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The Newsroom S02E02: "The Genoa Tip"


If I were to give The Newsroom a hip, flashy makeover, I’d change the title to N.E.W.Z. and the tagline would be "You news or lose." Of course this is a terrible idea for two reasons: 1) I can’t think of enough words to flesh out that acronym, and 2) any newsperson worth her weight in scoops knows that sometimes you "news and lose." Being a good investigative reporter means sharing unbiased facts, staying at an emotional arm's length from important stories that affect the real world. On good days, doing so informs the human race, connects people, and facilitates society’s improvement. On bad ones, objective research on a given story intimately stirs the soul, reminding you that the characters in play are all actual people whose lives you can’t personally rescue, in the name of fair journalism. "The Genoa Tip" succeeded most when exploring this worthy theme, but a nagging attention to petty office drama drove the whole execution into frustrating territory.


Let’s just get this out of the way right up front: That Sloan conversation about women loving closets? That's the kind of stuff people are talking about when they say The Newsroom is derisive toward its female characters. Yes, some women can love closets (and shopping, and chocolate, and Sex and the City, and going "squeee!" in their pink jammies), but when more often than not, the male characters are the stalwart rocks keeping these daffy dames in line, it detracts from the potential of the show. Case in point, while Don soberly struggled with the impending, wrongful execution of Troy Davis, and Will pensively dwelled on his ruined legacy, Maggie and Sloan concocted a harebrained scheme to track down the user who posted that infamous Youtube video. 


To be fair, rather than accidentally Xeroxing her lipstick, Mac had a smidge more of a serious presence this go-round, encouraging Jerry Dantana’s pursuit of the titular "Genoa Tip" and green-lighting Maggie’s Kampala assignment (the one that will eventually result in her sporting that Chucky wig). It’d be nice to see Mac deal with an individual conflict on the same level as Will, (shouldn’t she have PTSD or something?), but maybe that’s where her concern for Maggie’s excursion is headed—which would be a gazillion times more interesting than hashing out the remnants of the century’s most boring love triangle. Even Jim's like "How is this still happening?":

Also, why would Maggie agree to room with "creepster hug" Lisa if they’re both going to be pissed at each other the whole time? It’s impossible to live with someone who doesn’t take out the trash, much less one who manipulated your love life. I know it’s hard to find digs in New York, but there is a website on the internets that young folks use in between cyber-texting sessions called Craigslist. Fortunately, the man connecting these two hens escaped all their frenzied clucking out on the Romney campaign, albeit with measured results. It’s clear that Jim’s being positioned romantically opposite Hallie "I’m Your Competitor" Shea, but the two are still in the discovery stage, so there’s not much to say on the matter for now. It’ll be great to see where a love between these rivals is headed, though. 


Outside of Shenanigansville, Will continued rehabilitating his image by refusing to cover both the role of shady lobbyists in alleged cop-killer Troy Davis’s fate and the legality of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki's kill-list death, much to the chagrin of his team. Ironically, while everyone around him is trying to make a difference through the news, Will McAvoy’s doing the exact opposite by pulling back from anything that might offend "America." That Will shrouds a bruised ego in valid arguments on treason and due process, even while stating that he believes the opposite, is an interesting layer to his motivations. It’s as though retreating from controversy isn’t enough, he has to adopt an attitude of condemning it. On the surface he’s licking his wounds, but deep down a long game might be forming: If he ever hopes to be heard by the masses, he has to win them back by returning to that amenable sweet spot featured in his "I’m not going anywhere" 9/11 coverage.         


Years before websites like "Why We Hate Will McAvoy" and "I Fucking Hate Will McAdouche" graced the internet, footage of Will’s first shot at the big-time offered a touching look into the birth of a household name. Sure, it’s a lucky coincidence that he’d be strolling by while these nobody employees happened to be viewing the segment, but the sentimental moment represented a tone that The Newsroom achieves uniquely well. Aside from the headline commentary, business machinations, and office hijinks, this show’s about a fallen hero’s return to glory—one normally reserved for wistful sports movies (complete with a pep talk from Coach Charlie). You wouldn’t think it’d be heartwarming to watch a man in a suit become famous again, when in Mac’s words he’s "a douchebag, and a little bit of a coward," but at the end of the day Will’s desperately on our side—and worth rooting for. He may be "bad news" now, but he’s capable of making good news... which is why it’s so frustrating to see him default to his "Jay Leno of the news" attitude. 


While I wouldn’t have minded more scenes of Will blazing spliffs in his sweet-ass high-rise, field trips outside the workplace are always welcome. His exchange with the police officer provided one of the episode’s few triumphant moments, tempered by just the right amount of vulnerability. For a figure who relies so much on the comforting nature of his image, to have his visible insecurities called out by a simple "Are you alright?"—followed by that incredulous scoff that indicated things most definitely were not—was evidence that Will’s attempts at playing middle-of-the-road hurt him more than it helped his public persona. Oh well, back to shouty-truth time!

Just as in-depth research can make a journalist feel closer to a story, the defeat in being unable to alter the outcome can feel just as personal. When Mac asked "What’s our role here?" in discussing the circumstances surrounding al-Awlaki’s death, the answer was clear: Despite what Will told Don, the role of news is advocacy. Not for one angle over another, or right or wrong, or this side or that—but for the truth, in all its elusive forms.   


FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS:

– Did you suspect Will had to protect his family from a drunken father?

– Is "men and showers" really a stereotype?

– Wouldn’t Jim’s camera have a flip screen?

– Neal: On his way to serious journalism? 

– Did you miss the deposition framing device?

– Were you relieved to see that Will is ready to demand the memorandum, or should he keep cooling off?

– How is Sex and the City still haunting these characters when it went off the air nine years ago in The Newsroom-iverse?

– What is the best plotline so far this season?

– Why are the young journalists of 2011 listening to 1978's "Hold the Line" by Toto?

– Do you like when the date gets typed up each time to help contextualize these stories?

– What is the role of the "news"?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 9/15/2013

Season 2 : Episode 9

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