I say the power going out was the best thing that ever happened to us!
They’re still slumming it on News Night but the end is in sight. It’s pitch time to the RNC for their new debate format. It’s just about what you’d expect and I don’t like their chances. Still, they’ve got to sell trash until that happens. Neal (Dev Patel) is still going after his story about trolls by trolling an economic site using Sloan (Olivia Munn) as troll bait. The Maggie-Don-Jim-Lisa quadrangle continues as does the Will-Mackenzie conflict (with the ex-boyfriend haunting the halls for his article).
So much for synopsis. This episode is dedicated to subplot. This episode also seems to rely on some unspoken events more than usual. It also calls back to Sorkinesque golden oldies. There’s a moment where they’re trying to convince Lisa (Kelen Coleman), a friend of Maggie’s (Alison Pill) and semi-girlfriend to Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) who went to school with Casey Anthony, where she stops all the pleas and says “Will and Mackenzie are counting on you?” It’s just one of his things. I don’t usually like those moments. Then there’s the long set-up to a pretty good joke including pants.
This isn’t my favorite episode. Everybody does their job, but it just isn’t as dynamic or emotionally satisfying as the past eight shows. Also, despite the seriousness of the central issue (political debates), the mock debate itself was only as interesting as the Republican candidates were. Still, I think he pushed a bit too hard. That made it too fantastic. The reality is that the Republicans wouldn’t have agreed to a reasonable debate, let alone one that interrupts the candidates.
Let’s be serious for a moment. There is no way that more than four people can be involved in a debate. Counterpoint: “Congresswoman Bachman: Elvis or Johnny Cash?” to which she replied “Gosh, I don’t know.” The absolute best possibility is a series of hardball interviews with an intelligent questioner that can push back on the phony answers that have somehow become every answer. That’s probably too much to ask for an average citizen—dedicating fourteen-plus hours to politics. I’d say a second best is debating one or two topics for a couple hours and show us how they think and not just what they know (which is probably nothing). You have to appeal to their vanity. Act like they’re precocious children. At least you’d be half right.
That’s one idea, but I think it’s a middle-ground alternative that wasn’t considered for the show. If the show is going to be as strong in its content as it is in expression, then Sorkin is going to have to moderate his world view. One of the critics complained that the show presented a binary world of good television vs. actual news. She or he was wrong at the time, or rather right for the wrong reasons. The critic was complaining for policy reasons, but the real problem is that the dynamic is limiting the dramatic conflict for the show to personal issues.
When a content-based conflict arises, like covering Casey Anthony or holding a debate, they go to absolute zero under the ethos of “If we’re going to do it…” If the characters were less pure, we might (as I suspected from the earlier episode) get a glimpse into how CNN could possibly ask a candidate in a debate for the presidency whether they preferred Elvis to Johnny Cash. Sorkin keeps his conflict clean. I’m not sure if that’s the way to go.
They’re not going to change the opening credits. I just have to accept that.