Tuesday, August 13, 2013

HBO Newsroom #15 “News Night with Will McAvoy”

Real Time with Will McAvoy
By Catherine Giordano

Olivia Munn as Sloan on "The Newsroom"
HBO’s “The Newsroom” does some things so well and other things so badly that the bad stuff makes us doubt the good stuff. And that is too bad.

Episode  #16, airing on 08/05/13, “News Night with Will McAvoy” was done in “real time” (more or less) giving us a look at the newsroom during  the 8pm to 9pm airing of the fictional ACN show, “News Night with Will McAvoy.” To a large extent, it was a ripped from the headlines show laced with the usual melodrama of the newsroom staff.

The hour began with Will McAvoy getting a cell phone call from “Dad” just seconds before the start of the show.  Of course, he cannot pick up the call.  (One small question: Would a news anchor have his personal cell phone, even if set to vibrate, with him as he does his show. Wouldn’t the phone be turned off and back in his office?)

During each commercial break, MacKenzee nags at Will to return the call. Over and over, she harangues him. (One small question: Wouldn’t this be none of her business? She talks to him like she was his mother and he was about 15 years old.) Will calls and discovers that his father had a heart attack and a bystander used Will’s father’s phone to call him. The drama plays out during each commercial break and will makes a call to the hospital. Will never gets to talk to his father; just before the final segment he learns that his father has died. Overcome with emotion, he freezes on air. Touching story, and maybe it really could happen that way in the real world.

What wouldn’t happen is Neal barging in during every break to tell Will that someone on Twitter is complaining that Will was rude to her in a restaurant. Why is this so important that Neal would even mention it at all, much less in the middle of a show? It serves the plot though because Neal looks for other #NewsHour tweets and discovers that the guest in the green room who was booked to talk about (the real-life story) of a young male college student, Tyler Clementi, committing suicide after his homosexual encounter was put on YouTube. It seems the guest plans to come out on the show.  MacKenzee refuses to allow him on the air because “This is not Maury Povitch.”

Another real-life news story is breaking news about the 911 tape of George Zimmerman being released. Maggie has only minutes to edit the tape down to 45 seconds and because she was rushed, she makes a mistake just like the one made in real-life by NBC. When the recording is aired it sounds like “he looks black” was volunteered by Zimmerman instead of being a response to a question asked by the 911 operator. This gives McKenzee an excuse to bump the guy who wants to come out on national TV because (unlike in real life) they use the final segment to give an on-air apology and play the tape in full.   

Jim is back from covering the Romney campaign in New Hampshire so he has time to engage with Maggie’s soliloquy on sluts. In real-life Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke, a college student advocating for including free birth control in Obama care, a slut.  Maggie wants to know what’s wrong with being a slut? Her thesis: A girl has right to be a slut if she wants to and no one should judge her for it. It seems she has been getting drunk al lot and letting her inner slut engage in random sex. It’s how she is dealing with the trauma of her experience in Africa; she can’t bear to sleep alone.

There’s another sub-plot dealing with a real-life event. A newspaperman made a joke about Chuck Hegel speaking before a group called Friends of Hamas and the story was picked up at reported as fact by the right-wing breightbart.com.  On the show it was Don who made the joke and it was about “The Daughters of Jihadi Excellence.”  (One Small question: “Daughters?”  What jihadi group would have “daughters” in their name? Wouldn’t it have been ‘sons”?  Is everyone in the writers’ room even more drunk than Maggie?

In addition to chatting with Maggie about sluts, Jim is handling a phone call that has come into the newsroom about another breaking news story. Some bombs have gone off in Damascus, and a woman calls in saying her husband is trapped in the rubble and has called her to tell her no one is coming to help. The wife is in the U.S., but Jim gets patched into the call as the man pleas for help. I don’t know if this story happened in real-life, but it could have. It turns out the cracker-jack Newsroom team investigates and discovers the call is a scam, and the story never gets on to the air. Imagine, “The Newsroom” crew doing something right.  

While Jim is getting something right, Charlie, an ACN exec, is busy getting something wrong. He gets a visit from a friend from naval intelligence who poses a hypothetical question to Charlie that so closely resembles the Genoa scenario that Charlie is now convinced that the Genoa story is true. (I’m convinced too—could Charlie’s source be alluding to some other incident?).

But the biggest melodrama of the hour is Sloan who mopes around in a funk for most of the show. It seems an ex-boyfriend had some nude pictures of her, and when she broke it off with him, those pictures ended up all over the internet. Sloan could lose her job at ACN over this, and besides it is really humiliating, so sitting on the floor in dark corners of someone else’s (Don’s) office is understandable.

So far we have gotten through the whole show without anyone hitting anyone.  That is about to end. This time it is not McKenzee, it is Sloan. She goes to her ex-lover’s Wall Street office and barges into a conference room where he is evidently in a late night meeting. (The show is in real-time, remember, so it is about 8:45 pm.) Sloan calls him into the hall way, gives him a hard knee to the groin and strong uppercut to the face, knocking him down. The guy gets up and begins to come after her, but he is stopped by Don, the Heroic Defender.  (One small question: Don is the producer of the 10pm news show, but he has time accompany Sloan on her foray? Another small question:  Doesn’t it take at least a half hour to get from midtown to Wall Street in a taxi at that hour?

Oh never mind, trying to sort out what is real, what is not real, and what is unreal is giving me a headache. 

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