Will Women Rule in the New Season of “The Newsroom”?
Lauren Slavin | On 12, Jul 2013
Warning: Spoilers ahead for seasons one and two of HBO’s “The Newsroom”.
If you work in journalism or the media industry, you know that HBO drama “The Newsroom” is an utterly unrealistic portrayal of the current state of broadcast news that could only take place in Aaron Sorkin-land — where everyone speaks eloquently or has a snappy comeback all the time.
Which is obviously why when I check journalismjobs.com and Media Bistro daily for work I’m always looking if fictional network Atlantis Cable News has any openings for News Night 2.0.
Sorkin, who’s won Emmy’s for writing TV shows such as “The West Wing” and Oscars for movies like “The Social Network,” turned to a “dying profession” for his latest endeavor, which was highly hyped and, for some, a major letdown.
Because the show takes place in the recent past, Sorkin uses “The Newsroom” recreate the media response to such huge news stories as the Casey Anthony trial and shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords while poking fun at or critiquing the real news coverage of those same events.
Did any journalist who received a White House press release on May 1, 2011, about an emergency announcement from the president look up from their smartphone and say, “Duh, Osama bin Laden must be dead!” Or upon learning that an oilrig exploded in the Gulf and think, “Wow, this will be the biggest natural disaster since Exxon-Valdez?”
Of course not. But people in Aaron Sorkin-land don’t have to abide by the laws of reality, which made some critics see the show as a little preachy.
However, as a recent journalism grad, I love “The Newsroom,” and so do many of my peers. We haven’t given up on the dream of honest-to-God reporting in an age of blogging and “Top 10 90s TV Hunks” GIF lists. And we can relate to the characters, those young we see ourselves in, and the older we someday hope to become.
One of the main reasons I love “The Newsroom” are its female leads: Maggie Jordan, played by Alison Pill, an anchor’s assistant turned assistant producer; MacKenzie “Mac” McHale, played by Emily Mortimer, who is News Night’s new executive producer and former cheating ex-girlfriend of News Night anchor Will McAvoy; and Sloan Sabbith, played by Olivia Munn, an incredible intelligent economics reporter who also happens to be mega gorgeous.
While News Night reflects the current state of journalism with its white, male anchor, these women aren’t in subordinate positions. Mac is in control of every newscast, and starting a broadcast that truly informs the American public is her brainchild. You watch Maggie grow from an assistant who mixes up Russia’s attack on the country of Georgia with the state of Georgia to a reporter with excellent insight into current events. And apart from my crush on Olivia Munn, who shares my anxiety disorder of trichotillomania and is a personal hero, I love her portrayal of a brilliant woman often discounted because her model good looks.
“The Newsroom” starts its second season Sunday, and I can’t wait to see how they handle such big news stories as the Occupy movement and 2012 election. And mostly, I can’t wait to see what is in store for the women of News Night.
Maggie was one of the more relatable characters for me while watching season one. Journalism is an Old Boy’s Club to the EXTREME, and I’m very sympathetic to her plight as a young woman trying to be taken seriously as a reporter. While much of Maggie’s plot was devoted to her relationship drama with Don, the former EP of News Night and couple NO ONE was rooting for, it doesn’t affect her job performance. In fact, you see Maggie’s news sense grow throughout the season.
Obviously after last season’s climactic kiss with Jim and subsequent snubbing to move in with Don, I’m excited to see how Jim’s move to following the Romney campaign trail will affect her relationship with Don. And without Jim around to lead the reporting on bigger stories, I’m even more excited to see Maggie deal with stories such as the GOP’s war on women, where she can keep asking tough questions.
Mac still loves Will. I think Will knows Mac still loves him, or at least wants his forgiveness for ruining their relationship years before. Mac may be starting to understand Will still loves her. And I’m kind of done with the two acting as if they won’t end up together in the end.
While I don’t know if season two will take place in the same amount of time as season one (roughly a year and a half), one event I’d love to see Mac take on as EP is the Newtown shooting in December 2012. When News Night was in a panic whether or not to report Gabrielle Giffords had died after being shot in the head, you could feel the real tension of breaking news, as journalists juggle getting information to their audience as quickly as possible, and making sure that information is factual.
Mac is ethical, thorough and tactful, and with hindsight as his guide, Sorkin can show where mainstream media failed in its coverage of the massacre through Mac’s eyes.
Sloan joined the News Night crew under sexist pretenses. When she asks why Mac wants her to do a brief segment on the economy every broadcast when there are more qualified people to do so, Mac tells Sloan, “they don’t have your legs.” But even Katie Curic had to start her career interviewing in short skirts, so as unrealistic as “The Newsroom” may be in terms of actual reporting, it hits the industry’s misogyny spot on.
I felt Sloan and Don’s budding romance, if you can even call it that, was ham-fisted at best, and not just because Maggie and Jim are my OTP (actually Jim and me are my OTP, but my passport won’t take me to Aaron Sorkin-land), so I’m really hoping it dies before it begins.
This season, Sloan will get to take on the Fiscal Cliff crisis, as well as the Wall Street response to Occupy Wall Street, and now that she’s had experience anchoring (though after her first experience in season one, she’ll probably never anchor again) her prowess as a business journalist is going to shine.
Three new women will join “The Newsroom” for season two: Rebecca Halliday, a First Amendment lawyer played by Marcia Gay Harden who will probably try to rein in Will’s blunt questioning of important figures and the opinions he spouts on air.
Grace Gummer will play Hallie Shea, who will get closer to Jim as they both report along the Romney tour. Based on a single look Hallie gives Jim in the season two trailer, you just know she will be his new love interest (noooooo). Political reporters have to be tough, and a female political reporter will hopefully be a contrast to Maggie’s still starry eyes.
And speaking of tough bitches, Constance Zimmer will play Taylor Warren, a Romney campaign spokeswoman. That’s right – a woman as a talking head for a candidate who wanted to strip women’s rights to birth control and abortion, health care, and equal pay for equal work. I hope we’ll see Zimmer’s internal struggle as a Republican woman and her ability to stand toe-to-toe with the press.
From the Tea Party to states’ fights for gay marriage, “The Newsroom” looks to explore 2012 with as much vigor as it did 2011. We know how the stories end, but the journey along the way makes for great TV about TV. I’m shooting for a Maggie-Jim sex scene by the end of the season, but for now, I’m just happy to have some fictional role models back in my life.
Written by Lauren Slavin
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