By Marie-Renee Goulet
(****) Available on Crave (HBO)
How does Aaron Sorkin do it? The first time I had this thought was watching the first four seasons of The West Wing (1999-2003) and thinking: “how can this one man write like this week after week?”. This was the equivalent of writing 11 feature films a year. I used to listen to the West Wing for the writing. I can listen to episodes repeatedly as one listens to their favourite songs. He did it again here with a very talented ensemble cast. There has been much criticism about Sorkin’s writing being sexist and this series being misogynistic. I can see and understand some people’s conclusions, but he writes about real-world workplaces. I spent the last twenty years working in an industry dominated by men so maybe my everyday experience makes me less sensitive. So, I get the criticism about some storylines, but this is the world we live in. All female characters in this series are competent and intelligent. Yes this series shows women in the support of one man, but the show is about a successful news anchor. Would I prefer if Sorkin dropped the damsel in distress needing a man to fix things? Yes I would. But that was not my focus as I watched this series.
I consume an enormous amount of news each day from multiple sources. Investigative journalism was always an interest. So when The Newsroom was announced, I was impatiently waiting. Sorkin took a lot of flak from the journalistic community for dissecting real-world events and showing how it may have been reported. To me, Sorkin is an idealist, and he offered the best version of how his characters would report the events. However, real journalists took the series as criticism that they were doing it wrong. For Sorkin, it all goes back to one of his favourite literary hero, Don Quixote: “This guy who felt like he was living in a world that was just a little … had gone over the edge of incivility and crudeness, and he was a scrawny old man who was experiencing dementia, and he decided that you can be a knight if you just behave like one.” Yes I do realize not everyone speaks like that, but this is how I wish everyone would, so my idealist streak is particularly biased to anything Sorkin writes.
Let’s look at the real world for a moment. We have the leadership we deserve. If a news anchor reports famine in Africa, people find it depressing and change the channel. When they pointed a camera at a self-aggrandizing, orange-faced misogynistic varmint, who never worked an honest day in his life as he insulted a war veteran or made fun of the handicap, people watched. Since we never took the money out of network news, we are fed a steady crap diet, which elevates the wrong people. In reality, we should have never wasted one minute on this braggadocious demagogue. The scrutiny directed to a person running for office is enough to keep anyone with a moral compass and sense of decency away. So here we are. Led by incompetent hacks, performing political theatre, mishandling the largest issues any population can face, leaving us exposed and up the creek without a paddle. The series addresses how we got here and how to attempt to get out of it. And also, why it will never happen.
Throughout 10 outstanding episodes, Sorkin takes us through everything from the BP oil spill, the emergence of the Tea Party, Arab Spring, the Fukushima disaster, the unfortunate coverage around Casey Anthony and the take down of Bin Laden. The show always takes place in the recent past, all news events are real. I won’t do a complete play by play of each episode as I do not want to ruin some storylines.
1 – WE JUST DECIDE TO
“There’s nothing more important in a democracy then a well-informed electorate. When there is no information or, much worse, wrong information, it can lead to calamitous decisions that clobber any attempts at vigorous debate. That’s why I produce the news.” – Mackenzie McHale
The episode opens with one of the most compelling five minutes in a TV series. Whether or not Jeff Daniels would be cast as Will McAvoy hinged on his ability to perform the speech. In fact, many of the cast not in the scene sat in the audience during filming so they could gage if they had a series and should plan to be employed. Sorkin’s writing is not to be read but performed. Some guess stars on the show struggled getting through scenes. Jeff Daniels has the talent and ability to dance over pages of dialogue. Will McAvoy is an affable TV anchor compared to Jay Leno as he never offends anybody and asks soft ball questions after giving into the ratings game. His facade hides the fact that he dislikes what he’s become but he needs the love of the audience. HIs boss, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) knows they are not using the talent he has and seeks out Will’s ex-girlfriend and talented producer Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) to right the ship.
Just thinking he may have seen her in the audience in the opening scene is enough for Will to drop his persona and truthfully answer a student question: Why America is the greatest country in the world?
The emotion in the second part of the speech is real and 100% applicable to this day. Nothing has improved in the last 9 years. McHale’s senior producer, Jim Harper (John Gallagher) in his first few minutes bring a passion to the newsroom that is not initially welcomed. He oversteps on the outgoing Senior Producer Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) and triggers their first news report: BP deep water horizon where we get to see Will’s true abilities. I really enjoyed the access to the control and newsroom to see how breaking news is actually reported.
