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There was a motif in the first two episodes of The Newsroom that few people noticed, but those that did were annoyed by it. They saw it as lazy writing creating high stakes situations out of connections that were way too convenient to be considered plausible. In the first episode Jim Harper, the new senior producer, has a college roommate who works for BP in London and a sister that works at Haliburton when the oil spill happens in New Orleans. In the second episode, Maggie makes a snide remark at a press aide to the Governor of Arizona that she used to date. They lose the interview and go into panic mode to save the segment.
That continued in the 2nd episode, but it was done in a much different way, one that didn’t affect the newsroom and introduced us to a new character: Leona Lansing, CEO of AWM, the network that owns News Night. She’s played by Jane Fonda and is so deplorable that she’d go over really well as a WWE heel the likes of Vicky Guerrero. She’s the one with the connections in this episode as Will McAvoy is starting to go after tea party candidates that are financially backed by some of her rich friends.
We saw a couple of Sorkinisms in this episode. The small one was a character starting a conversation with “How much do you like/love me?” The other was an entire episode centered around a single meeting or conversation in which a story is told completely through a flashback. This one was a little different in that rather than covering the span of one day or a week, it covered six months.
The three characters that looked the best in this episode were Charlie, Maggie, and Jim. Charlie Skinner, played by Sam Waterston, was brilliant as the head of AWM news, defending the direction Will and News Night have taken against AWM execs who are not only worried about the ratings but the people that Will is going after. Charlie believes in what Will is doing but, unlike the characters that work in the newsroom, is the only one that has to deal with the outside pressure of the network. He’s fighting off the suits so that News Night isn’t compromised. He wins throughout the episode until Lansing finally plays the only card she has left, wielding a power that Skinner thought was out of the question.
The stakes for Will hit a boiling point, but Charlie bears the cross so that no one else feels the pressure and Waterston nailed his performance.
Finally, while the story and screen time that Will and Mackenzie get would have you believe that their relationship is the focal point of the show, the best relationship on the show is between Maggie and Jim. In very little time that they’ve spent together on screen, they’ve completely hooked us. I’m fairly certain I’d be hooked despite my crush on Alison Pill (who was amazing in both Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Midnight in Paris).
The hopeless romantics have something to love about this show and it’s the love triangle going on between Maggie, Jim, and Maggie’s boyfriend Don, Will’s former executive producer who left the show to start a new one that airs right after News Night. It’s kind of amazing at how much natural chemistry John Gallagher Jr. has with Pill and how little there is between Pill and Thomas Sadoski. Sadoski is nailing Don as an unlikable and smug producer who is incapable of rolling with the punches and fights everyone on everything. It explains why he treats Maggie like a subordinate even in their personal moments.
He’s easy to root against. And Jim’s dedication to his work, and not a possible future relationship with Maggie, are what make this so unique compared to the other forms of a love triangle we’ve seen countless times in movies and television.
The Newsroom was picked up for a second season this past week, so now we know that this could be dragged out for a while. But hopefully not too long.