I decided to go in the wayback machine and pick through OLD and CURRENT shows. I’m going to mix/match character/actor names because it’s way easier than looking up the actor when they’re better known as the character and vice versa.
Furio and AJ (Sopranos) for Kevin Nealon (Weeds)
Rationale: Furio is an expiring contract and a throwaway sweetener for AJ Soprano’s un-tradeable contract. AJ is basically Kendrick Perkins. Have AJ die in one of those college parties Tony keeps pushing him to attend to really drive Tony over the edge. Why Weeds? AJ fits into the show’s motif and his wooden acting and all-around goofiness may translate better in a dramedy. Furio can play a new neighbor on Weeds and it’d be one of those playing against type roles that expands the actor’s likability (see: Bryan Cranston). Plus they got Carmela on the network and she can pull some strings. Kevin Nealon is a great foil in Weeds but on the Sopranos, can you imagine him playing some “normal” in the Sopranos universe that gets in over his head for a season? Like when Christopher shot Tim Daly.
Michelle Rodriquez (Lost) for the guy who plays Pornstache who was also on the Wire and the expiring contracts of Tricia & Miss Claudette (Orange is the New Black)
Rationale: Michelle Rodriquez signed up for multiple years but after the DUI, she was cut. Sure, she’s tainted but she’s still a very solid actor with mainstream appeal and in the right role, could really chew up the scenery. She’d be a perfect transfer prisoner / new leader of the Hispanic inmates in Orange is the New Black as the new big bad in Season 2 or 3 for Piper. Michelle Rodriguez is basically Melky Cabrera or any mid-tier player caught with PEDs. As a point of comparison, Ryan Braun would be Charlie Sheen. To get her though, you’d need to get a bunch of assets (a bunch of nickels-dimes to make up for a fifty-cent piece). So you throw in expiring contracts for character actors like Tricia and Miss Claudette. Add them to some flash-back / flash-forward for Kate and Mr. Eko respectively. Pornstache is the center piece here because he’s played two character roles in two good shows (The Wire and Orange) so he’d be a great multi-season actor to replace Michelle. Maybe he’s an Other?
Charisma Carpenter and Spike (Angel) for Tricia Helfer (BSG)
Rationale: Charisma Carpenter was basically written off the show and Spike was a late throw-in because Whedon loved James Marsters so much and Angel needed another foil for David Boreanz. But what it always missed was a female companion for Angel. I don’t buy the woman cop or the woman werewolf or whomever. They were very unconvincing romantics interests for our tortured vampire with a soul. What if Tricia Helfer came in as a reformed Wolfram & Hart lawyer and switched sides for a few seasons. It’d be as if Lindsey became a series regular… hell you could even call her Lindsey since it’s really a girl’s name. But who does BSG get for their lovely #6 since she is such a huge part of that show? You have to give up another 2nd tier starter in Carpenter and a great swingman like Spike. We can say Six got boxed and Charisma is now a new cylon. She can even play a similar role which is to act mysterious and look pretty. And I’d rather see Spike come on the show as a foil/love interest for Starbuck over Anders. Win-win.
In A Storm of Swords, this scene made me cheer. And in the show, this scene did not disappoint. Many words can describe the last 10 minutes of And Now His Watch is Ended. Perhaps the most appropriate is epic. Just like Daenerys Stormborn has come into her own as Mother of Dragons, the show has grown up in scale beyond the smaller sets in Season 1 with bolder (and more expensive) CGI and expansive views. The world of A Song of Ice and Fire is large, spanning two continents (as the introductory music reminds us) and finally, David and DB have spread their wings in this episode to remind us how big Game of Thrones has become and will be. Five out of five stars.
What I liked
A dragon is not a slave, part 1. Book readers should be reminded that Daenerys’ knowledge of Old Valyrian is not held secret at the onset. After all, how can a POV-oriented narrative hide the fact that the narrator can understand the master slaver? The big reveal in the book is more for the slaver than for us, but we still got a big kick out of the ingenuity of Dany buying all the Unsullied and turning them on Astapor. But for the show viewer, we don’t have that insight and it becomes a far more rewarding experience for the audience and the characters to witness Dany’s linguistic lie. And then, boom (or should I say, Dracarys)… mother-effing dragon carnage. How deeply satisfying was that? Game of Thrones has its pay-off moments and almost all of the “happy” ones involve Daenerys. And this may have been the biggest.
A dragon is not a slave, part 2. Overall, this scene was just beautifully shot and acted. First the cinematography. There’s a distinct parallel to season 1’s ending when Dany emerges from the funeral pyre and this ending when Dany emerges from her victory. I’ll post the NSFW gif here from Season 1 and the Season 3 gif below.
