Crashing Pilots: The Newsroom Part II
By David Mumpower
August 2, 2012
In other words, Don creates conflict at work and he creates conflict with Maggie. Several episodes in, I say with conviction that the show dies whenever Don is onscreen. There was one notable exception at the end of an episode entitled I’ll Try to Fix You. A discussion involving Reese, whose usage is equally limited, led to a revelation regarding Don’s natural instincts as a newsman. This represents the only instant thus far wherein Don has demonstrated any of the professional acumen described of him.
During the show’s depiction of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, Reese berated the News Night staff about their refusal to report largely unconfirmed news of her death. Don eloquently retorted, “It’s a person. A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news.” I would enjoy this version of Don as a character if only he were on display more often.
Hopefully, Sorkin remedies this issue in season two if not sooner. The auteur of The Newsroom clearly enjoys the character of Don enough that the executive producer is effectively a lead on the show. And this is the problem. The show oftentimes dies when Don is present and unfortunately Don verges upon omnipresence. This is problematic.
The character of Reese is even worse. Long time viewers of Aaron Sorkin broadcasts understand that he feels tremendous enmity toward network executives. With the lone exception of Jamie Tarses, the real life inspiration for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’s Jordan McDeere, all studio execs bother Sorkin and have since the 1990s. The character of J.J. on Sports Night had little presence beyond irritating the sublimely talented staff who resented his very existence. Reese on The Newsroom is cut from the same cloth.
Jane Fonda, the ex-wife of CNN founder Ted Turner, is effectively portraying Turner on The Newsroom. Leona Lansing, Fonda’s character, is the head of the media conglomerate that owns ACN. Reese is her son and eventual heir. He is currently the president of ACN, and this places him in the middle of the action. As we all know, Sorkin’s favorite theme is art versus commerce. The mother/son tandem represents the evil of commerce.
Art is an inexact ideal relative to the profession of journalism. McAvoy and his team, led by new executive producer MacKenzie McHale, still somehow embody Sorkin’s beloved concept that the highest quality product will eventually lead to the most lucrative revenue accrual as well. Given that Sorkin does not work for free, he is not blind to the idea that people need to get paid. He simply does not envision money as a driving force. The desire to be the best should be motive enough.
McAvoy the news anchor and McHale the show-runner lead a high-minded group of journalists attempting to redeem News Night’s reputation. For years, McAvoy has been perceived as the Jay Leno of anchormen. Reese has been a corrupting influence on McAvoy for years, handing him the detailed ratings information for News Night. Reese’s onslaught of data drives home the idea that bland news coverage delivers ratings due to its inoffensive nature. And ratings mean profit. Reese is not the devil on Will’s shoulder but instead the embodiment of evil wearing a custom made suit.