TV Review – “The Newsroom” episodes 7 & 8: Things Are Looking Up

Written by Jesse Gelinas August 24, 2012

“One from column A and one from column B is bullshit.”

I was not overly impressed with the first half of HBOs latest drama. It has all the ingredients that should make an instant classic: great cast, well-written dialogue, and relatable material (mainly because it all deals with major news stories of the last two years. I actually feel like that last point hinders the show’s potential a bit and will make it feel dated after a few short years off the air. However, with a relatively mundane opening half, the series is actually beginning to pick up speed with the latest episodes, ‘5/1’ and ‘Blackout: Tragedy Porn’ (the latter being the first half of a two-parter). It may be saved yet…

**WARNING: Episode 7 & 8 spoilers below trailer**

 “You’re going to remember this night…”

So, that trailer told you a lot, huh? Actually, the title tells you more. The episode picks up a year (and a week) after the first and deals with the chaos and confusion concerning an important announcement about to be made by President Obama and the efforts of the ACN staff to report the yet unknown news as soon as possible, even if it means reporting without confirmation. Of course, the news of the day is the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of SEAL Team Six. The drama is real, and the action and dialogue are tight and well put together. It’s a step up from the earlier episodes, and definitely a step in the right direction for the show.

Now, on top of the bin Laden news, we’re also treated to a delightfully uninteresting love triangle forming between Jim, Maggie, and Disposable 3rd Girl. This angle of the show still plays out like someone trying to write a dramatic version of “The Office” and it’s still where the show continues to lose me. There’s also this really cheeeeeeeeeese bit toward the end with Don and a couple of airline pilots where you can just hear the little engineers tugging on your heartstrings. It was almost too much. What was absolutely too much was the exact same scene being repeated immediately after with two police officers, but thankfully is quickly forgotten.

And they all celebrate with a good old-fashioned sing-along

God has comedic timing

‘Tragedy Porn’ takes place almost a month later and after blowing a couple top stories, ACN is bleeding viewers and is in desperate need of a boost in ratings. On top of this, a journalist is now hanging around the newsroom to do a report on the new and improved ACN. At Will’s behest his ex-girlfriend’s ex-lover is chosen to write it. The reason becomes clearer as the episode goes on and we actually get to see Will visit his psychiatrist for a change.

The episode is another step up in quality. The news story being tossed around this time centers on the Casey Anthony trial (for those who don’t remember she was the mother accused of murdering her two-year old daughter). The dialogue is once again crisp and entertaining and Aaron Sorkin is obviously finding his pace and timing and not bombarding us with mile-a-minute conversations left, right, and center. We’re also treated to a brilliantly enjoyable little scene where the staff analyzes Nancy Grace’s coverage of the trial. Will and Mack also clash on what to consider news when the Casey Anthony trial contends with Anthony Wiener’s wiener and the vote on raising the debt ceiling. They’re all so enticing! This is one of the funnier episodes and proves the show can balance the laughs and drama very well when it wants to.

Munn MAD!

“Never imply the viewer doesn’t know anything.”

On the negative side, the episode is a bit of a letdown after the dramatic catharsis that came with the bin Laden episode, and we’re now watching as Charlie goes all cloak & dagger, meeting with an NSA informant. It’s all a tad too “X-Files” for me (coming from a man who loves him some “X-Files”).

Overall, the show is finally finding its footing and turning out successive quality shows. The humour is better, the drama is better, and Jeff Daniels is still a joy to watch in the lead role. The show really could have some potential to go from good to great, and honestly I’m now glad that it’s been renewed for next season. We need more of this kind of thing on TV, especially since it’s apparently having an impact on real newscasters (see Soledad O’Brien on CNN for proof).

My Ratings:

‘5/1’ – 8/10

‘Tragedy Porn’ – 7.5/10

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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