The history between Will and Mackenzie is evident and she has to convinced him to work with her again. She makes a convincing argument. Part of the exchange was insightful, when you keep in mind this would have been written in 2011.
Will: Social scientists have concluded that the country is more polarized than at any time since the Civil War. The Civil War.
Mackenzie: Yes, people choose the news they want now, but…
Will: People choose the facts they want now.
Things only got worse. San Waterston as Charlie Skinner is a charming instigator: “For a long time now, I badly wanted to watch the news on my TV at night. Then it occurred to me, I run a news division.”
2 – NEWSNIGHT 2.0
After an excellent start, the staff gets together for their rundown meeting, where Mackenzie unveils her vision for Newsnight. 2.0. From a small incident in the opening scene to a technology mishap, we get the sense early on that everything that can go wrong will go wrong this day. As much as the first episode showed how a good newscast is done, this one hilariously goes off the rail. Maggie (Allison Pill) in her new role as Associate Producer, fails to tell Jim a crucial fact, which leads to a booking snafu. Jim and Maggie share great chemistry which doesn’t t go unnoticed by her boyfriend, Executive Producer Don Keefer.
We learn more about new broadcasts as I never realized shows on a News Network operated entirely independently and often compete. The extended cast is introduced, and we get to know Neal Sampat (Dev Patel), who manages their blog, Reese Lansing (Chris Messina), the President of the Atlantic Cable News and son of the owner. Reese gives Will a daily briefing on his ratings and encourages him to pander to their audience by doing things like supporting Sarah Palin. Olivia Munn is introduced as Sloan Sabbith, the network’s financial analyst. There are many laughs in this episode, and many of the exchanges were designed to flesh out characters while debating relevant issues. Issues still relevant today. Sorkin was surprisingly prescient; a line uttered by a far-right guest will even become a slogan for a Presidential Campaign years later.
3 – THE 112TH CONGRESS
“In the infancy of mass communication, the Columbus and Magellan of broadcast journalism, William Paley and David Sarnoff, went down to Washington to cut a deal with Congress. Congress would allow the fledgling networks free use of taxpayer-owned airwaves in exchange for one public service. That public service would be one hour of airtime set aside every night for informational broadcasting,
or what we now call the evening news. Congress, unable to anticipate the enormous capacity television would have to deliver consumers to advertisers, failed to include in its deal the one requirement that would have changed our national discourse immeasurably for the better. Congress forgot to add that under no circumstances could there be paid advertising during informational broadcasting. They forgot to say that taxpayers will give you the airwaves for free, and for 23 hours a day you should make a profit, but for one hour a night, you work for us. And now those network newscasts, anchored through history by honest-to-God newsmen with names like Murrow and Reasoner and Huntley and Brinkley and Buckley and Cronkite and Rather and Russert, now they have to compete with the likes of me, a cable anchor who’s in the exact same business as the producers of Jersey Shore” – Will MacAvoy
By far, my favourite episode of the entire series. I’m not even sure where to start. It is brilliantly structured, whereas we see Will’s reporting over a six-month period where he takes on the Tea Party, and all the hypocrisy of this radicalized part of the GOP, intercut with the result of the reporting six months later. Charlie is called to the 44th-floor executive boardroom, where he debates Reese while the owner of ACN is slowly introduced. We do not see their identity for some time. And when we meet Leona Lansing (none other than the great Jane Fonda) we realize the stakes may be higher than expected. She is menacing as she quietly observes the arguments, remaining silent for precisely 50 minutes of the 60-minutes episode. If you watch the entire three seasons, you will enjoy the evolution of her character. In this episode, Sorkin underlines the malignancy of actions and empty rhetoric that were becoming the norm at the time. He shows what could happen if liars were exposed and if politicians sputtering nonsense were interrupted and asked to answer the question. He is warning us of the road we are on where this becomes acceptable, and that road led us straight to trump. He points out the influence of the Koch brothers, who bankrolled Tea Party candidates in excess of $40 million, which causes the board meeting as the Lansings felt immediate retribution for this fact being aired. Let’s see what happens now that a QAnon cult member currently serves on the 117th Congress.
