America can take a break from humoring Aaron Sorkin for a while now
Every Monday, Glynnis MacNicol writes about the new HBO series, "The Newsroom." Today, the season 1 finale, The Greater Fool. (Earlier posts here.)
What is there left to say about "The Newsroom"?
There are only so many ways to explain why a show is terrible, and over the course of its first season, which concluded last night, I feel like "Newsroom" has required almost all of them already. I'm tapped out.
I'm so tired of complaining about the female characters in this show being relentlessly inept and hysterical! I'm so bored of pointing out that Sorkin, who set out to create an idealized fictional newsroom that took its cues from the "great men" of the past, instead created a less interesting one that missed entirely the impact cable news had on the country since 2009, essentially wrote out the Internet entirely, and then further diminished good, big 'J' journalism to simply a series of lucky coincidences.
As if to hammer all these things home, last night's finale episode, The Greater Fool, was crammed from start to stop with all the very worst elements of the show blown up to a caricaturist's proportions. It's as though Sorkin worried we'd grow bored hating the show week in and week out unless he doubled down. Who is the greater fool, I was left wondering? HBO for signing onto this, or the viewers for giving it one more chance, week after week?
The series, it's worth noting, covered 15 months and (perhaps not surprisingly) this last episode seemed torn between tying up some loose ends and setting the show up for the second season. So! For those of you still keeping track here's what happened in a nutshell:
Will self-medicated himself into the hospital after taking too many antidepressants to cope with an eviscerating feature about his show, "News Night," in New York magazine. In a moment of rare self-reflection (and if Sorkin hadn't revealed he'd written the entire series before it aired one might wonder whether he was voicing his own response to all the backlash) hospital-bed-bound Will wondered if maybe the critics were right and he was pompous and misguided.
Fear not: this self-doubt only lasted long enough for his angry black nurse to arrive and lecture him about reporting on stories that actually matter, namely that her aunt Dorothy Cooper has been restricted from voting by the new voting laws being pushed by the G.O.P. that primarily effect poor minorities (in real life this story didn't make news until October of last year; this episode is set on August 8, 2011). What a happy coincidence. Cue zippy montage set to The Who's "Baba O'Riley" (better known as "Teenage Wasteland"), of all songs. My first thought: How much was that licensing fee? The music pumps as the newsroom comes together once again to produce a rousing show about the American Taliban, a.k.a. The Tea Party.
Meanwhile, on the love front, Don, attempting to play the part of a "good guy," decides to ask Maggie to move in with him even though there is some clearly demonstrated chemistry between him and Sloan. And not for nothing, but their short exchange was easily one of the best ones between a man and a woman in the series. More like this, please. (Can we all just take a moment and note that Oliva Munn was far and away the best thing about "The Newsroom" this season? Something one did not exactly anticipate going in.)
At the same time Maggie is revealing to Lisa that Jim did not come to the apartment that night to see her. This leads Lisa to storm out and when Maggie follows she get soaked by a passing "Sex and the City" tour bus. Just like on "Sex and the City"! Music and all. Naturally she chases the bus down, shrills hysterically at it that life as a single girl in the city is not that easy only to discover (oh the coincidence) that Jim is on board the bus trying to bone up on "SATC" to impress Lisa. Then they kiss.
It seems an uncharacteristic attempt at funny and meta and ironic for Sorkin, this "SATC" moment. It might have worked, if not for the fact he has spent all 10 episodes of "The Newsroom" making clear he doesn't think much of women. That "SATC" is the show that rejuvenated HBO and was a touchstone for the decade (hence the tour buses that still trawl through the West Village), and changed (no, exploded) the way we talk about women and sex, to boot, are a set of facts you suspect make Sorking angry. Better to have his women hysterically crying in the street, leaning on their strong men, and generally muddling through their lives counting numbers on their fingers while being soaked (literally) by the aftermath of a show that would never have allowed women characters to do any of those things. Samantha would have eaten Will for lunch. Maybe literally.
The finale actually did tie up a few things. After being tipped off by the blond gossip reporter that Will wanted to "fix" a few episodes back that she had a source confirming Will was high on TV during the Bin Laden raid (blond gossip reporter, we are assured, is trying to dig her herself out of her pathetic way of life) Will is summarily fired by Leona (Will begins the meeting by telling Leona she looks good enough to be in a Playboy spread). But not so fast! Charlie fakes the Lansings out with knowledge of Reese's phone-hackings and all is saved. Not only that, Leona does a 180 (all in the same meeting) and is now apparently on board with Will's opinion show: "Hit what you aim for" she advises Will.
And finally! And I do mean finally, MacKenzie reveals to Will she really was in the audience way back in the first episode when Will had his 'America isn't great' meltdown. That's it. No kiss. No reveal that Will is still in love with her, and she with him. That will have to wait for next season. I'm not counting the days—on my fingers or otherwise.