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Because Sometimes We're All The Greater Fool: 10 Reasons We're Delighted "The Newsroom" Is Back

By Joanna Robinson | TV Reviews | July 15, 2013 | Comments ()


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The second season of “The Newsroom” kicked off last night, and it would appear that just like the rest of the nation, Pajiba is a house divided when it comes to Sorkin’s idealistic, bombastic drama. I, for one, love it. Unabashedly, unapologetically. I see its weaknesses, I see its strengths and, for me, the good greatly outweighs the bad. Last night’s premiere was every bit as messily great as Season 1 and I am thrilled the ACN crew is back.

10. Because I Continue To Fall Hopelessly, Completely In Love With Olivia Munn: There were a few hints in last night’s episode that the show’s creators may have become a little too aware of how lovable Season 1 Sloan Sabbith was. So in this episode she (once again) takes on Charlie, defends her girl nerditude, commissions a Fantasy Football draft and wears a lot of sleeveless blouses. NOW that last part may have everything to do with it being August, but I just hope they don’t push the Sloan character too hard this season because they pushed her just the right amount last year and despite the discomfort I feel in regards to loving Olivia Munn, I do love her. And I want to keep it that way.
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9. Because The New “Updated” Intro Is…Well…Not All That Updated: There were a lot of complaints about last year’s parade of dead or retired white male anchors in the opening credits sequence. It looks like the show’s creators took that criticism to heart and replaced it with much more modern shots of, uh, speed-highlighting? I mean. That’s just picking nits, of course. But it is sort of endearingly…backwards.
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8. Because The Fall Of 2011 Was A Very Interesting Time For The News: I mean, every time is an interesting time for the news. Of course. But in this episode alone the show touched on a) Tripoli b) Dominique Strauss-Kahn c) SOPA d) Romey e) drones f) Occupy Wall Street. There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to the “Recent Past” angle of “The Newsroom.” On the one hand, as Sorkin has admitted, writing the show with the benefit of hindsight allows our heroes to ALWAYS be the smartest guys in the room. Last year they knew before anyone else that the oil spill would be major news and that calling Gabrielle Gifford’s death was premature. This episode Dev Patel’s Neal is the first reporter with any idea that Occupy Wall Street might be a huge deal. It can be irritating and smug, sure. But at least Dev has a better plot line this year. (Rest In Peace, Trolling Plot.)

The advantage of the “Recent Past” is that we can all very clearly remember where we were and how we engaged with these moments in history and in the news cycle. We don’t have the distance and time to gloss over August 2011. It’s still very visceral. And that level of engagement can make for some excellent drama.
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7. Because Of The Hopelessly Out Of Date Pop Culture References : But mixed in with the “Recent Past” are the screwball comedy and musical references and given that I have the taste of an elderly person sometimes, I enjoy the hell out of them.
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6. Because They Give The People What They Want: A Wet Chris Messina: Did it rain a lot in August 2011? It would appear so. Both Messina and Fonda were in cracking form in their short scenes. I hope they continue to populate the fringes of this show.
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5. Because No One Plays The Tragic Clown Like Jeff Daniels: There are a lot of actors who have handled Sorkin’s blend of tragi-comedy with aplomb. Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Peter Krause, etc. But none have, in my opinion, struck the balance quite as nicely as Jeff Daniels. His dramatic and comedic credentials are above reproach and he deploys those skills so well here. Pulling faces…
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…and pulling faces.
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4. Because We Can Add Another Smoky Lady To Sorkin’s Roster: I’ve long been a huge fan of Marcia Gay Harden. We all know that Sorkin drew a lot of fire last year for his “hapless” depiction of women. I both hear and disagree with a lot of those criticisms. That being said, it’s lovely to see a woman with Harden’s gravitas balance the already enjoyable female members of the cast. I also appreciate her flock of young, male underlings. I highly doubt she’ll be tripping over anything this season.
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3. Because What Did Happen To Maggie’s Hair?: Whatever it is that happened to her hair or her character in Uganda, I like it. I’m glad they blew up that irritating love triangle plot line in the first episode. Here’s hoping for something much more interesting from the great Alison Pill.
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2. Because Of The Comedy Plot Of Remarriage: It’s my favorite love story and it belongs to a bygone era. It’s very His Girl Friday between these two and I find that I eat it up with a ladle. The idea of the Comedy of Remarriage, of course, is that two people who know each other so well, know each other’s foibles and flaws, choose to come back together anyway. That makes for a much more heartwarming story than your usual meet-cute. In my opinion.
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1. Because Don’t You Just Love The Way He Leans?: Because he may not be the hero you want, but he may be the hero we deserve. Personally, I’m more fond of McAvoy’s deeply flawed hero than I was of President Bartlett’s paragon. Here’s a man who is constantly tripped up by his own idealism and egoism. In short: he’s a beautiful disaster.
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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Kathie Murphy