Mackenzie is surprised to see Will coming to talk to her in the control room. Just when he seems to let his guard down to have a conversation with her, her new boyfriend Wade (Jon Tenney) interrupts, breaking the moment and all but ensuring their relationship will continue to be complicated. Back in the boardroom, Leona tells Charlie Will has to tone it down or she’ll fire him. And she knows how to do it and making ACN look like the responsible party. Will has a non-compete clause in his contract, and that would be the end of his career.
4 – I’LL TRY TO FIX YOU
This episode begins on a lighter note as the staff celebrates New Year.
As the staff mingles, some dynamics are set, and most will come into play for the remainder of the series. By this episode, we are fully invested in the characters.
Will finally joins the party, and Sloan encourages him to hit on a woman who is obviously on her own. It all seems to go well until he finds out she is a gossip columnist, Nina Howard (Hope Davis). She is not there by accident. Will, appalled at her profession, begins his mission to civilize, and the flirtation ends abruptly.
The next morning, their encounter is detailed on Page 6 of The New York Post, and Will can’t seem to stay out of the tabloids.
Wade steals a moment with Will to discuss his work as the assistant US attorney for the Southern District, where he is prosecuting financial crimes. He wants Will to know that the DOJ’s budget has been decimated while the banks’ budget to fight any prosecution is limitless. Will is concerned about the optics of being lobbied to lighten up on the DOJ.
Will requested all to compile the stories they had not paid enough attention to in the past year. As they meet to discuss, we see that some important topics had been left out to stay on mainstream items. After shooting down many, Will asks an important question: why doesn’t the news ever a call a lie a lie when we know it’s a lie? Side note, it took over 25,000 lies from trump for anchors to stop twisting themselves into knots using words like “falsehood”. This is when Jim resurfaces two lies that conservative media had repeated over and over: Obama’s trip to India cost $200MM a day, and that Obama is coming to get our guns where there is no evidence of either. Will tackles both at the news desk, and it is interesting to see all the video footage that exists of the systematic way the GOP and conservative media beat that drum.
By Saturday morning, Charlie calls Will into the office because Nina has published an expose on Will on the cover of TMI. Charlie realizes Leona is making good on her threat to create context around Will that would justify firing him. This is where Mackenzie realizes then that Will allowed a three-year non-compete clause in his contract just so that he’d be able to fire her.
At the desk, Maggie spots an alert come through and runs to share the news: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been shot. The newsroom staff springs into action. A source tells NPR that she has died, but Jim and MacKenzie refuse to report it until they can confirm it from a second source. As Reese storms into the studio and tells Will that people will turn the channel if he’s not current. The importance of journalistic integrity is exposed, holding off until they are sure of the truth or giving in to sensationalism and ratings? As Don says: “She’s a person,” he says. “A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news.” They are proven right shortly after as Ms. Giffords survived.
5 – AMEN
This episode directly addressing journalism. Whether it is to address the world’s perception of the journalists, a gossip columnist who thinks of herself as a journalist, and what field journalists go through while covering events such as the protests against the Egyptian government during Arab Spring
Elliot (David Harbour) begins his report from his hotel room in Cairo as it is too dangerous for an American crew to go out. After the show, MacKenzie brings the staff together to find a local reporter who could report from on the ground in Egypt. Neal knows a blogger nicknamed Amen (which means the “Hidden One” in ancient Egyptian) who covers the protests on his blog. After a call with Mackenzie and Neal, Amen agrees to disclose his identity and report the story for them. We are reminded that reports from anonymous sources aren’t credible.
Even if they know Leona’s would not support it, Will and Charlie decide to pursue a story into the possible connections between the Tea Party, the Koch brothers, and the Citizens United ruling. Of course, the Koch brothers are funding Citizen United. This court ruling allows corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to any political candidate without anyone knowing where the money is coming from, including labour unions.
Don pushes Elliott into risking reporting from the streets where he is beaten up. When Elliot returns bruised and battered, Don wants to put him on air to show the audience the risks journalists take in the field. Charlie won’t allow it. Amen goes missing. As everyone in the office calls on their contacts to find him, Neal is disgusted when he sees Rush Limbaugh’s video (this execrable human died last week) mocking missing journalists in Egypt. The effort to discredit the fourth estate has been going on for decades. Limbaugh earned $85MM a year for spreading lies and hatred while being admired by the struggling working-class he did nothing to help.
