - this is a show that still speaks without significant nuance, and it can make things seem very, very corny with the wrong moments. Take the 'Rudy' moment in this episode - besides the obvious telegraphing, that scene lacked poignancy and emotion because it was so poorly staged and clearly designed to paint Will as a hero - and in a self-insert story like The Newsroom, it's more than a little grating. I think the scene could have worked much better if it was just Neal who gave Will some money to rescue the journalist. It could have become a real emotional moment between the two characters - instead, it became very broad and very silly very fast. 

But at the same time, I can say this episode of The Newsroom somewhat works. It's not quite my favourite - the third episode of the season considers too much determined decimation of the Tea Party for me to choose anything else, even despite the painful romantic scene between Jim and Maggie on the roof - but it is a sign that the show is slowly starting to put itself together, with what works and what doesn't. That being said, the show needs to develop some nuance and narrow its focus to refine its tone - I don't think broad, screwball comedy works for the news, even despite Aaron Sorkin's affection for the genre. He wants to be taken seriously, he needs to make the show more serious.

It's getting there, but it's not there yet.

1 comment:

  1. cho em hỏi nếu trong tháng đó không sản xuất thì chi phí tiền lương và chi phí kháu hao TSCD được hacgj toán và tính như thế nào
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