    I love this show too Joanna Robininson and I especially agree about Olivia Munn. She has been terrific in both seasons, providing spot on comedy and showing us why she's the Financial Analyst for ACN. She's not just another pretty face spewing words off a monitor. Remember the conference call with the Japanese last season? Everyone is struggling to communicate with translation and she gets fed up so she clears the room and starts speaking what sounds like, flawless, Sorkin quick Japanese?

  • TheOriginalMRod

    I am dying to know what happened to Maggie's hair in Uganda!

    I suspect it might have something to do with Alison Pill's upcoming role in Snowpiercer.

  • Gunnut2600

    we only just now got this show in the Middle East so I have only been able to watch two and a half episodes...

    This is a comedy right? This has to be a fucking comedy. This show is about as realistic as "Police Squad" though I would argue the Zucker Brothers had better dialogue.

  • Scully

    Finally watched it tonight and didn't realize just how much I missed my liberal porn. Sloan was fantastic. I'm glad Maggie appears to have a solid plot this season. And where oh where can I get Marcia Gay Harden's necklace? Because I need it.

  • koko temur

    Her suit was rather perfect too and lipstick was matched beutifully to it.I like her a lot in this. So strong and confident while girlie.

  • LexieW

    I enjoy the show. Love Olivia Munn's character. But please god, can we get Emily Mortimer and Alison Pill's character into the "competent women" category? Emily Mortimer's character is the worst - she's smart but so goddamn childlike.

  • ruby

    Mac seems to have grown more competent this season-- notice her successfully running the show, etc.

  • Maguita NYC

    And she didn't ask for a parade afterwards and was not treated as a hero.

    She just did her job competently.

  • ruby

    In fact, wasn't she criticized, albeit only slightly, right after?

  • Mrs. Julien

    .

  • Mark

    I don't think that the 'hindsight' argument against this show is particularly valid.

    Sorkin isn't just being smug and pretending to know better, he's providing an ideal. Making comments on the past and current state of the industry, and proposing how, perhaps, it could be improved.

    How do we advance anywhere? Examine the past, see how it could have gone better, and attempt to make the future more like that ideal. It's preachy, sure, but it's a perfectly valid and interesting way to convey a message.

  • rio

    I'm afraid where they are going with Maggie. If Aaron dares to use violence against women as a cheap plot point and have a "I got raped in Uganda and all I got was shitty ptsd Felicity haircut" I will fucking go ballistic.

  • foolsage

    Relax. She simply spent some time touring with Sex Bob-omb.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • sean

    I think you had better start warming up to it then. Sorkin isn't subtle enough for it to be anything else.

  • Maguita NYC

    Uganda is silently witnessing mass raping of women. No matter the color of their skin, ethnicity, religion, station in life. Journalists, female journalists are also raped every day and the subject matter should definitely be covered.

    With kid gloves.

  • koko temur

    Better bookmark this page, im afraid we will have to do that particular argument over and over again. It will save us some time if we just cut and paste. You will say that the subject matter should be covered, i will be adding in your support that;

    A. How in the ( heavy swearing) are you suggesting he would cover the subject of FUCKING RAPE, an effectively cancelling out and destoying of other human personality and soul in a "non heavy handed" matter? A light satire, maybe? I would love to hear other peoples suggestions.
    And B. Even if it was heavy handed, i rather have a duscussion about rape on a popular show and i rather have it being emotianal and munipulative.

