HBO's 'The Newsroom': There's no making out in here
There's no making out in a newsroom.
If you watched HBO's show "The Newsroom" Sunday night, you saw an executive producer and associate producer locking lips on the stairs after covering an election. The most mortifying body contact I've witnessed in The Seattle Times newsroom was a fist bump.
The smooches were minor transgressions in the "The 112th Congress" episode. The bigger transgression was the wholesale lifting of the Jesus Moses golf speech from a 1997 Esquire profile of Tiger Woods. And that was overshadowed by the continued portrayal of the two female leads, MacKenzie McHale and Margaret Jordan, as twits.
Maureen Ryan spotted the women problems early and has written about it extensively at AOL's Huffington Post. I had hoped that the show would take a turn for the better and they would turn into C.J. and the First Lady from Sorkin's earlier show "The West Wing."
It did not happen Sunday night. MacKenzie, the executive producer and a supposedly hardened journalist, spends the whole episode jealous of the women her ex-boyfriend and anchor Will McAvoy are dating. Associate producer Maggy has a panic attack in the midst of a meeting when she runs out of Xanax and she has to be rescued by sheepdog Jim Harper.
It would be a non-issue if men had the same breakdowns on the show. But they seem to only happen to the two women we're supposed to care about the most.
If there are two characters I want to be, it's the men: Will and Charlie Skinner (or as he's known in my household, Eyebrows).
Eyebrows, the news director, gets to denounce ratings, throw back shots of bourbon and argue for news as a public service in a board room meeting with the network owner.
Will delivers a boring Aaron Sorkin lecture on the failures of broadcast journalism early in the show, "apologizing to the American people for our failure, the failure of this program during the time I've been in charge of it to successfully inform and educate the public." Still, he's compelling as he lobs pointed questions at Tea Party candidates.
Leona Lansing, the network's owner played by Jane Fonda, has some potential. I appreciate the irony of Fonda playing a media mogul, after she was married to Ted Turner, creator of CNN.
She had a good point to make when she demanded the show bring back segments about obesity and older women having children. Those are important stories, as is the radicalization of the Tea Party. But it's not an either/or. We can cover the politics on this blog, and we can also write about what a cable TV show says about journalism and women.
Are the show's writers coasting on Fonda's acting and reputation? Her speech about Jesus and Moses playing golf ("Do you want to play golf or do you want to... ") was ripped off from a 1997 Esquire profile of Tiger Woods written by Charles P. Pierce. Moses was originally Saint Peter in the Esquire's telling. The animals were different.
It's not technically plagiarism, but it sure feels like a failure.
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