Crashing Pilots: The Newsroom Part II
By David Mumpower
August 2, 2012
The most recent episode, Bullies, also featured one of Sorkin’s favorite premises. A reticent but damaged soul seeks to unearth the root cause of his pain. An impossibly clever therapist knows all within moments of first introduction yet drags out the discussion for hours on end. Dan Rydell was aided in this manner during the second season of Sports Night, Jed Bartlet and Josh Lyman received wise counsel on The West Wing and Matt Albie learned from an unexpectedly wise journalist on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
The plot of Bullies followed this model almost religiously as McAvoy claimed he needed sleeping pills but in reality was seeking absolution for recent transgressions. I quite liked the storyline, and I was pleased to see David Krumholtz aka Mr. Universe in a role other than comic relief. Still, my takeaway was a pervading sense of déjà vu because I had in fact seen this story before. This is my lingering displeasure with The Newsroom. Despite the broad scope of available stories, Sorkin is still on a recycling kick.
Given the criticisms above, I sound like someone who is not a fan of The Newsroom. This is not the case at all. Most of what is broken that I list above is more than counterbalanced by the presence of some great characters as well as the one major change I stated as a necessity in the prior column. For all of the criticism Sorkin receives regarding his portrayals of his female characters, I have always considered this aspect of his writing his true strength. The Newsroom gives credence to this thought process.
While Jeff Daniels is definitely the star, Alison Pill as Maggie is the heart of the series thus far. Through her eyes, the viewer appreciates all the positive changes in the previously toxic atmosphere of News Night. I referenced previously that she is heading toward an inevitable office romance with Jim Harper while she maintains a relationship with ineffectual Don.
Between Maggie’s interactions with Don, Jim and Will McAvoy, Pill has received more screen time than her more storied co-star, Emily Mortimer. This decision has paid dividends as Pill has already mastered the precise comedic timing Sorkin demands of his actors. Maggie is also the most fragile of the characters, which allows Pill to project a winning vulnerability that engages the viewer. Particularly noteworthy was the actress’ decision to shed tears over the breaking story that Giffords had been shot. That simple touch of humanity enhanced the proceedings.
The true surprise has been Olivia Munn. I should state that as a viewer of G4 back when the channel was a far superior version known as Tech TV, I always bristled at Munn’s presence. She was the pretty face who lacked the industry knowledge of the prior hosts of The Screensavers. This was acknowledged when G4 dumped that title for Attack of the Show. For many of you, this has been the way you have always known the program. For me, she is a cheap knockoff of Morgan Webb.
Considering my innate dislike of Munn, the character of Sloan Sabbith should be nails on a chalkboard for me. A personal failing of mine is that once I have developed a dislike of an actor, I rarely reconsider my opinion. I would gleefully punch Ed Norton in the face or spit in Parker Posey’s general direction, yet I quite enjoy Munn on The Newsroom.