As you can see, the Season 1 Dany is tentative, still very much a girl and she looks to Ser Jorah for guidance as he walks to her. In Season 3, she doesn’t even look at him as he walks to her. She has an 8,000 Unsullied army to command and has no time for him. Special recognition to Emilia Clarke. If she was going to be nominated for any awards, this would be her reel. Just pause for a moment and realize she’s speaking in a FAKE LANGUAGE. She has to speak High Valyrian with the authority that someone who doesn’t speak it (see Sers Jorah, Barristan) understands the gravity of her words through her projection. It goes to show that if you give Emilia good material (and not “Where are my dragons?” for a whole season), she will step up.
I have no doubt the revenge you want will be yours in time… if you have the stomach for it. Varys is a powerful man, but not the way Tywin wields his power through money and men, or Dany through fire and blood, or even Tyrion through schemes and plots. Varys plays the long game and waits. There’s no better scene to encapsulate both his ruthlessness and his sense of justice than this one. Pulling a bit of John Doe from Seven, we find out what’s in the box is the wizard who so long ago cut Varys from root to stem but now in a tiny cage with his mouth sewn shut and his body decaying. The way the scene is shot is telling. There’s a long view of Varys looking into the mirror, his face framed as he cleans himself. And the long view from inside the box looking up. We see Tyrion’s face confess his horror and the realization that Varys is not a man to be trifled with. Tyrion now knows that to play the Game of Thrones, you have to have the stomach for what comes ahead.
Girl Talk. The women dominated this episode. Whether it’s Olenna and Cersei talking about the sons they must keep alive, to Margaery playing both Joffrey and Sansa, to Cersei pleading with her father not unlike Tyrion earlier this season, to Brienne calling the great Jaime Lannister a woman (which is insult to injury coming from her), to finally what I considered the best scene with Varys and the Queen of Thorns… this was an episode where the real war is being fought not by the Five Kings but by the women who mother, nurture and bed them. The exchange between Varys and Olenna is sublime from her opening volley “You here to seduce me" to Varys’ forceful admission on Littlefinger "He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes”. It was a treat to see the chess moves being made by the women of Westeros.
And Now His Watch is Ended. It’s almost a shame that the death of Lord Commander Mormont is overshadowed by the biggest HOLY SHIT moment in Game of Thrones this side of Ned Stark’s beheading but it was a fitting end to the old bear. James Cosmo embodied the role and after he was literally stabbed in the back by his own men, you can feel the power drain from his body as he strains to choke his assassin. But then again, who could blame the traitors? These are not honorable men who guard the Wall anymore. They’re rapists and thieves, freezing beyond the wall and who have now seen their own dead rise from the ground. Do you think a daughter-effing bloody bastard is going to keep them from a warm fire and fresh pork? This is the way of the North and winter is coming. Now we know why Mance means to go South. There’s nothing left up here but death.
There is so much more to like about this, which is why this episode may have been the best non “Episode 9" episode so far (so far, Episode 9s have been the most cinematic with Baelor and Blackwater). I didn’t talk about Jaime’s hand or get into detail about Tywin’s fatherly scolding of Cersei or the Brotherhood without Banners. Instead, this was the Dany episode and deservingly so. Here it is again, in all its glory.
Strap in guys. This season of Game of Thrones is not going to let you go until episode 10. You’ll be like Theon on the rack but instead of pain, it’s pleasure (think Kink.com’s Armory videos… don’t google it; it’s NSFW). The first to fall wasn’t so much a person but a person’s essence. Rest assured, George R.R. Martin and D&D are not done with you yet. But I’ll get to that in a bit. Five out of five stars.
What I liked
Cersei leans in. Taking a cue from Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk, Cersei doesn’t just want a seat at the table, she wants to be by her father. She knows she’s lost her son as a mechanism to manage her affairs but her father is still her father. Currying favor with the patriarch is a wise move because while Joffrey is king, one feels like Tywin is still the one running the kingdom.
Musical chairs. The rest of the scene was just as delightful. D&D do a great job articulating the nuances of each character in the following clip. The scene brilliantly opens with Tywin at the head of the table, with all the chairs lined to his left. The three non-Lannister small council members walk in. You can see them calculating the seating arrangement. Tyrion walks in behind and becomes a forcing mechanism. As Littlefinger is wont to do, he deliberately moves to sit next to Tywin. The Spider is less overt and takes the next seat. Pycelle is really just happy to be still relevant. Cersei’s move to the right of Tywin by moving the chair was a masterstroke (as mentioned in the previous note). But again, Tyrion takes the cake. Dragging his chair as a audible reminder to his father of his deformed heir, Tyrion sits farthest away and in opposition of the great Tywin Lannister.