    But, for the record, i dont think it would be maggie herself that was raped. I think its something horrible she cayused with her wide-eyed personality. Something that made her jaded. Something in the way Will said "if it happened to you it would kill you everyday".

  • Maguita NYC

    Ouf! For a moment there I though you well yelling at me with your point A. Because that was my point exactly. Better to cover the subject, heavy-handedly or gently, than superficially alluding to it and not giving it rightful importance.

    Also, Sorkin is changing. His approaching sexism in the work place is somehow maturing, people are not going through miraculous transformation anymore, but are evolving more accurately with today's work environment and expected relationship protocole, while still being faithful to their inner mantra.

    Take MacAvoy's refusing to follow orders and interrupting the drone debate. No matter the trust and faith he has learned to put in his Executive Producer's abilities, and the many times she has proven herself to be right, his type of personality dictates... well just that: DICKtate. The medium that is his job has often been a conduit to publicly intent his beliefs, forgoing his OBLIGATION towards the public he in a way serves as a news anchor. However the change came about with his easily admitting his wrongdoing, and APOLOGIZING for it.

    I believe in the beginning he would rather die.

  • koko temur

    Nah, i was just yelling. In general. But i did add "in your support" there that you missed.

    I persnally always thought he wrote women rather well. I understand completely why others find his love of women falling down as sexist.... but i am a rather driven and moderately sucessfull woman that havent yet used superglue once in her lifetime without gluing her fingers together, i fall frequently and by personal life is a disaster.

    His characters ARE me. Im fine with the redicoulsness. But looking past that - CJ was magnificent character, and Dana too. Both strong, funny, competent, imperfect, controlling their respective male underlings with iron fist, but not in an obvious or showy way.

  • Maguita NYC

    You mean, your private life USED to be a mess before finding your coven... RIGHT?

    As for Sorkin's women... Not always a fan. But he has gotten better, and I believe he may be trusting other writers to actually properly develop female characters while more smoothly integrating his Sorkinism into their story lines.

  • koko temur

    Only if the coven is going to help me with my super glueing needs. There a sentence i never think i will type. Good morning, dear wifey. You are early today. I trust you slept well and had lovely manfur dreams?

  • Maguita NYC

    I'll superglue whatever you need superglueing. *Gives dirty sexy look.

    Morning, slept well no matter the heat, thank you wifey. You? And the exam? Did you kick ass?

  • rio

    exactly, "with kid gloves", it's Sorkin we are talking about, it will be like a bull in the china-shop of rape culture and violence against women. The man is many things, but subtle and careful he is not.

  • Maguita NYC

    I'll give the show the benefit of a doubt; Too soon to assume.

    Also, MacKenzie. So far, she is no pushover or wimp. Dealing with her difficult ex-fiancé and star of the show with a firm yet gentle hand, stirring him in the right direction as any Executive Producer in her position dealing with difficult personalities and egos ought to, has worked well.

  • foolsage

    Firm yet gentle? Mac slams Will against a wall and later smacks him in the head, in this episode alone. :) She's definitely not a wimp; she's a bit of a flibbertigibbet but remains a strong character.

  • Maguita NYC

    That actually made me laugh. Only a woman physically comfortable with a big man would do that.

    I am surprised no one was yelling harassment or at the very least abuse of power regarding that moment. Because if it were a man "manhandling" a woman that way... This could become one of those endless discussions.

  • foolsage

    You're right; that dynamic would disturb a lot of people if the sexes were reversed. As you noted, it's complicated.

  • Mark

    I think given the weight it was given in the season premiere, it'll form a large part of the plot and not be treated cheaply. And given the character we're dealing with, it seems to be part of a wider arc of disillusionment which we've seen beginning from the collapse of her relationship.

    If it were a one-off episode, it would seem like a tacky lesson-of-the-week, "violence against women is bad, folks" move. But I've got more confidence in the show.

