The Newsroom, S1 Ep3 – The 112th Congress

You guys, Sorkin’s still got it. This is the first episode of the show that jumps forward and backward in time (only over a period of months, but still), and perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also the first one that was just about jaw-droppingly amazing in my opinion. It’s still got some issues, but it’s great.

We open in the middle of preparations for going to air. All of the staff look tense. The broadcast starts with footage from 2004 of former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clark apologizing at the congressional 9/11 commission, admitting his fault and the fault of the government. Then Will follows up with his own apology, stating that “adults should hold themselves accountable for failure”, and then I started to get it. (Also, upon rewatch, this scene reminds me of the first episode of Sports Night that really made me sit up and take notice: “The Apology”. I’m sensing a trend here.)


I wonder what would have happened if he’d sent this to the entire company.

During Will’s eloquent, thorough apology for the failure of his program to accurately present the news in order to inform the electorate, it cuts to glimpses of Will’s first handwritten draft, to various News Night staffers getting calls and emails about it in the middle of the night, to Will, Mack, Jim, and Neal discussing it together, to Charlie reading it in his office and approving it. “The reason we failed isn’t a mystery,” Will says. “We took a dive for the ratings.” He informs viewers that News Night is quitting the ratings business. They will instead be doing the news according to the rules of News Night 2.0 as we saw outlined last week. He gives Mackenzie a good amount of credit, which pleases me.

Wow, that was hard to condense. Thanks a lot, Sorkin. Anyway, immediately afterward, we cut to Charlie, Reese, some presenter guy, and Jane Fonda in a darkened meeting room. The presentation screen has a graph about News Night‘s performance from April to November of 2010. Here come the network’s complaints.

Charlie’s on the defensive the whole time during this meeting, and Reese is a slimy, smug, waste of space. Charlie argues repeatedly that what Will and Mack are doing is good for AWM and its cable network despite some lost ratings. Reese and the others repeatedly point out how Will’s “attacks” on people like the Tea Party and its big business supporters are damaging the company. Jane Fonda’s character, Leona Lansing, listens silently.

Back in the past, very soon after Will’s apology airs, Don comes to talk to Jim about it. He’s pissed because this announcement of News Night‘s new direction is going to make his 10:00 show with Elliot — which can’t take this new direction, even if Don might want to jump onboard, or Don will get fired — look bad. Okay, I do feel for him a little bit, but mostly? Shut up, whiner.

Don whines to Maggie

Shut up, Don. Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for misspelling Alison Pill’s name in my first recap. Sorry, all.

It’s not all about you. Jim tries to protest that it wasn’t their intention to make Don “look like an asshole” (in Don’s words), but Don won’t listen. Because he already is an asshole. Next, he whines to Maggie that she should have shown him the email from Will. Whine whine whine.

The network meeting moves on to complain about News Night‘s coverage of the Times Square bomb. I remember when that happened. I remember being really annoyed at the news coverage of it, because all they did was repeat the same information or non-information for hours after the story broke. But that’s how you do the news, I guess. The network higher-ups think NN should have spent a lot more time covering it than they did.

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