Last night proved why NEWSROOM is “literally” the best drama on television. Episode 2 further explores the responsibilities of journalists. It looks like this season will focus on Ethics. The main story involves Neil’s (Dev PATEL) act of “espionage”. But JANE FONDA arrives at the end and nearly steals the whole dang show. Don’t let this remarkable series SLIP/THROUGH the cracks.
While some may dismiss NEWSROOM as just a whole bunch of talking heads, this HBO show is never boring. This week actually had a lot of humour from various characters. The quips are so snappy & dry that you almost miss half of them. I’ll make sure to highlight a few here though.
Olivia Munn’s character, SLOAN, gets further developed. She has a controversy of her own. Her conflict of responsibility was sharing stock market tips with her (kinda-)boyfriend. I like how their relationship is blooming. Both are hesitant & afraid to commit. The best jokes early on come from the buffet and Sloan’s waffle cravings. Again, we get a comment on social media. Even though she’s in public she has to protect her image just in case others might blog something nasty. So she makes Don get those waffles & lobster claws.
Mammie Gummer gets a bit more screen-time this episode. Her character’s controversy revolves around a vicious Tweet. Again, social (media) commentary. By the end of the episode, it looks like the competition will recruit her. I wonder if she’ll go “undercover” espionage-style and leak their top stories to ACN?
ACN, the news network of NEWSROOM, is negotiating a buyout. New owners want in. Jane Fonda is the head of the company, while her son (Chris Messina) runs the day-to-day. The potential new owners are children from Fonda’s ex-husband – a “space cadet” (re: intellectually void) son & a wise-cracking power-hungry daughter (played by 2 BROKE GIRLS, Kat Dennings). Last night, the stage was set for a larger arc to play out through the season.
Charlie (think veteran top producer) isn’t too happy about this hostile takeover. But he doesn’t let it show. His rage is quiet. I love his slow walk across the boardroom, like a gunslinger at High Noon in a Western – each step pronounced, as he advances. No manipulative musical orchestration nor zoom in are necessary. Just the man. His words are his bullets. He lets Dennings know who she’s really dealing with as he simply says, “It’s me, now.” WOW. I love Sam Waterson’s performance. But I also love the restraint here. We all know Aaron Sorkin can write speeches with the best of him. But he pulls back. His simple approach is lethal. The pen IS mightier.
Another Charlie joke worth highlighting regards the dim-witted son. When Charlie inquires about why these 25 year olds need billions of dollars, the son replies, “Maybe get into BitCoin?” Charlie’s priceless reply as he jabs his finger in the air, “Shut the f**k up.” Again, simple. Threatening. Funny.
Back with Patel’s Edward SNOWDEN-esque storyline… Jeff Daniels (lead anchor) and Emily Mortimer (lead producer) want to protect Patel. They believe truth is the most important commodity. That said, they worry about him. They don’t want him locked away in Guantanamo or something.
Just when it gets really intense & serious, Sorkin’s humour breaks the tension. A stand out moment was Daniels with Mortimer (re: protecting / worrying over Patel). Daniels says Mortimer agreed with him. She says, “I didn’t agree.” He retorts, “You didn’t push back. I assume that meant you agreed with me.”
Allison Pill’s storyline also examines the responsibilities of journalists breaking a story, debating the reasoning for “off-the-record.” Pill uses stealth and “spies” on an important source in the train. She recruits an accomplice and hides to record the story. This was really compelling subject matter. And a larger theme for this season.
The source’s report covers the drastic effects of climate change. Pill gets a copy before the President even sees it. After the hassle and debate about spying on a conversation in public, Pill asks the source why he would say this aloud now, in front of the whole train. He says, “No one’s listening.”
I really love this parallel to reality. This comment refers to “US”. Like, the public gets this “report” jammed in their face & they still don’t believe it. “No one’s listening,” despite hearing the evidence loud & clear. Intriguing subtext.
A great laugh comes in a verbal exchange after-the-fact between her accomplice she met on the train. She asks him, “What do you do?” “Teach,” he replies. “Teach what?” “Ethics.” “Get outta town?!” “I’m trying to.” Brilliant firecracker dialogue. THIS is why I love NEWSROOM so much. And it just continues…
Here’s another scene to highlight… During a long winded speech the character is called out, “You’re giving a monologue.” “Everyone does where I work.” I love this sort of self-aware humour which is sprinkled about sparsely. I’m thinking this is Sorkin taking a playful stab at himself & his writing style. This reminds me of the calculated restraint employed earlier with Charlie’s simple words. A good through-line joke.
The focus shifts back to the boardroom… JANE FONDA’s character is a real stand-out. I loved her rant about the word “literally” and how, due to its constant misuse in conversational English, the dictionary has changed its definition. “Literally, quite literally, doesn’t exist anymore”. WOW. This is another instance of illuminating social commentary. But it’s also just dang funny. Funny cuz it’s true. Jane Fonda literally steals the show.
It’s hilarious because the Internet IS changing how we speak. It makes me frightened of the intellectual giants we get to look forward to. If culture understands the lie as the truth, the truth is a lie. This regards news reporting in general, but also ties in with the espionage secrets & news networks relying on Social Media to deliver the news they cover. Look no further than CNN covering Bill Cosby rather than Ferguson or latest ISIL news. The Internet trends Cosby allegations, so CNN airs it.
We a little backstory on Fonda and ACN. We learn how she scraped together hard-earned money alongside her ex-husband (NOT Ted Turner from TBS) to form the News Network. Someone asks (paraphrasing here), “How’d you raise 3.5 million dollars?” She corrects them saying, “AND, 350 dollars… It was the last 350 that was hard… I sold my clothes… I sold weed… Just joking, I didn’t sell my clothes.” Hilarious. Dry. Jane Fonda’s timing with her dialogue is brilliant.
The final scenes involve Jeff Daniels’ commitment to the truth and his staff. By the way, great line when the authorities come asking for Patel’s character Daniels says, “I’m Spartacus.” Great joke for cinema lovers… What follows is an intense escape from the authorities. No action, more like dialogue. The “menu” element was compelling too. This segment of the show felt like I was watching THE BOURNE IDENTITY or something. It was that exciting.
And that’s what NEWSROOM does best. It makes the news exciting. We spend time with the people behind the news and the dilemmas they face in uncovering the “truth”.
What do you think? Is Jane Fonda “literally” your favourite character? What was your favourite joke?