Mac finds out that TMI is about to publish a story alleging that she was booking her boyfriend Wade on the show to raise his profile in advance of his run for Congress. She wasn’t aware of his intentions and realizes he has been using her. When Will finds out that TMI takes protection money to keep people’s names out of the headlines, he meets with Nina Howard. She tells him that a $50,000 investment as a silent partner in her restaurant in exchange for her silence. The conversation takes a turn when she refers to herself as a “journalist” He goes off on her and tells her in no uncertain terms what will happen if she continues attacking his team.
It is impossible to cover all storylines in the episode, which includes a touching way to underline Valentine’s Day for Mac and Will.
6 – BULLIES
If you watch the first four seasons of The West Wing (1999-2006), Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006-2007), or the Social Network (2010), there are a few recurring themes: disdain for the internet or the anonymity it affords cowards, a hatred for bullies and the sometimes difficult relationship between fathers and sons.
The episode starts with the consequences of events and we flashback as they are discussed. After suffering from insomnia, Will decides to visit his therapist to get a prescription. He has a standing appointment each week but hasn’t been in four years. He is surprised to find that Dr. Habib died and that he has been paying his son Jacob for the last two years. Will reluctantly agrees to let Jacob ask a few questions hoping that the young doctor will give him something to help him sleep. Jacob presses him on the recent stresses at work, and we learn about the past week’s events.
After a hard segment, Will reads comments posted on the show’s website. Will is angry by the nature of the comments, and he decides to fix the internet by forcing all on their website to confirm their real identity to post. Soon after, Will runs a controversial segment on the Ground Zero Mosque. He asks an opponent of the project if she’s equally concerned about violent actions undertaken in the name of Christianity, and he proceeds to list many. The segment shows the preparation for such interviews with the team validating every possible argument. A hacker leaves a credible death threat against Will on their website the next day, and he will now have a bodyguard, a former college football player named Lonny (Terry Crews).
Sloan, fluent in Japanese, pre-interviews the spokesman for a Japanese energy company in the Tsunami’s aftermath. He tells her that the nuclear reactor may be causing a Level 7 radiation leak, even though they have been saying publicly it’s at Level 5. Finding himself without a host, Don asks Sloan to fill in on his show. She goes to Will for guidance, who tells her not to let anyone lie on her air. She takes the advice too far and finds herself suspended. Will feels responsible for scaring her into betraying her work ethic.
With the threat of another tabloid attack, MacKenzie has Jim and Maggie do opposition research on Will so they can prepare for any story. This lead to Will making a preemptive move.
Forty minutes into the therapy session, we learn that Will’s father was an abusive alcoholic who hit him, his siblings, and his mother. Will points out that his dad never hit anybody after he was old enough to hit him back when he was in fifth grade.
Ultimately, Will’s insomnia is caused by his own behavior during a segment in which he berated a gay, black representative for Rick Santorum’s campaign, Sutton Hall (Damon Gupton). This is by far one of the most powerful News interviews on the show this season. Can you imagine how intimidating coming on a well-established set, for only one day, to go toe to toe with Jeff Daniels, with dialogue written by Sorkin? Gupton does a fantastic job. Will aggressively questions him on Santorum’s views on homosexuality, often interrupting him. Eventually, Hall yells: “I am more than one thing; how dare you reduce me to the color of my skin or my sexual orientation?”. Will asks a final question which is a death blow to Hall’s position. Will is hard wired to hating bullies and is usually the protector and not a bully himself.
7 – 5/1
Everyone is at Will’s downtown apartment to celebrate the 1st anniversary of Newsnight 2.0. Stepping on the balcony to take a call, Charlie gets an anonymous tip that the White House will be informing them at 9 p.m. to get to work. Meanwhile, Neal’s girlfriend Kaylee gives Will pot cookies with strict instructions to only eat a small piece, but Will’s already had two of them, which will allow us to enjoy Daniels’ comedic abilities.
As expected, just after 9:00 p.m., they learn that the President will be making a national address on a matter of national security. Charlie stops the party and instructs everyone to get back to the office. Breaking news is usually tragic; this one is different. Charlie thinks they got Osama bin Laden, but they need to confirm it.
Sorkin tries to address the different emotions felt by the many touched by 9/11 and the announcement that Osama Bin Laden’s was killed. The storylines have the cast interacts with airline pilots, police officers, and surviving family members. How does one feel standing in the middle of celebrations if your dad died in one of the towers? Is Bin Laden being killed really comforting in light of what was taken from you?
