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The Newsroom Recap: The Blackout Part 1-Tragey Porn (Season 1, Episode 8)

Posted By Matthew Newlin On August 12, 2012 @ 11:50 pm In Movies & TV,Television | 3 Comments

Photos courtesy of Melissa Moseley/HBO

Over the past seven episodes, Aaron Sorkin has thrown a lot against the wall with The Newsroom and not everything has stuck. The Maggie/Jim/Don love triangle is completely unnecessary and fortunately absent from this week’s episode, “The Blackout Part 1: Tragedy Porn.” As the show’s central characters, Will and MacKenzie are still doing the spurned lovers’ dance, but at least we have one episode where Jim isn’t giving puppy dog eyes to Maggie while she invents reasons to touch his arm.

Instead, we are treated to some interesting story developments. Charlie’s anonymous informant from “5/1” is an NSA insider named Solomon Hancock who alerts Charlie to the fact that gossip rag TMI, which is owned by Atlantis World Media and run by Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda), has been hacking cell phones for years. The same activity brought down News of the World, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and Charlie sees this bit of information as a way to have leverage over Leona to protect Will’s job.

Playing his own game to keep himself protected, Will hires journalist Brian Bremmer (Paul Schneider) to write a feature story on him and “News Night 2.0.” (Why Sorkin is obsessed with alliterative characters names [MacKenzie MacHale, Sloan Sabbath, Brian Brenner] is beyond me.) In an odd twist, Brian is MacKenzie’s ex-boyfriend with whom she cheated on Will years ago. The twist is odd not because Brian is brought into the story (Sorkin clearly has a weak spot for relationship drama); it’s odd because out of all the writers he could have chosen, Will chooses the man who slept with his girlfriend. While the moment of clarity that Will has later with his therapist makes sense, it’s not altogether satisfying from the viewer’s standpoint.

It is also nice to see Sorkin addressing the reality of what would happen if a news show made a drastic change the way “News Night” did. Early in the episode, Reese (ACN’s president) pulls Will, MacKenzie and Charlie into his office to explain that “News Night” lost half of its audience to Nancy Grace because they refused to cover the Casey Anthony trial while Grace talks about nothing else. It brings up an interesting debate about whether the Casey Anthony trial is news or entertainment. Sadly, children go missing or are killed every day, so why is this one case newsworthy? On the other hand, since every person in America seems to already be talking about it, wouldn’t that make it news?

Will and Charlie agree that, for the sake of ratings, that they will begin covering Casey Anthony. MacKenzie is vehemently against it, but she is outnumbered. Will’s only rationale is that he is trying to get chosen to moderate the upcoming Republican debate and the RNC isn’t going to choose someone whose ratings are in the gutter. Though we aren’t given details, Will is apparently planning to launch a new debate style wherein the candidates aren’t able to shirk any questions. While that sounds like an excellent plan, it is really just an excuse for Sorkin to rip apart all of the former Republican presidential candidates to, again, point out how Republicans are wrong and Democrats are right.

As this is the first part of a two-part episode, “Tragedy Porn” does end on a rather interesting cliffhanger. Will is getting ready to do a pre-taped interview with a woman who had been exchanging Tweets with Anthony Weiner (the Congressman who Tweeted a picture of his crotch). Just as he was about to start, the power goes out in the entire building. Normally this would be a lame way to end the episode, but Sorkin had been building up to most of the episode. Happy that the ratings went back up after “News Night” began covering Casey Anthony, Reese dropped hints that Will should cover the massive heat wave that was hitting the East Coast since it could lead to power outages if it reaches 98 degrees. Clearly this is what happened, which just reinforces the idea that deciding what is and isn’t news isn’t always easy.


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