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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…and pulling faces.
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.
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.
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.
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.