Will and Lonny get stuck in traffic on their way to the office. Will bolts out of the car to run the twenty or so blocks. Lonny tries to go after him but is interrupted by two police officers. Wills finds his way to the office, and Mac realizes that her anchor is stoned out of his mind. He insists on doing the broadcast anyways.
Don, Elliot, and Sloan get stuck on the tarmac at La Guardia on their way back from the White House Correspondent’s dinner. Don picks a fight with the flight attendant while Sloan and Elliot work the phones to get confirmation. Sloan gets the first confirmation. Don finally crosses the line with the flight attendant, and she calls in the flight captain to intervene. This scene gets me every time. Once the flight crew is in front of him, Don’s attitude changes. He sees the United logo, the officer’s ranks and is overcome with deference. He does what he wanted to do; he reports to the crew that the armed forces have killed Osama bin Laden.
Back at the ACN offices, Lonny arrives with the NYPD looking for Will. Will shares the news with Lonny, a former MP in the U.S. Army, who then announces it to the police officers. It makes you think of that day and the trauma felt by those directly involved and the repercussions on families, friends, colleagues. Like a wound that will truly never heal.
Charlie gets another call from the anonymous source who wants to confirm he’s established himself as a credible source. They finally get the second confirmation to broadcast the news. Will goes on air, manages his high, and reports the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. The episode closes with President Obama’s official address.
8 – THE BLACKOUT, PART 1: TRAGEDY PORN
This episode launches the series of events that will take us to the season’s finale.
In the ultimate act of retaliation, Will enlist journalist Brian Brenner to tell the story of News Night’s evolution under him and MacKenzie. Brenner is in fact, the ex-boyfriend Mac was cheating on Will with.
Reese calls Charlie, MacKenzie, and Will into his office and delivers some bad news. Their commitment to reporting the News has cost them nearly half their audience after failing to cover the Casey Anthony trial. Realizing that this is all Leona needs to fire Will, Charlie instructs them to suck it up and prepare to cover the story.
Mac calls the situation for exactly what it is: […]
It’s just worse. A child is dead. A very troubled young mother either did or didn’t murder her. Her parents are waiting to find out if their daughter’s going to get the needle. So thank God for TiVo, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to sit down–
Will: It’s News.
Mac: Yeah, say that three times and click your heels. It’s entertainment. And it’s just– just this side of a snuff film.”
Will is willing to compromise because he wants to host the Republican primary debate, and they can’t get the debate if they are in the 5th position in the ratings. Will and Mac have an idea for a new debate format that would clean out the clown car.
The staff prepares to stage a mock debate, and each of them learns the role of the candidate they’ll be playing. It exposes how incompetent the Republican party was even in 2011. Here is one of the exchanges as each member of the staff study conservative media to learn what their assigned candidate has said in the past on issues:
Okay, next question.
Neal: Congresswoman Bachmann, you’re a proponent of reforming Social Security and Medicare. Can you give us some details of the reforms you have in mind?
Jim as Bachmann: I’d start by reducing benefits for all but current recipients as part of an effort to reduce the federal deficit. I’d like to add that President Obama has already transferred over $500 billion out of Medicare and into Obamacare, which I will repeal on my first day in office.
Neal: Ms. Bachmann, are you aware that Presidents can’t repeal laws?
Jim: I, Jim, am aware of that, but…
Neal: Where are you getting the quote?
This preparation pays off in the next episode
Sloan asks MacKenzie for a few extra minutes to talk about the impending debt ceiling crisis. Still, between Casey Anthony and Anthony Weiner texting a picture of his groin, there is no room for pertinent News.
Charlie meets the whistleblower at the New York Public Library, who calls himself “Late for Dinner” but is really Solomon Hancock, a former NSA employee who has been looking to expose the government agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. His identity is changed, but Sorkin says that this is an actual news story. He also shares a scoop for Charlie: AWM’s gossip magazine TMI has been illegally tapping phones for stories at Reese’s request. After Charlie shares this with Will and Mac, they have Jim vet Hancock to make sure he checks out.
MacKenzie continues to cross out the stories they won’t have time for. Instead, she asked Don to teach the team the dark arts of marketing tragedy and playing to viewers’ emotions and expectations.
