The sexual tension has been laid out on the table between the two leads; it’s not going anywhere. However I’m sincerely crossing my fingers in the hopes that the thing between Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) doesn’t become the main focus of the show, like Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd are on the workplace drama Grey’s Anatomy.
In fact, the second installment of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom put more emphasis on romance than the news. The episode was two parts romantic folly and one part news. Sadly, I’m not a fan of that particular combination as I’d prefer to see more scenes devoted to the business of news since, well, it is a show set in a news room and its pilot established some pretty high standards.
Clearly Will and Mac are headed for an inevitable tumble between the sheets and they’ll have to sort out the mess afterward. There’s no avoiding it apparently because it seems as though their flirty tension is increasing even when I expected that the show was going to be about the sad state of television news as it competes for ratings against raunchy reality programming and comedies that require as much intellectual engagement as burping.
It was very disappointing to see Mac — a smart, confident woman — undone by her romantic guilt about cheating on Will, especially when her colleagues think ill of Will and assume he’s the one who stepped out on her. The mortifying company-wide e-mail she sent was unfortunate because it undermines her authority on many levels in a typically feminine, fluttery way that I find grating.
To add to the women-are-obsessed-with-their-love-lives mantra, we saw another professional woman, Maggie, accidentally ransack a pivotal interview with the Arizona governor about Arizona’s controversial immigration law by neglecting to mention that she’d dated the governor’s press aide and that during the pre-show interview with him, she made sport of his poor performance in bed, prompting him to bag the whole interview. Maggie (Alison Pill) then disintegrated as the News Night staff was unable to satisfactorily salvage the segment as the guests they scrounged up were abysmal. Seeing Maggie unraveled by an angry ex, followed by her drunken break-up with Don (Thomas Sadoski), who’d asked her to follow him to the 10 o’clock show because she was his girlfriend not because of her talents, was likewise irritating. Why take two sharp women and reduce them to bad stereotypes? Sorkin can and should do better.
The episode started out with such promise, with Mac outlining News Night 2.0 as a program that would change the rules of TV journalism in an attempt to get at the truth, not mindlessly parroting the “other” side of issues when common sense tells you there is no logical flip side to the argument. Chasing ratings like a drooling dog chases a car bumper would be no more as News Night 2.0 would seek the lofty goal of excellence, not stooping to take the cheat shots (like one at Sarah Palin) that score well with viewers in certain demographic groups.
Having Sam Waterston’s Charlie Skinner repeatedly say that because they’re trying something new with News Night so he doesn’t want Will to look at the ratings, was cool, every serious, self-respecting TV journalist’s dream, albeit unbelievable (just ask Ann Curry). And though it was intriguing to watch Will keep his death-grip on ratings bait until it blew up in his face (Palin), I was ultimately unhappy with the big emphasis on the gals and their messy love lives.
If I were to give Sorkin the benefit of the doubt here, perhaps one could argue that he was trying to make a meta-point that even on the larger show about a show that’s attempting to be substantive dips into romantic drama from time to time, as a ratings grabber. Maybe. However I don’t tune in to The Newsroom for workplace romance. This isn’t Grey’s Anatomy.