The Newsroom “The 112th Congress” Review

Before I start, I want to clear up my view of The Newsroom. Whilst it may sound like I’m flip-flopping in my reviews, I’m just looking at the pros and cons. The pros are great casting and a solid idea. The cons are weak characters and a poor execution. As I said last week, The Newsroom would make a fantastic half hour comedy or even a 45 minute comedy drama. Instead it masquerades as a straight up drama, which allows for the bland scenes that come between the ones filled with witticisms. There is almost enough to work with in The Newsroom, but no one seems to want to work with it.

With that cleared up, let’s look at this week’s episode ‘The 112th Congress’.

Will lays out his new approach to News Night: the show will not be influenced by advertisers nor pander to the network, instead it will give the news as seen fit. The arbiters of this news will be himself and Mackenzie. Whilst their aim to cut out ‘bought’ news influenced by advertisers is great, the news they choose will still be influenced by their own views. News biased one way rather than another is still biased news. I hope that’s a point picked up on in future because it could lead to some really meaty debates. But since these are debates best had at the time of the change and five months have passed between episodes 2 and 3, I won’t hold out hope.

What follows is essentially a long near-history lesson, from how networks ended up with an evening news slot to how the Tea Party has changed and who believes what, who’s voting for who, and who’s screwing who over as the midterm elections approach. Or something. I’ll be honest, when Will’s speechifying I gradually lose interest because it’s long and monotonous, and though I am a liberal, an hour of almost continuous republican bashing is tiresome to watch/hear. This is all pretty much one big reason to give us Will’s points of view and to tell us about his past; he’s a former prodigious lawyer who graduated young, was great at his job and then turned to the news to, as we’ve been told, give the nation the truth it so deserves.

The best thing about this episode is that it hasn’t followed the formula set up in episodes 1 and 2; there isn’t 45 minutes of back room drama setting up the 15 minutes on air at the end of the day. I found that almost as monotonous as Will’s speeches, even after only two episodes. Instead we have various news desk moments throughout the episode which lead up to a round table show with Elliot (the guy at ten o’clock) and economist Sloane Sabbith. I thought Will having others to interact with added some extra punch, the little we actually saw of it.

Is anyone else wondering whether Will and the team are influenced by the writers’ hindsight? This week I found myself questioning if the characters are so good at their job because they work hard and think harder, or whether it’s a very meta situation where Sorkin and co are using their knowledge of the ‘future’ in order to influence the characters. One gives us admirable, watchable characters. The other gives us a predictable show. It would explain the decision to set this series in the recent past with real world events.

The episode is interspersed with scenes about News Night’s declining viewing figures, with Charlie being lectured to while Leona Lansing, the CEO of Atlantis News Media (played by the awesome Jane Fonda), looks on. At the end of the episode they face off, argue about whether Will’s new hard hitting style should stay or go, throw in a bit more politics, and then Leona threatens to fire Will if things don’t improve. I hope we get to see a lot more of Leona in the future. She looks to be a great foil for the ‘bad guys’ and it should be interesting to see how the gang will make her happy — especially Will, who has the most to lose if she’s left unhappy.

What did you think of ‘The 112th Congress’? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!