I’m increasingly trying not to give The Newsroom my full attention while I watch, answering email or paying bills or cleaning or anything to distract from Will McEvoy’s infuriating “mission to civilize” all of us ditzy, celebrity-gossip-writing, reality-television-watching, hidden-handgun-toting ladies. At this point, I just figure that this is what it’s going to be with Sorkin as long as I’m watching the show, which may not be forever. (I was willing to subscribe to HBO in part for The Newsroom and in part to catch up with Girls on demand, so once that’s happened I’m not sure I’ll be willing to keep paying for this.)
I do wish Will’s Adventures in Dating Down hadn’t take up the first 75% of the episode, because the idea of centering an episode around the Giffords shooting, and how news organizations react to events like that, is so much more interesting to me. This might be professional bias - do non-journalists care that much about watching journalists handle a breaking news crisis? — but as a journalist, that’s what interests me and I think that’s what Sorkin can and has previously done well, when he’s not writing his characters big speeches about what “men” do.
But I continue to wish Sorkin had chosen to go the Good Wife route and have The Newsroom staff cover thinly-veiled fictional versions of real-life events, instead of setting it in the past and having them cover the events themselves. The Giffords shooting, as portrayed in this week’s episode of The Newsroom, was almost anticlimactic - we knew the outcome, we knew she didn’t die despite initial new reports. And as others have pointed out, it makes the show seem smug and a little callous to reduce this real-life tragedy, in which six other people did die, to a plot device to show how great the journalists of The Newsroom are, in that they didn’t fall into the trap of rushing to report her death and getting it wrong. Maybe setting the show in a slightly fictionalized universe and writing about a similar assassination attempt on a fictional public figure would still seem somewhat callous, but it would also be so much more dramatically interesting. If we in the audience don’t know what the outcome has to be, doesn’t it make us much more invested in what the characters decide to do?