The Newsroom’s “News Night 2.0”: Still Finding ‘Right’ Balance

By Ron Peltier

The second episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, “News Night 2.0,” begins the next day after last week’s episode. It feels like an extension of the pilot, as it still has the same unbalanced tone and lengthy speeches.

News Night 2.0 opens in conference room as the new staff learns about the philosophical direction the show they work on will embody.  McHale, the show’s EP, explains the objectives to the staff and to us. This initial scene underscores some of the tonal and unevenness of the show’s first two episodes. While the scene serves to set-up the “important and unique” ideals of News Night, it also tries to be quirky and pithy, as staff members banter back and forth.  It is not really funny and because of that, the scene has no rhythm—it’s like missing the bottom step on the stairs.  Even McHale’s speech seems incomplete, like she has not really thought through it. She proclaims that the best way to remember the show’s precepts are via the four “I’s.” The four “I’s” all relate to “is,” the word begins each of the questions the show should strive toward.  This is designed to be funny, but seems implausible. Has McHale not considered her first speech to the staff?

If the first episode demonstrates that the newly formed staff can work and deliver a solid newscast under pressure, this one illustrates that they can also royally screw up one when they have ample time to prepare.  Maggie, played by Alison Pill, plays the oh-so-eager and earnest neophyte associate producer, who, because of a college indiscretion, blows an important interview.  This leads to a disastrous broadcast.  She feels terrible and rightly so, but mistakes happen and the cast, especially her new love interest, Jim, played by John Gallagher, offers sympathies.  This budding relationship is on hyper-drive and simply feels forced.  That her current boyfriend, Don, McAvoy’s former EP, played by Thomas Sadoski, witnesses all these intimate revelations contributes to the show’s unevenness and credibility.  They are only on day two of their” professional “relationship and already personal and sensitive information has spilled out. 

The characters are often compelled, through an imaginary look it seems, to purge intimate secrets. Both McHale and Maggie do this, as McHale reveals the reason of her break-up with McAvoy via a mass office email. This comes only after McAvoy requires her to swear that she never reveals any details about their relationship, so naturally this is precisely what happens. Considering that McHale had just received a tutorial on how not to mass e-mail everyone in the company, this scene confounds—it lacks credulity. She can piece together random details about someone to arrive at spot-on conclusions, but can’t focus enough on something that is critically important to her boss and love interest? Please.

Maggie’s purge is more plausible as it relates directly to that night’s failed broadcast. That she must reveal this details to her boss, Jim, is supposed to be funny.  I suppose there is some humor, but most of the scene comes across as desperate and overwrought.

The show needs to better convey credibility. While it is not designed to be a newsroom procedural, it still needs to “feel” realistic. The details of the newsroom feel authentic; the characters, at least at this point, do not. 

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