  • "He's out there because I'm in here"

    Oh, its so nice to have them back. I'm glad that Maggie and Jim are seperated by sme physical distance and we get to watch (hopefully) Sloan and Don work their way back around to each other, particularly since he has put together that he really isn't a bad guy. Such an important callback to the first season for that character. I remember hating Don at the beginning of season 1 but by the end of it, and moving into season two he is simply one of my favorites.

  • Maguita NYC

    I believe it was intentional that Don looked like an a-hole. Or rather a dog afraid of another stealing his bone (poor Maggie).

    I believe it was Jim's turn yesterday. He acted like an a-hole, a man that could not get over being rejected, or even act professionally (which happens everyday in the work environment; And not just with men). He chose to rather push his weight around as Maggie's boss so to make her feel more responsible for breaking his heart.

    At the same time, the reality of this particular humorless triangle was hit home by Maggie's begging for things to be "back to how they were". Isn't this exactly how at times we wish to erase/ignore what truly happened, and naively aim for happy endings? No matter the sorkinism, moments like these are delicious in their authenticity, watching cruelly flawed humans interact.

  • foolsage

    I didn't see it as Jim throwing his weight around; he's her boss and she made a mistake, which he merely pointed out. Maggie has been prone to little mistakes in the office (well, in her personal life as well) the whole time we've known her, and Jim's pretty much always fixed them or covered for her.

  • Maguita NYC

    "He merely pointed out"... You didn't notice that Jim was more abrupt and curt when addressing Maggie??

    That was not a normal tone of voice, and the wording left little for misinterpretation. His feelings at that exact moment were clear: Rejected, and making sure she feels the blame.

    That was no casual interaction between employer/employee.

  • foolsage

    You're right. He made it clear that he was hurt. He obviously felt unable to be professional, which drove him to flee. On the other hand, I don't think he was throwing his weight around; he didn't actually get her into any trouble. He merely (would simply work better there? :D) noted her mistake, and seemed pained by it, as by everything else.

    I'm using the qualifier to draw attention to the fact that he could have done more, not only this time but many times in the past. A spurned lover who's being unprofessional could have taken that a lot farther, as could a martinet eager to run a tight ship. He's tried to help her be a better employee and has struggled to be professional; it's clearly very difficult for him in this case. And sure, that's his failing, but it also makes him a more interesting character. He "merely" said that she made a mistake, then moved on. Clearly other mistakes of hers were more pressing, in his mind.

  • Maguita NYC

    To throw his weight around, to me, meant that he made sure that she understood that she works UNDER him.

    Beyond that she is subordinate, there was that defining moment that was charged with "watch how you talk to me, I'm not your friend, I'm your boss" type that came into factor for the very FIRST time since he became her boss.

    Maybe I am misinterpreting to "throw one's weight around". I never thought it had anything to do with reporting someone, but more making sure that they understand that you are in control, on top, in a not so gentle manner that has nothing to do with leadership, but everything to do with authority and power.

    This episode is definitely getting a second viewing.

  • foolsage

    Fair enough. I tend to think of "throwing your weight around" as using power in a fairly overt manner, especially abusing said power. Jim wasn't professional, and he absolutely let Maggie know (in a sulky and passive-aggressive way) that he wasn't going to cover for her anymore. I viewed what he did as more of a warning that things have changed than an exercise in power. I see the merits of your interpretation though.

  • Working through my own workplace issues with coworkers acting unprofessional the scene with Jim (and his crazy hair) and Maggie hit all the authentic beats. This may be theatrical language and settings, but the emotions and behaviors are very human. These two characters are designed to be naive, which is why the 'elder' voices are constantly warning them away from their own mistakes.

    I will watch all the sorkinisms there are in order to continue watching his cruelly flawed humans interact.

  • Irina

    Partying, partying, yeah!
    Partying, partying, whoa!

    Hands down my favorite moment of the episode.
    Oh, and Don leaving. That was quite satisfying too.

  • AudioSuede

    I'm doing a happy dance in my chair.

  • John W

    Anyone else shipping Sloan/Charlie? Just me? Okay.

    I love Emily Mortimer.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Totes!

    ahem... I mean, yes. I totally agree with what you are saying.

    I thought they were going to smooch there for a second.

