How The Newsroom got its groove back

The Newsroom Main Justice Jeff Daniels

‘The Newsroom’ brings us laughs and drama this week … but is it enough to redeem the show before the final curtain falls?


This post is another Guest Clack from Brandon Coulson. Check out his thoughts on last weeks’ The Newsroom here.

This week’s episode of The Newsroom was engaging, funny, and clever. It was one of the most well-balanced episodes of the series and my personal favorite of the season so far. The main focus this week was the continuing drama over a government source’s leak of classified documents and the legal ramifications. There are also  several B plots this week, nicely handled without diverting our focus from the main story.

“Main Justice” was one of the most well-balanced episodes of the series.
The first of these side stories is producer Don Keefer and financial reporter Sloan Sabbith’s budding romance. ACN’s new head of HR, Wyatt Geary, played here by the wonderful Keith Powell (30 Rock’s “Toofer”), is trying to catch them in an inappropriate workplace relationship. Normally a plotline like this would reek of clichéd, bad 80’s sitcom type stuff, but here it actually works. Don and Sloan play off of each other very well and Powell’s HR character rides a fine line of “just oddly driven enough to be funny” while still seeming real. I initially thought the Don/Sloan romance would be a dead-end story but they’ve developed into a pretty entertaining duo.

We also have the continuing story of ACN’s financial woes and Charlie Skinner’s attempts to secure an investor. Said investor is played by another NBC sitcom alum, B.J. Novak, as billionaire and obsessive control freak Lucas Pruitt. While their interaction is brief, it’s fun to see. Pruitt is presented here as a micro manager extraordinaire, and Skinner’s character, not being one to bow to authority, plays off this beautifully. I only hope we get more of this pairing for the rest of the season.

Then for our third NBC cameo of the night we have Paul Lieberstein (The Office’s Toby, and a producer on The Newsroom!) as the acting head of the EPA, Richard Westbrook. Well, sort of acting head … it’s complicated. He has a great scene here as a doom-and-gloom official being interviewed by Will McAvoy. He proposes that the current state of climate change is irreversible and we are all doomed to die horrible, horrible deaths even as Will tries to redirect him to a softer position he holds strongly and is hilarious in his responses. Lieberstein uses the same deadpan delivery that made his character on The Office so fun to watch.

Strange that one of the most enjoyable episodes of The Newsroom is one of the funniest. The show makes a point to be “about” something. Each episode tries to make a statement and quite often it overshadows the character development. While there were still the serious moments you’ve come to expect from the show, the humor was the highlight this week. The exception was one scene when Will McAvoy is being questioned along with his producers and legal counsel by a federal investigator. The scene is a back and forth leading up to a fantastic rant by McAvoy. Definitely the “Sorkin” moment of the episode, this speech actually comes off as natural and doesn’t feel as forced as they usually do.

The only drawback this week is an ongoing storyline with the always-annoying Jim Harper.
The only drawback this week is an ongoing storyline with the always-annoying Jim Harper. I have yet to find one person who watches this show and enjoys his character but Sorkin and Company seem to be doubling down on him this season, giving him yet another failed relationship that we couldn’t care less about. The writers seem to want us to like and relate to the character, yet the best way I can put this is Jim is an ass. He constantly acts smug and superior to everyone around him, holding himself up as a pinnacle of morality while doing things that are obvious missteps to anyone in the business world (hiring a girlfriend to work for you being one example).

Aside from a couple of moments, there were great performances and the show seems to be having fun again. If the writers can keep a balance of humorous side stories to counter-balance the heavy themes of their main story the series should be able to end on a very strong note. By streamlining to just a few B plots, possibly focusing on just the Don/Sloan story, the week to week craziness of a newsroom, and dropping the Jim storyline, The Newsroom just might end as strongly as Sorkin fans, myself included, had hoped it would be from day one.

Photo Credit: HBO

3 Comments on “How The Newsroom got its groove back

  1. Charlie Skinner is not attempting to secure an investor. The investor bought the news division, and Charlie was informed of this by Jane Fonda/Leona Lansing, who sold the news division to the guy. She did this to secure billions of dollars so she could buy out her husband’s children who were engaged in a hostile takeover of her entire company.

    Westbrook is Deputy Assistant Administrator of the EPA. Not Acting Administrator. Yes it’s complicated in that the title has a lot of words in it, but not complicated concerning whether he’s Acting Administrator; he’s not.

    You’re right about the Jim Harper character, I’ll give you that.

  2. No, the News Division has not yet been sold. Skinner says, “hopefully not until his check clears.” It’s referred to by the potential buyer as their only option.

    Interesting that the attack here is on Jim Harper, while for the entire run of the series Sorkin has been criticized about the Maggie character. Now that she has been transformed into a self-absorbed, vengeful bore, the critique has stopped — this article doesn’t even mention her existence. Jim’s entertaining relationship with Grace Gummer went south and Gummer gets no interesting lines.

    The problem? Season 2 ended by wrapping up all loose ends tighter than any final episode ever did. Thus, Season 3 is in every possible way a sequel like the recent miniseries on Pride and Prejudice after Mr. Darcy and Lizzie are married with a kid.

    So the show goes on because Sorkin had more worthy issues he wanted to dramatically present, but no more relationships to develop among the players. Even Sloan and Don are just playing out their characters like the Thin Man couple — no development possible because of the HR snoop and the “tests” involving Don’s parents’ anniversary and Sloan’s “I love you.”

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