I found out Olivia Munnâ€™s characterâ€™s name (Sloan) on this episode of Aaron Sorkinâ€™s The Newsroom.
MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), producer of a news-show-that-tells-the-truthâ„˘ and ex of that showâ€™s once-egomaniacal-but-now-Arthurian anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), needs to talk economic stuff for some event but doesnâ€™t know any economic stuff â€” so she asks Sloan, a hot brainiac economist for some reason working at a cable news station, to tutor her. Sloan tells her about a New Deal law called Glass-Steagall that regulated banks and â€śhelped lead to the longest sustained period of economic growth in U.S. history, 60-year expansion of the middle class, largest increase in production and largest increase in median income. We also won World War II, put a man on the moon and a computer in everyoneâ€™s lap. And you know what happens next?â€ť
McHale, weeping over some other stuff, says, â€śWe cheated on the perfect guy with a guy who dumped us?â€ť
â€śYes,â€ť Sloan says, â€śwe repeal Glass-Steagall.â€ť
Aside from the attempted comedic juxtapostion, here Sorkin tips his hand that: A) he will use any hamfisted device, like a hot economist Seussifying economic history for national news show producer who would need to know at-least-Seussified economic history get a job interview, to lay pipe about the slouching-toward-Babylon world that show is attempting to demystify for America; and B) we should be perceiving McAvoy, whose problems being human and professional were The Newsroomâ€™s very premise, as â€śthe perfect guy.â€ť
Something weird is going on. And by â€śweird,â€ť I donâ€™t just mean this weekâ€™s magnanimous non-window-dressing screentime for The Newsroomâ€™s staff-of-color, including Sloan, the young South Asian-British staff blogger/producer Neal (Dev Patel) and young African-American producer/reporter Gary (Chris Chalk).
It is early 2011 in Newsroom continuum, their plate full up with the Egyptian pro-democracy uprising and Koch Industries middle manager/Wisconsin governor Scott Walkerâ€™s union-busting salvo against public workers. This would seem rife to include the federal codification of labor rights and unionsâ€™ partnership in a still-industrial economy as catalysts of the prosperity Sloan addressed, but Sorkin is too busy cramming pointless crap into the show â€” including a Valentineâ€™s Day B-story â€” to nuance such things into the narrative.
So to boil it down to need-to-know:
â€” Since Sorkin deigns to help us understand the world via pithy office-banter detours into pop-cultural effluvia, Will and Gary explain the movie Rudy to Proficient But Socially Awkward Earnest Guy (SA3), specifically its tear-inducing â€śjersey scene,â€ť which SA3 has never seen, perhaps because he asked someone very much like me if Rudy was a good movie.
â€” After the networkâ€™s correspondent in Egypt is beaten up, Neal discovers an idealistic young Egyptian reporter on the ground, whom News Night hires as a stringer.
â€” Sister gossip mag TMI, hatchet-apparatus for company boss Jane Fonda, who dislikes the new News Night for being good, heats up the feud with News Night over the ethical quandary of McHaleâ€™s federal prosecutor boyfriend appearing on their show while, it reveals, surreptitiously planning a run for congress. McHale fears he may have been using her to build his media presence. Former TMI employee Gary drops a bug in McAvoyâ€™s ear that it may be SOP at the magazine to take payouts to kill stories.
The Egyptian wunderkind is kidnapped and held for $250,000 ransom and the company brass balks at paying it. McHale cries and self-flagellates, then dumps the boyfriend. McAvoy has a sit-down with the TMI editor and accedes to pay to kill the McHale conflict-of-interest story. He starts writing a check but balks when she suggests they are both journalists, after all.
Her saying this makes sense in no kind of context, until you realize McAvoy needs to make an impassioned speech. He does:
â€śI got a guy on my staff who [did something that doesnâ€™t matter] because I got another guy who got beat up covering Cairo and the first guy wouldnâ€™t see a doctor till the second guy saw a doctor. I got a producer who [did something brash]. Iâ€™ve got an 18-year-old kid risking his life halfway around the world and the AP who sent him there hasnâ€™t slept in three days. Iâ€™ve got 20somethings who care about teachers in Wisconsin. Iâ€™ve got a grown woman who [something quirky that doesnâ€™t matter] staying up all night trying to learn [sort-of] economics from a PhD who could be making 20 times the money three miles downtown. Theyâ€™re journalists. Come after me all you want. Come after me [in sundry ways]â€¦But you touch my staff and you are walking into a world of hurtâ€¦â€ť
Thereâ€™s more but you already saw the gist of it in last weekâ€™s impassioned speech or, if you are reading this in the future, all of them. Back in the Newsroom, it is discovered that â€ścorporateâ€ť didnâ€™t wire $250,000 to save the Egyptian stringer, but McAvoy did. So McHale ushers Neal in, who says he canâ€™t give much but wanted to contribute, and leaves a check. McAvoy discovers a line of staffers stretching across the Newsroom, all with checks. Get it? Rudy!
Oh, and Neal and freed-Egyptian-stringer share warm greetings on Skype.
This is curious and uncomfortable. The kid risked life and limb revealing himself as a correspondent for a Yankee newsnet and went through hell, but that is secondary to McAvoyâ€™s triumphal wire-transfer. McHaleâ€™s obsession is beginning to feel merely precursor to a radial fetishization going on. Sure, McAvoy is ready to go to the mattresses for his staff, good, but increasingly it feels like their actual, vital role in giving him smart things to say on TV is kind of just setup for him to be Great â€” which feels rather kingly and explains Sloan, Neal and Garyâ€™s bench-time until now and why they will be riding pine next week.
Sorkin too obviously subscribes to the Great Man lens of history, but it is worth pointing out that that tends to run counter to his progressive leanings, not least by rendering measurable reality down to the cartoon narrative that is ostensibly News Nightâ€™s nemesis. The solution to a tyrannical king is not, after all, a nicer king.
New episodes ofÂ The NewsroomÂ air Sunday nights at 10/9CT on HBO.
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