Neal pitches a story to MacKenzie about Internet trolling, but he needs to prove himself to infiltrate the community. He asks Sloan for permission to use her as bait, meaning that he’ll need to attack her mercilessly to get the trolls to take him seriously.
Will, unable to understand why he continues to do everything he can to hurt Mac, barges in Dr. Habib’s session with another patient to ask his therapist why. It’s simple but not easy; he needs to find a way to forgive her.
As the Weiner scandal continues to grow, Maggie finds herself having to pre-interview Sandee, a young woman eager for her 15 minutes of fame which she thinks she can get by sharing private tweets she exchanged with the Congressman. Disgusted, Mac prepares to sideline important news stories to pre-tape her interview, and in a last-ditch effort, she asks God “for a sign that they’re not doing a big thing badly.” Suddenly, the studio loses power. Mac: “I didn’t know he had that kind of comic timing,”
I love this episode. It uses everything that was in the News at the time to warn us again of the path we were on. The News cannot be a profit centre and cannot survive on ratings and hope to have integrity. It can’t honestly inform us, “force us to eat our vegetable,” because of our selfish and shallow need to be entertained. I can’t imagine what we don’t know now that we could use to make better decisions in our everyday lives.
9 – THE BLACKOUT, PART 2: MOCK DEBATE
This episode is my fantasy. Yes, I know; I need to work on my definition of the word and to have more fun. But in these COVID times, I’ve consumed more TV than I ever have, and I have had time to reflect on the past 5 years in US news. I know I am not American, but as they say, when the US sneezes, Canada catches a cold. We are generally only about 4 years behind. The ridiculousness of our collective North American situation is brought to light by showing how we could have improved our representation.
The episode begins on the same night of the blackout. Mac sees an opportunity to inspire, and I won’t ruin the scene for you.
Once things are back to normal, the team continues prostituting themselves, presenting tragedy porn rather than the News. Jim tries to take everyone away from this by continuing debate prep, but like anyone who’s ever had to do something they didn’t want, you don’t have the same energy. Will even lights a cigarette at his desk while they roll Sandee’s pre-taped interview.
Neal has a romantic view of the internet; he loves what it could be. Being an opportunity to present the first story on exposing and taking down trolls, he approaches Sloan again with a more defined plan. One that will be embarrassing to her. After some consideration, the report is more important than the temporary pain, allowing him to slander her.
Mac spends some time with Brenner and tries to understand what he intends to write.
The team continues the prep for the mock debate, testing each other to make sure their answer is substantial and representative of the candidate they will soon play. Mac has to find a guess no one else has to cover the Casey Anthony trial and hopes she can’t find one to be able to fit a story on the debt ceiling. (Did you just think that the financial story would be much less interesting?) As she discusses the show with Will, she sees flowers in his office. We’ll find out that Don has seen other women than Maggie and Will intercepted them to avoid drama. He also advises Don to let Maggie knows.
Unfortunately for Mac, Maggie’s roommate Lisa went to high school with Casey Anthony. Jim and Maggie go to her boutique to try and convince her to appear on Will’s show. Lisa makes a dozen good points about why she will not make the show. Eventually, because it will help ratings to ensure the debate and help Maggie’s’ career, she will do it for her friend.
Will sees his therapist again, trying to understand if he shared any blame for Mac cheating on him 3 years ago. Dr. Habib finally tells Will something about what happened that connects with him. Charlie is angry to find that the whistleblower isn’t acing his background check.
Maggie finds a way to make Lisa’s segment on Will’s show meaningful. Lisa starts strongly and successfully underlines the situation. She, however, takes it one step further. Making a powerful argument but a radioactive one. There are repercussions on the store her life. Will respect her for her courage, but the damage is done.
The mock debate day is here. Adam Roth (Adam Arkin) Will’s former colleague from his days at the Whitehouse and his partner RNC Tate Brady
Are here to see Mac and Will’s idea for this year’s RNC debate. This is the culmination of days of covering entertainment rather than News. Tate begins by talking of the rules of the usual debate. Will walks the group to the Newsroom where the staff waits. Wills explains that: “questions have to be tougher, they have to be able to square their campaign rhetoric with facts, they have to be stopped when they are not answering the question and they have to be stopped when their answer contradicts the facts. Our job is to find the candidate that gives the best competing argument.”
So it begins, real questions and answers. Party lines being called out. A candidate being asked to support an obvious lie. Legitimate questions being asked.