  • koko temur

    God, yes. When she said to him "why does it have to be this way?" i was like "maaaaake ouuuut". But then i remembered im 30 and felt a little eberassed. I ship them on the inside now.

  • Heather Mooney

    I suggested exactly that while watching last night. Got one of those, "My wife is weird," looks from my husband. He gives me that look when I involuntarily mutter, "I'd so hit that," every time Waterston drops an F bomb, too.

  • John W

    Every time those two are engaged in a conversation I get the feeling they're going to look into each others eyes then...firm embrace.

  • I suspect Alison Pill's look was drawn from some of her Twitter pictures in the off-season.

  • Blake

    Everyone has to stop drinking the Olivia Munn Kool-Aid. She is the human equivalent of The Big Bang Theory.

  • AudioSuede

    As someone who loved her and Kevin Perrera on Attack of the Show, who never actually experienced a time when I DIDN'T enjoy her, and who has so far only heard the "she's not a real nerd girl!" criticism, which is the reason why some people hate nerds and hipsters and anyone who won't let people into their club if they look like they don't belong in their club, I politely disagree.

  • MissAmynae

    Yes. She will always have my love from AotS. Was always so good at laughing at herself, and the funny stuff they had her do. The costumes, seriously. Good stuff, and she knew her stuff. Not necessarily a gaming nerd, but a tech one for sure.

  • sean

    Hmmm...she is pleasant to look at. She is also very mildly funny. But she just seems so fake and manufactured. Like she doesn't actually exist, just promotes the things she does.

  • Maguita NYC

    I am now sold on Olivia Munn and actually love her.

    True she started her quest for "celebrity" a bit too obviously on the fame-hungry scale, but her role on The Newsroom as well as staying out of the spotlight had done her image wonders.

    Ever since that moment where she yelled "Don't call me girl, sir!" I completely surrendered.

  • Wigamer

    Charlie referred to her as "money skirt" in the premiere. That annoyed me. A lot.

  • Maguita NYC

    No matter what, Samuelson's character should be faithful to the "ol' paternalist sexist in a position of power" that men of his generation represent.

    Many like him thrive in the professional environment and beyond; And many, no matter how brilliant they truly are, would never believe that they're being sexist. Even if you have proof on tape.

    It would be very disquieting if Charlie suddenly changed his mentality just because this "girl" proved him wrong in one or two episodes. If there is to be change, it would be because of continuous and unrelenting pressure of some sort, for an extended period of time. Old dogs learning new tricks and such.

  • Wigamer

    Oh, I know. And I know that's the way things work in the real world. But I have to admit that I'm just not very entertained by it.

  • Maguita NYC

    I must admit that I am. Beyond the fact that early history is revisited to the advantage of this specific group of people, no matter their perfection at uncovering breaking stories, it does not deviate from their flawed and imperfect interaction.

  • foolsage

    His patriarchal attitudes also provide a context in which Sloan can respond with some righteous anger.

  • Wigamer

    I think the thing that bugs me (& it is admittedly less so with Munn's character) is the tendency to make the women look stupid in an effort to humanize them/make them relatable. Like Emily Mortimer's inability to understand her phone last season, Allison Pill's prat falling, & Olivia Munn's worry that her ass looked too big. Their foibles just seemed insulting & always made them far less realistic to me, not more.

  • Maguita NYC

    Not to defend his at-times obvious sexism, but he is faithful to the characters. The many women I know who had traveled the world, business women with keen business sense, who don't know how to turn on an iPad...

    But there is also Charlie, this old white man and his big desk. Look at it. There is no apparent computer on his desk. And he still uses paper clippings. Not a computer screen to show something, but clippings from newspapers...

    I cringe and hope he recycles religiously.

  • AudioSuede

    It's easy to key in on that and ignore the vast examples of the men being equally stupid for the sake of humor. I feel like we (myself included) watch for sexism with Sorkin more since the uproar about sexism in The Social Network, and it distracts from the fact that he's really been much more balanced than a lot of other showrunners in a similar position. If he only made the women look silly, that would obviously be a problem. But that simply isn't the case.

