S1E8, The Blackout Part One – Comic Timing

As I continue the watch The Newsroom, I’m starting to realize that even though McAvoy, MacKenzie, Jim, Sloan and the rest of the News Night team are trying to do amazing things for the worlds of live news broadcasting and television, they’re just characters. They’re part of a show that’s beginning to focus more on staying alive through what’s popular rather than telling a serious, innovative, new story. Don’t get me wrong, the show has done quite a bit of honest storytelling in the past, but as I watch it more and more I realize how much The Newsroom is really changing.

Episode eight strays away from the theme of each episode focusing in on one single major news event. Rather, it focuses on a bunch of little events, both serious and silly, factual and fictional. From Congressman Wiener and his scandalous Twitter photos to the very serious upcoming debates for presidential hopefuls, the News Night crew navigates through it all.

The reason everyone is starting to focus on the silly news is because ratings dropped tremendously after the show chose not to cover the Casey Anthony story. McAvoy and Skinner know that they’ll have to get ratings back up in order to One, not get fired and booted from the air completely and Two, to have the number of viewers needed to be a host of the upcoming debates for presidential candidates. These two factoids are all the team needs to hear to get working on stories that really don’t deserve much attention at all.

A very unhappy trio dealing with the sad fact that they'll have to deal with what they hate to get what they want.

A very unhappy trio dealing with the sad fact that they’ll have to deal with what they hate to get what they want.

 

This change in interest definitely makes sense in the real world, but I don’t seem to understand how so many viewers would have navigated away from McAvoy for such a news story. Jack Mirkinson of The Huffington Post posits the question, “If Will has been airing very high-minded shows for a year and his ratings have held up, why would they suddenly crater because of the trial? Surely the people who watched him would have learned to turn to him because he was offering an alternative.” (Huffington Post Newsroom Episode Eight Review) This is exactly how I felt when I heard the news about viewers switching channels (and I don’t believe that the fact that the Casey Anthony story was nationwide, “hot news,” because true fans of McAvoy would trust in him to filter out the garbage and focus on the serious).

As the episode goes on, viewers are introduced to another sub-plot involving a whistle blower from the NSA. The man who told Skinner about the infamous email regarding Osama Bin Laden’s death last episode shows up in person to discuss the information he has to share and under what conditions he’ll do so. It felt like watching a political crime drama film when this scene was on, which I thought was a little out of place for the show. Adding in mystery and cliffhangers for future episodes is fine, but throwing in a whole other genre of storytelling just seemed quite jarring.

The main scene that stood out to me was the one that Scott Ryan focuses on in his review of the episode on The Red Room Podcast: “The scene that should be watched and rewatched was when Don picked apart a Nancy Grace newscast. Showing you bit by bit how they manipulate the viewer, mostly women viewers.” (The Red Room Podcast Review) It’s an extremely interesting experience to see things from the producers point of view, specifically a producer from a show that manipulates viewers. It’s also quite sad to know that so many people, too many, are focused with drawing in viewers to sell products better and have higher ratings than conducting honest television shows and being truthful.

Since we’re left on a cliff hanger at the end of the episode, right after God responds to the prayers of the entire News Night team and causes a blackout (it’s implied that way, haha), not too much is tied up. Besides the conflict in interest between puff pieces / slander stories and serious, legitimate news, Sorkin also does his best to continue to add to the emotional, romantic aspect of the show by introducing MacKenzie’s other ex-boyfriend into the picture (the one she cheated on McAvoy with). As anyone can imagine, this opens up tons of awkward possibilities for character development. So far, all the audience knows is that McAvoy selected MacKenzie’s other ex for a reason, but even he’s not completely sure what that reason is yet.

MacKenzie caught in the middle of ex-boyfriend number one and ex-boyfriend number two. Awkward...

MacKenzie caught in the middle of ex-boyfriend number one and ex-boyfriend number two. Awkward…

 

In the second part of this episode, I hope to see McAvoy and MacKenize figure out a way to stand up for what they both know each other believes in while ensuring the return of their viewers. It’s a tough situation that has no easy resolution, but to have McAvoy cave into the crap that he’s been fighting the whole season so easily just won’t work. Maybe the laid-back McAvoy in this episode will be countered by a hyped-up, steadfast McAvoy in the next! This one gets a 3/5, since it’s only half of the full story (the rest of which I’m excited for).

References:

The Red Room Podcast Episode Eight Review, Scott Ryan 

The Huffington Post Episode Eight Review, Jack Mirkinson

About Daniel

Daniel is a graduate of CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College, summa cum laude with a B.A. in Film Production and TV/Radio. He can be reached via his website, www.passingplanes.com. The Utopia of Daniel was his college blog and he has since transitioned to posting on other sites.