The Newsroom

Writer's Note: Because of a crazy work schedule followed closely by a much needed vacation, this review will be for two episodes of the best show on TV. Haven't seen either of them? Well, don't proceed.

There are certain times of the year that make it more difficult for me to get to the movies, or watch my favorite TV shows. Anyone who has read the blog over the last couple of years knows that June-September is at the top of that list. Unfortunately this meant it took me an extra week to catch up on episodes five and six of The Newsroom.

The fifth episode of Aaron Sorkin's latest television show is set in February of 2011. The streets of Egypt are filled with people trying to overthrow their government, meanwhile in Wisconsin the Governor is trying to flex his muscle and overthrow unionized employees in his state, specifically the teacher's union.

When the reporter sent to Egypt by ACN is attacked and is no longer able to do his job, Neal (Dev Patel) enlists the help of a young man known only to him as "Amen" (or the hidden one). The risks of sending an amateur into the streets of a country in the middle of civil unrest quickly plays out as Neal loses touch with his new colleague for longer than he is comfortable with.

While the search is on for their new reporter, the rest of the News Night staff is focused on the elimination of the power of collective bargaining in Wisconsin. Will (Jeff Daniels) quickly finds ways to report about the happenings in Madison that may not sit well with those on the 44th floor of his building.

With the two "A" stories for this episode not keeping me enthralled, we were left with the "B" story of Mackenzie's (Emily Mortimer) new boyfriend causing troubles for the entire network that conveniently is uncovered by a company owned gossip website. Unfortunately this fell right in line with stories one, and two. Yawn.

I don't understand the principle of brining in more actors that I can't understand. I have no emotional connection with "Amen" other than my own assumption that he is Neal's long lost brother. When he disappeared I was just excited that there were other people on my flat screen that I could understand.

I have always enjoyed watching "feel good" television or movies. My goal for investing my time of 30, 60, or 120 minutes is to be entertained. It doesn't need to be mind blowing material, or something that is going to drive the conversation at your office water cooler the next morning, but just something that I am going to be able to sit back on my couch and enjoy. The "Rudy" scene at the end of this episode did just that. Unfortunately that was only two of the 60 minutes that aired in episode five.

Everything about this episode was predictable. It felt like it was built around the three weakest aspects of Sorkin's writing: family, love, and emotional scenes based on family and love. It makes you wonder if he has the energy and stamina to be able to create the level of TV that I (and his loyal following) have come to expect with out significant help from this writing staff. He was the only credited writer on this episode (yes, I get that they have a writing staff that helps him) and it makes you wonder if he did the right thing in changing over just about everyone on his staff for season two.

The Newsroom: Amen (Season 1, Episode 5)
Sorkin's Walk and Talk Tally thru five episodes: Still 1 1/2
Directed by: Daniel Minahan
Written by: Aaron Sorkin
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Would Gene Pick it?: Probably Not

Episode six takes us inside the mind of Will McAvoy. After falling over his words during the east coast (see: live) version of his broadcast, we quickly find out that he has been unable to sleep at night and this is causing his work to slip. After he agrees to actually show up for the weekly psychology appointment he has been paying for while not attending over the past four years, we are taken on a flashback of recent events in Will's life.

After changing some of the policies on the comments section of his website, Will receives a death threat complete with his home address. When Charlie (Sam Waterston) turns this information over the insurance company for ACN, his nightly news anchor is assigned a body guard.

Meanwhile, after returning from Egypt, Elliott is unable to host his 11 PM show (that follows News Night). Despite not being at the top of the list Sloane (Olivia Munn) is asked to fill in. During a pre-show interview with the spokesperson for the damaged nuclear plant in Japan, she is given some "off the record" information from her friend that the reporting of the seriousness of the radiation levels is not accurate. After getting some advice from Will, Sloane decides to take her interview to a level she is clearly not able to handle.

This was a very cerebral episode. From the advice Will receives from his Psychologist, to the way that Sloane was feeling while on the phone with her friend in Japan, you can see very deep into what each character is thinking and the effects it will have on their career(s). In one case the potential end to a career before it really gets started (Sloane), and in the other a change to the way they approach their entire thinking and how to do their job (Will).

The psychological analysis in this episode was fantastic. I have long been a fan of seeing the answer before asking the question. We saw hints of this with Will's conversations with his new body guard, and also through the revelations he makes to his psychologist.

The filler stories in this episode were just that for a reason. Don has gone from being the most unlikeable character on this show to number two in that category, but in good news for him his comment of "am I losing Maggie" has officially made him the dumbest person on the show. He is also quickly gaining ground on becoming the least attentive person in the history of television. So really it was a win for him.

It appears to me that the higher ups from HBO have the vision to look past the first season. It is being hit hard by critics for many things, the most common seems to be Sorkin's treatment of his female characters. It feels to me like he is dedicating season one to developing the characters while mixing in the things that make him great. My biggest hope for season two and beyond is that these two items swap places on his priority list.

Even with the hope of this show nearly turning itself upside down, I still find myself hoping it is Sunday night and a new episode is on my DVR. There is no bigger compliment I can give to a TV show or movie.

The Newsroom: Bullies (Season 1, Episode 6)
Sorkin's Walk and Talk Tally thru six episodes: 1 1/2
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
Written by: Aaron Sorkin
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Would Gene Pick it?: Yes

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