‘The Newsroom’ Recap (Season 1, Episode 6): “Bullies”

Therapy, bodyguards, Fukushima, and a Rick Santorum supporter making some sense.

Okay, so this is an analogy that only a select portion of readers will understand, but I feel like watching The Newsroom is like trying on a dress that you can’t get out of. Like, it looked really promising and you’ve always liked this store and it just seemed like a good thing…and then, ten minutes later, you don’t know what happened but you are totally trapped and the zipper is stuck (I don’t know what the zipper represents here; patriarchy? Bad writing? Let’s just move on). And you feel shock, and then anger, and then immeasurable sorrow, and then back to anger, really just a lot of anger. What the hell happened here, you think, trying to silently Hulk out of your self-made prison, this seemed like it was going to go really well.

YEAH, so this episode had all the flaws the series has shown so far–badly written female characters, overwritten speeches (but the actual episode is hardly written), casual racism, nobody who seems to know how to handle the main character–but these flaws are so evident, and so consistent, and so well articulated by now by everybody and their mother (literally, even mine) that I don’t even know how to write about them without just copying the same paragraph from each recap every week. I could change the individual offenses week to week, I guess, but that’s just sort of depressing– just like this show, which keeps running itself into the ground in really avoidable ways that anyone in the production crew could’ve (should’ve) pointed out. It’s honestly depressing to even recap sometimes. For instance: did Will McAvoy really call Neal “Tonto”? Are you fucking kidding me? And hello, what a timely controversy to link to as well. It’s honestly starting to get harder and harder to write about this show without entering into a rage blackout. So can you blame me for having to resort to awful dress/analogy therapy?

While I’m mentioning it, therapy did play a big (lazy) role in this week’s episode–using the daring tactic of framing the episode with Will’s therapy session, the show was able to (lazily) reveal some aspects of Will’s character that were heretofore unseen. As in, actually unseen. It was revealed that Will’s father was an abusive alcoholic, and as a result, Will has some overprotectiveness issues–okay. I don’t have any snarky little comments about that–though I will say, from my experience as a viewer of this show, that while Will’s character is depicted as having a range of flaws and issues, overprotectiveness–the one specifically linked with his abusive childhood–has never seemed to be one of them. I’m probably not articulating this the right way, but I’m going to try anyway–the way this revelation was treated, out of the blue and obviously intended to ‘shock!’ the viewer, seemed like just another character trait that felt ‘dramatic’ enough to stack onto all the others–’child prodigy’, ‘criminal law prosecutor’, etc. It’s not that I don’t think this character can’t be all of those things–this is an over-the-top show and so it makes sense that its characters are equally larger than life. However, these are all things that have major and dramatic impacts on a character’s motivation and history–flinging out fun facts like “Will passed the bar when he was 7 months old” or whatever during an episode, without any prior or later mention of it, that’s just bad writing. It seemed like tonight’s reveal about Will’s father was flung out in the same way, and to do that with a topic like abuse, which is so delicate and so resonant an issue with so many people, that just seemed like something far worse than bad writing.

And really, when can a television law be passed that dictates “Verily, unless you are Monk, or a show actually about therapy, or you have had a very, very good season so far and thus feel entitled to put your feet up for an episode and do jack shit, thou shalt stop having therapy episodes. Just write your show, jesus.”

AND SPEAKING OF JESUS, someone on the behind the scenes writing staff (because I guess there must be a secret one for Aaron Sorkin to fire them all (and yet he is the credited writer on almost every episode so far)) must have a very crystal clear image of why Will McAvoy is so unlikeable and a cruel sense of humor to make those words come from the mouth of a Rick Santorum staffer.

Anyways, during the rest of this episode:

-Three sightings of Chris Matthews’ son! Record-breaking tally so far!

-Olivia Munn had a really large part this episode! If I just focus on that bit of positive news, I won’t have to focus on how dissatisfied I was with the part they gave her.

-I actually thought Sam Waterston was going to explode on screen.

-This episode was centered around the Fukushima disaster. The deference and honor of the Japanese people was brought up a lot, and it kind of felt like when you have to read grade-school reports on the cultures of other countries and you are vaguely concerned with how reductive and problematic it is, but then you kind of let it go because these are third-graders you’re dealing with here–except these are not third graders, these are professional writers who are paid thousands and thousands of dollars to write smart entertainment television for people who actually have to pay to watch it. Soooo, maybe we could do a bit better with that?

-Additionally, I am no expert here but since the initial official reaction to any major disaster seems to be a denial that anything’s wrong, maybe we can not chalk up the level 4 vs. level 7 radiation level dispute to stereotypical Japanese ‘deference’ so much as the universal human (and corporate) instinct of “SHIT I really don’t want this to be my fault.”

-What was with the wedding ring thing? I get that even the therapist was like, “Um that’s not normal” but really who does that, I do not even know how I feel about that except that I definitely feel bothered ugh ugh ugh.

-Umm, what about the HR complaint someone filed for Maggie? That seems like a big deal–why isn’t it more of a big deal? In any other show, it’d be a dramatic thread picked up in a later episode, but with this show it is entirely likely that they’ll just forget.

-Unexpectedly swinging into the “Better Shows The Newsroom Would Be If Will McAvoy Wasn’t The Lead” competition is Terry Crews, who is proving to be a tough contender for frontrunner “Emily Mortimer Is Hosting a News Show” with his offering “Terry Crews, Whose Bodies Are You Guarding?”

-Sorry for your loss, lol

-I actually was very pleased with the Basset Hound fact I learned this week. So if a television show’s success was measured by the number of surprising dog facts it featured, this week’s episode would have been a winner (but it wasn’t, and this dress definitely does not fit).

Allison Surette McCarthy is a third year at Hampshire College, studying television writing and social change. Her accomplishments include being Employee of the Month January 2012 at a Holiday Inn, and ...read more

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