S1E1, We Just Decided To – My Thoughts Exactly

I worked in a newsroom not too long ago. Only it was called “The War Room” in my case. It wasn’t for a televised news show like Atlantis Cable News, but for the Queens Chronicle, the most widely read and distributed print newspaper in Queens.

I’ll never forget the day that the paper’s editor-in-chief approached me and said that he wanted me to front a story for their website about Congressman Weiner’s expected resignation later that day. The E.I.C. gave me a press release that was still hot off the printer and asked me to get on it. What ensued was an experience not far from the one I just witnessed in the first episode of The Newsroom.

In my case, preparing a story with such little notice was fairly easy, mainly due to the fact that Weiner had already made various statements and remarks about his situation. In the case of the oil drilling explosion and spill off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the first episode of The Newsroom, this was not so. Everyone had to work together as one efficient machine, no matter what people’s views were or how they felt about one another. They had to get along (or at least respect one another to some degree) to get the job done. Once the realized that, the pieces of the story almost fell into place by themselves.

The Newsroom perfectly portrays life in a bustling news room. Go figure!

The Newsroom perfectly portrays life in a bustling news room. Go figure!

In the beginning of the pilot episode, Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels, whom I felt a special connection to after recently visiting Gettysburg, PA and seeing him play the roll of Colonel Chamberlain in Gettysburg) admits that the United States is not the best country in the world; it’s far behind in so many areas, but just like it was the greatest country in the world at one point in time, it can be again. Unfortunately, McAvoy chooses to say this after cursing out liberals and conservatives during a political debate (as well as a “college frat girl”).

Viewers experience the debate in McAvoy’s point of view, which is achieved by having the camera rack in and out of focus on both sides of the debate floor while seeing McAvoy rub his temples and roll his eyes. Debates can often times be disorienting and hard to sit through, especially when childishness and name-calling is involved. This is how I sometimes feel during political debates involved presidential candidates, political parties, etc, so I was immediately able to associate with McAvoy. He didn’t have to say how he was feeling about the debate for people to understand that he doesn’t believe there’s any point to the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person/party/candidate makes (even though he goes on to do so a few minutes later).

Despite these facts, McAvoy’s main point is clear. Viewers start off wondering how McAvoy feels about the whole debate situation, then are confronted by an outburst of full-on rage (incited by a pugnacious debate moderator, might I add), and then are introduced to a caring, nostalgic, and somewhat mourning side of the man. Unfortunately, the media and his co-workers/employers twists his words and choose what part of his speech they want to listen to. For a majority of the rest of the episode, McAvoy feuds with Charlie Skinner (ACN news division president) and Don Keefer (the former executive producer of McAvoy’s show) about the direction of the show and the introduction of a new executive producer (which viewers find out is McAvoy’s ex-girlfriend). It’s only when, as mentioned before, the oil spill story surfaces that the team is forced to work together and put aside their differences for the good of the show and out of respect for the men and women who lost their lives in the explosion.

Despite their differences, the team learns that the show must go on.

Despite their differences, the team learns that the show must go on.

The main reason that this pilot episode works so well is because of its cleverness and likeliness to the work of George Orwell. In Animal Farm, Orwell uses various farm animals to make a sociopolitical and psychological statement about the nature of Soviet Russia after WWII. In “We Just Decided To,” Aaron Sorkin (the show’s creator) uses the colorful cast of a broadcast television newsroom to represent the state of the government in US and how things could be if people worked across to the aisle. This cast works in other realms of thought like racial stereotyping (the tech guy) and office relationships/love triangles (Don, Maggie and James), but it shines overall as a show that wants to get right to the point and get the work done.

Minus parts of the show that slow down the action just a tad towards the middle (like MacKenzie’s introduction back into the world of the news room and awkward bouts of tension between Don and James), I think this episode well deserves a 4.5/5 rating!

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By the way, this is a link to the article I eventually produced at the QC–just in case anyone is interested: QChron Weiner Resigns