Monday, July 9, 2012

Newsroom on HBO--Episode 3 "The 112th Congress"

Breaking News: My opinion of “Newsroom” just went way up.  Again it was the story about how the news was covered that captured me, and not the silly storylines about the various romantic entanglements and personal relationships of the characters.

Again I have to compare “Newsroom” to “The West Wing.”  “The West Wing” gave us President Josiah Bartlett, a president that never was and never will be, but who nonetheless exemplifies everything we wish a president would be.  (Even Barack Obama, a president who I believe is the best president of my lifetime, is not as good as President Bartlett.)  The “Newsroom” gives us Will McAvoy, a news anchor who never was and never will be, but who nonetheless exemplifies everything we wish a news anchor would be.

The show opens with Will McAvoy on-air, giving an impassioned speech about how news organizations have failed this country and the dire consequences of that failure.  He apologizes and promises to do better.  And then he starts to do just that.  It is wonderful to watch as goes after the tea party, showing how “the big-money interests” in this country co-opted the tea party. 

The show covers the six months leading up to the 2010 midterm elections. He exposes ignorance, stupidity, and shamelessness, and bemoans the fate of “solid conservatives” who lose their seats to the demagogues and “crazies.”  He refuses to sensationalize the news or give time to trivial fluff pieces. It is obvious now why it was a smart move for the shows writers to have McAvoy be a Republican.  It gives his exposes credence; if the character was a Democrat, his truth-telling about Republican tea-partiers would be dismissed as partisan politics.  

 None of the exposes on the show come as a surprise to me.  I saw it all on MSNBC in real time. McAvoy has become an anchor who would be right at home at MCNBC.  In fact, in this episode, one of McAvoy’s co-workers actually says this—only it is an accusation, not a compliment.

Of course, McAvoy is not going to be allowed to tell the truth. The owner of the Atlantic News Media, the company that employs Will McAvoy, is Leona Lansing (played by Jane Fonda).  The imperial Leona is furious—she is losing her friends in high places because of McAvoy, and worse, she is losing money and not just because ratings for the show are down. She angrily shouts, “I have business interests before this Congress!”  Jane Fonda is wonderful in this role.

She warns the shows genial, but equally fierce president of the news division, Charlie Skinner (played by Sam Waterson), that if McAvoy doesn’t return the show to its former blandness she will fire him.  McAvoy has a three-year non-compete clause and his career will be ruined.

How will the show resolve this?  If McAvoy caves, there is no show.  If McAvoy is fired, there is no show.  The field has been set for an epic battle.  I guess I’ll have to watch next Sunday.