Unfortunately, Tate stops it all and calls Adam away. It was all for not. This level of accountability is not welcome. \
CUT TO: Actual live footage of Michelle Bachmann answering an actual question from the real debate: Elvis or Johnny Cash? and her answer? Both. God forbid she offends Johnny Cash fans for preferring Elvis. WTF.
Let me remind you that four years later, in March 2016, Donald Trump assured American voters on debate night that despite what Marco Rubio had suggested, there was “no problem” with the size of his hands – “or anything else“. This is where we were, and we kept digging for four years.
The debate is gone. Mac gets a sense that Brenner’s intention for the piece is not honourable. Will decides to throw out the rundown and do the News, despite the threat from Leonoa is his ratings slip.
10 – THE GREATER FOOL
The “Greater Fool” theory states that it is possible to make money by buying securities, whether or not they are overvalued, by selling them for a profit at a later date. This is because there will always be someone (i.e., a greater fool) who is willing to pay a higher price. In this case, Mac showed up, disrupted his initial strategy of serving popular fluffy stories, and he bought in Mac’s proposition to start tackling substantive, less viewer-friendly news. It was a bad investment, but he bought in anyway. As Sloan explain to Will: “The greater fool is someone with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools.”
The show opens with Will telling Dorothy Cooper’s story before it cuts to eight days earlier when Mac and Lonny find Will collapsed in his apartment. Doctors confirmed that he suffers from a perforated stomach ulcer caused by an accidental overdose of antidepressants and bourbon. Brenner’s article has been published, and it was a hatchet job that ridiculed everything that Will and Mac and the staff have done as part of News Night 2.0. Will feels humiliated. Once recovered in hospital, he tells Mac that he may not return to News Night when he’s fully recovered.
Some of the criticism sounds like the criticism leveled at Sorkin himself. The article paints Will as a self-righteous idealist, a blowhard. Does Sorkin sometimes tend to have his characters give sanctimonious speeches? Yes. But I’ll repeat it – he is an idealist who shows us how things could be if we just decided to. This series about real news stories is written with the benefits of hindsight. That could be misinterpreted as Sorkin telling journalists: this is how you should have done it. Sorkin’s greatest talent is to take complicated or tedious facts (US policies) and make them entertaining and easily understood by the audience.
As Will recovers in hospitals, Mac meets with Nina Howard, who tells her that she knows Will was high during the Bin Laden broadcast, but she needs one more source to publish the story. She refuses to divulge her first source but says that it is unimpeachable. This will confirm Reese Lansing’s phone hacking. Neal’s work infiltrating the world of internet trolls pays off but goes a little farther than imagined.
Dorothy Cooper, the top news story on this broadcast, addresses voter suppression. Say whatever you want about Sorkin’s, a story he wrote 9 years ago is 100% relevant today. Where would we be if election and voter fraud allegations had been seriously addressed? Could the made-up issues be used today to attempt to overthrow a government or nullify the votes of millions of Black voters?
Will obviously returns to work, and the series continued for another 2 seasons. I wish Sorkin would revive this series to tells the story of the last 5 years to address Fox News becoming State TV and allowing a president to spread propaganda every day to millions creating a cult.
The end of Will’s broadcast that night addresses the perversion of history by the Tea Party and GOP.
“Ideological purity, compromise as weakness, a fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism, denying science, unmoved by facts, undeterred by new information, a hostile fear of progress, a demonization of education, a need to control women’s bodies, severe xenophobia, tribal mentality, intolerance of dissent,
and a pathological hatred of the US government. They can call themselves the Tea Party. They can call themselves conservatives. And they can even call themselves Republicans, though Republicans certainly shouldn’t. But we should call them what they are. The American Taliban. And the American Taliban cannot survive if Dorothy Cooper is allowed to vote.
Terry Smith is coming up next with The Capitol Report.
This is News Night. I’m Will McAvoy. Good night.”
Sanctimonious? Maybe. But where is he wrong?
Marie’s appreciation for movies & TV began early in life as it offered escapes, laughter, and often an education. It sparked a love of photography, travel, and a general curiosity for the world and everything in it. Originally from Quebec City, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Trebas Institute in 1998 where John H. Foote was her Film History professor. The winds pushed her into a different professional field and on a few adventures around the world. The passion for film and storytelling in all forms continues. Marie lives in the Canadian Rockies.