The Price is Right. Someone in one of the reviews I read talked about how comprehensive the Valyrian language was. Linguistics professor David Peterson has done it again. We really take for granted how well executed Game of Thrones is and little details like this complete language, spoken naturally, is what makes it great. I like how they simultaneously played out Dany’s compassion for the slaves and her ruthlessness as the “last Dragon” when she reprimands Sers Barristan and Jorah. All men must die… but she’s not a man.
Hot Pie and Snow Patrol! There’s little humorous touches to the show that makes Westeros less dreary and dark. Arya’s goodbye to Hot Pie and the wolf bread was a nice reminder. Also, did you know the lead singer of Snow Patrol did a cameo in last night’s episode as part of the Northmen carrying Jaime and Brienne? That was a far more appropriate cover of The Bear and the Maiden Fair than the random out-of-place outro of The Hold Steady’s rendition.
Jaime Lannister. I’ve known guys like Jaime Lannister my whole life. They’re like the finance guys on Wall Street (I should know; I was one). They come from a great family, a great school, have a great job. Their whole lives they’ve been told how special they are and it’s hard to be humble because let’s face it, they are special. Even the ones with great self-awareness can’t help being a douchebag because it’s part of the lifestyle. These guys measure themselves by their year-end bonuses. So when the 2008 financial crash happened, I saw a lot of young men (and some women) confused. Their self-worth was their net-worth and it fell. Jaime and his skill as a swordsman is like that. And by cutting off his hand, Jaime now has to question his self-worth.
I can nitpick and say that the gratuitous Podrick nudity was too much HBO but it didn’t detract from the rest of the episode. Instead, I’ll leave you with this.
Hodor. That’s my one sentence review of last Sunday’s episode. I think the common complaint from book and non-book readers alike is that there is just too much story in Game of Thrones to shove into one hour, let alone 10 hours, especially given the breadth of narrative in A Storm of Swords. I know D&D are splitting the book into season 3 and 4 (with some A Feast for Crows thrown into season 4) but I get the impression that the first two episodes are the apéritifs before a decadent meal. I’m not displeased but my stomach is growling. Four out of five stars.
Margaery’s got a crossbow.There’s something perversely brilliant about Margaery Tyrell that exemplifies her lineage to Olenna and threatens Cersei. The scene with Joffrey in his chamber, as he strokes his weapon, is Margaery’s finest hour. Margaery worked the boy king like a cat burglar. She jumped through his verbal traps (especially his casual suggestion to outlaw homosexuality with death) and found the weakness in his defense. She’s far too smart to try to win over Joffrey with her overt sexuality as she does with other men. Joffrey compensates the crossbow for his manhood and she wisely takes the proxy in her hands and aims.
Reeds. Book readers were disappointed the Reeds were missing from Season 2. While I never considered Jojen and Meera to be my favorites, I understood their value in providing exposition to Bran. George R.R. Martin is writing a bigger story than Game of Thrones (the book saga is called a Song of Ice and Fire) and when Jojen Reed explains to Bran about the three-eyed crow, he’s really explaining to us. It helps they’re well-casted and well-acted because Bran’s arc is less exciting (read: action-oriented) than some of the other characters.
Jaime and Brienne. Jaime has his brother’s wit but it’s unappreciated because of his far more glaring gifts. The bridge fight was well choreographed and demonstrates the physical skill of both actors but my favorite scene was the dialogue leading up to it. Jaime doesn’t like showing his vulnerability but there’s something sad when he says you can’t help who you love. He’s trying to reach Brienne but because he’s such a jerk the rest of the time, she misses this moment of sincerity.
What I didn’t like
Can we get a two-hour premiere? Minor spoiler alert for non book readers. If you just finished A Storm of Swords and can’t wait to see what happens to some of your favorite characters in A Feast for Crows, you’re going to be disappointed. GRRM famously split his characters into two books because the fourth novel was going long. A Feast for Crows ends up being the “Lisa episodes” (Note: episodes featuring Lisa Simpson are typically considered the worst episodes on The Simpsons. See Skyler episodes on Breaking Bad) and book readers waited six years until A Dance with Dragons was released. This is how I feel about this season. Because of the huge cast of characters, I feel like we’re arbitrarily splitting up stories because of logistics.
Next week has some serious throw-downs so I’m excited to see what happens to our favorite stormborn queen. Until next week, let me leave you with this:
All men must serve. That’s what valar dohaeris means in High Valyrian. The third season’s opening took us in medias res, which suggests the bold new approach by the show-runners David & Dan. As the new tentpole for HBO, David & Dan no longer have to “explain” Game of Thrones. In this critical first episode, there is no exposition describing the fantasy world Westeros. It just is, like Hogwarts or Middle-Earth, or in HBO’s case, Baltimore, Deadwood or New Jersey. As a fan, I feel the shift too. When I say I’m a Game of Thrones fan, it’s like saying I’m a fan of Madden or Call of Duty or more recently, Star Trek. Video games, sci-fi and fantasy were once the provinces of geeks but today, they’re entirely mainstream. But back to the episode: Four out of five stars.