  • Wigamer

    I couldn't watch more than 5 min. of The Social Network because I cannot stand Jesse Eisenberg, so I guess I missed out on the attendant sexism conversation as well. To me, the men on The Newsroom do stupid things, but they all tend to be done in pursuit of/because of some greater good, or are presented as an ongoing aspect of their character. I feel like the women are sometimes subject to doing out-of-character, one-off kinds of stupid things that don't add much to my understanding of the character.

  • Last season, Will complained about not being able to put his pants on properly, and in the follow up scene fell to the floor in his attempt to get dressed. Not sure what that added to our understanding of his character, because he wasn't high at the time. That's one example of the patently stupid things the male staff of the show did, and the fact that it was, in essence, a pratfall would indicate that making news staff into buffoons is not limited to the women only. Also, Neal's bigfoot story, while not a physical issue, was carried on a bit too long for anyone to take seriously, and it has colored how his ideas have been received since.

    That said, the women do have slightly more stupid moments, and often those involve emotional reactions that are stereotypical or out of proportion. I could use a little less of that. Maggie's transformation holds promise, and the end of the love-triangle crap was also a relief.

  • LeikanS

    I agree but I still hate her less than I did before, just not gonna dive into that Kool-Aid pool because... reasons.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I do love Jeff Daniels...smart, talented, just good-looking enough, goofy, no stupid gossip about him...he gets a gold star from me.

  • sean

    I want to love this show. I really do. At best, all that is happening is a mild like. Something to pass the time. The famous Sorkin dialogue is just too much. No one fucking talks like that. No one. It is distracting most of the time.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    So... do people talk more like... I don't know... Honey Boo Boo?

  • AudioSuede

    No one talked like the characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream, even in Shakespeare's day. No one talks like the people in His Girl Friday. There's a place for realistic television and a place for theatrical television. Sorkin is theatrical, and once you're able to accept that his characters are not "real" people, it makes it so much easier to enjoy.

  • sean

    But that is the problem. His characters are intended to exist in our world. Commenting on events in our world. His theatrical dialogue distracts from doing that.

  • Maryscott O'Connor

    Oh, come ON. "Nobody talks like that" is a complaint I expect to hear from a philistine, not a sophisticated gourmand of drama. Are you telling me you want realistic dialogue? Truly? You want them to pepper their conversations with "uhs" and "likes" and "I can't think of the word I needs?" because THAT is realistic dialogue. REAL people talk in stilted, fumbling, dumb sentences that NOBODY wants to listen to in dramatic representations of life. We watch drama (and comedy and everything in between) for a stylised, idealised portrait of how it could and/or should be, or might be in another universe. I do t want to watch how people talk in real life. I get enough of that in real life. People get paid big bucks to make actors talk BETTER than real life.
    Get serious.

  • AudioSuede

    The surreal can absolutely comment on the real. An enhanced or augmented or distorted version of reality can still be about and geared towards the real world. Just like if you see a play or a musical on a stage; the style is heightened, it's decidedly not how people would interact in our day-to-day existence, but we can still understand that it's about us, about our world. Just because they talk quickly and articulately doesn't make them aliens, it's a stylistic choice to make the production more entertaining. It makes sense for them to talk that way in the reality of the show because everyone in the show talks that way. And no production, no matter how gritty and real they try to make it, exists in "our world." There's always distance. We don't hear music punctuating every moment of our life like a score. We don't live in a world of monochrome or blue highlights or washed-out colors that evoke whatever emotion we're supposed to be feeling. It's not like they're doing anything that's physically impossible, they're just talking in an elevated manner for an effect. If they could shoot lasers out of their eyes, that would be problematic. But they're just talking.

  • Mark

    Would love to see an otherwise entirely realistic show where the characters occasionally shoot lasers from their eyes

  • sean

    That would be awesome. Their cats as well.

  • Maguita NYC

    Beyond his "White Old Man" isms, his at-times silly yet endearing old-fart ideologies, Jeff Daniels reminds me of sexy cool university professors who are comfortable in their own skin, and are quite aware of it.

  • sean

    That is odd since Daniels has played sleazy, cheating husband university professors. A couple of times that I can think of. Terms of Endearment and
    The Squid and the Whale.

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