Will (Jeff Daniels) is on a mission to civilize, but it isn’t going well. It’s a New Year’s Eve party and people are getting set up with other people. Sloan (Olivia Munn) encourages Will to talk to a pretty lady. That lady turns out to be a gossip columnist who is working on a “take down” piece concerning a “Real” housewife of New Jersey. Will tries to convince her to be a part of the solution and not write the piece. It ends with champagne in the face. Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) is being set up with Maggie’s (Alison Pill) roommate and that’s creating some tension. However, Will’s escapades continue and escalate and are all in the tabloids. Uh oh.
Last week, The Newsroom (2012), and Aaron Sorkin, threw down a serious gauntlet—that a major corporation would fire an anchor for going after lawmakers that affect their businesses. If you’re going to be a realistic show, then that kind of plot is effectively an allegation that corporations would take that step. I’m not saying that that allegation can’t be supported, but it needs to be treated with respect. This episode, though briefly, will stand as the episode where the team picks up that gauntlet within this season. It’s pretty exciting.
If I were smarter, I would have realized that what happened last week was more than the set-up of a major plot arch, it was a part of a series of themes about modern journalism. The first, set out on day one, was the overt issue of “what is news?” (and described literally in the second episode). The second theme is “politics and the news” (set out in the second and third episodes). And the third theme is “corporations and the news” and is co-equal at inducing terror in the minds of golden age thinkers. There have always been big businesses, but with holding companies and conglomerates, the media has never been more uncomfortably placed.
In my view, the first theme is indisputably a problem in modern news—we see it happen right there in front of our eyes and it isn’t only Fox News. In a race to the bottom, you need more than one contestant and I see at least four (CNN, MSNBC, and the Internet). Who speaks with authority, with unquestioned dedication to truth over perspective, and retains some semblance of judgment? That person doesn’t exist.
The second issue also plays out in front of us, but is covered by at least half the media. While there is a blind spot in covering the stupidity of the right, you’ll always have Fox News to cover the stupidity of the left. Thus, this show is in a tough spot to retain some balance of targets. Stupid should be bipartisan (and it is), so a little mixing is just prudent. But they missed a step in this episode. One show (in the show) talks about the lies from Limbaugh et al. about Obama going after guns but actually undid some gun control regulations (earning an F by the Brady Campaign). It struck me as obvious to add, “One has to mention the irony that the far right is calling out an illusory anti-gun agenda while the left is silent about a pro-gun record.” Straight-Fs for a gun control record isn’t what I call progress.
The last issue, the one I expect to dominate the show from here on out, is the one I am wary of. While the open stupidity of modern news plays out in front of us, it is fear of the unknown, private world of corporations that drive this story. That is a terrible engine if this is going to be the kind of awesome PSA I hope it will be. I like where it’s going. They’ve done nothing yet to make me worried or disappointed—the opposite is true—but I’ll be a bit anxious for a near-miss until shown otherwise.