What I liked
The House Lannister, Part 1. Charles Dance (warning NSFW language) and Peter Dinklage, in my humble opinion, are the two strongest actors on Game of Thrones, so it was a treat to see the two spar in this short departure from the source material. It’s hard to empathize with the Lannisters but if D&D do their jobs right this season (minor spoiler alert), you’ll start seeing Tyrion, Jaime and even Cersei as more than the cut-out villains the Northmen play them out to be.
The House Lannister, Part II. In another further departure from the novels, arguably my favorite scene of the first season was a dinner party. So much is being said in this scene between the Lannisters and the Tyrells that is not being said that I have to bite my spoiler-laced lips to not shout “FORESHADOWING!”, especially with my non-book-reading friends in audience. Margaery Tyrell will prove to be quite the adversary for Cersei, whom up until now, had to only deal with the lesser sex as opponents. Wait until she meets the matriarch, the Queen of Thorns.
Bronn. I remember liking Bronn a lot in the books but not this much. Actor Jerome Flynn owns this character, arguably more so than Peter with Tyrion or Maisie with Arya because they were ALREADY fan favorites. One of these days, I really want to see Bronn pull the knife from behind his back and stick it to someone. That’s twice now we’ve seen that move (warning NSFW).
Dany Dragons and Dothraki. Okay, I have to admit… the Dothraki was added there purely for alliteration. As my friend Dallas put it, Dany’s character is far more interesting already because unlike season two, where she spent the majority of time looking for her dragons, Dany’s arc is clearly more plot-driven this year. Bringing Barristan Selmy in earlier than the books was the right move and I like the way the dragons are CGI-ed and the way Astapor and the Unsullied are portrayed.
What I didn’t like
Move along, nothing to see here. This episode went by fast. That’s a credit to D&D for writing a crisp, well-edited one-hour drama. But it’s also a criticism for the limitations that HBO has in terms of budget. I know how big the book is and the challenges it presents to anyone to adapting it to a small screen. By limiting it to ten episodes, we will get more episodes like Valar Dohaeris than Blackwater in terms of depth and character development. Valar Dohaeris suffers from having too much on the screen and not enough “director’s cut” material. I read the books so I can fill in the gap but for the non-reader, I imagine it’s a bit of work to follow the story.
In conclusion, I thought season three started out strong and I appreciate the subtle Easter eggs (capitalized because of the holiday) for the reader. For example:
Cersei’s casual mention of Tyrion’s “missing” nose.
We live in a country with a strong legacy of gun ownership and individual rights, which we should respect. That being said, taking a closer look at gun control laws is not an attack on the 2nd amendment, anymore than looking at libel or copyright laws is an attack on the 1st amendment. The first step to solving a problem is admitting we have a problem. The recent incidents indicate what some of you have believed for some time: we have a problem. Now, more than ever, is the right time to have a healthy, respectful, and constructive debate about who has access to guns, when is it okay to own or carry one, and what types of guns should be available for purchase. I guarantee law-abiding citizens will happily abide by reasonable and responsible laws and it will impact them immaterially.
Obi-Wan: I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.
(Don’t worry. It hasn’t)
For those of us who know these words too well, we likely felt the same great disturbance Ben Kenobi felt when George Lucas announced he was selling Lucasfilm and all its intellectual property to Disney. Suddenly, our childhood had a price tag, and while it was for an impressive $4.05 billion in cash and stock (comparable to Marvel’s $4.2 billion in 2009 but a little over half of Pixar’s $7.4 billion), we still felt betrayed, like 3-PO when Master Luke gave him and R2-D2 away to Jabba the Hutt. How dare the bearded one sell our collective memories, and worst, to the company that brought us Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
While we still can’t forgive George for “Greedo shot first" or Jar-Jar Binks or to jump to another loved franchise, the Crystal Skull “nuke the refrigerator”, at least he was one of us. It was out of George’s head (and heavy crib noting of Kurosawa, Flash Gordon, and Joseph Campbell) that sprung Luke and Leia, Darth Vader, and our favorite scoundrel-cum-rebel hero, Han Solo. We were the fans that made this franchise commercially attractive: the ones who stood in lines for the horrible prequels, who kept our vintage toys in the box, who bought the movies in each new media format (VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, Blu-Ray, etc.). But when George gets the wire transfer into his bank account, he’s entitled to 100% of it. Because he owns 100% of Lucasfilm, and by extension, 100% of Star Wars. It’s no different than the 800 million Facebook users owning none of that $45 billion market cap. But if we had to be sold, Disney was the right caretaker for Star Wars.
C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.
Ignoring Yoda’s advice for a second, we should look to the future. If Star Trek can be recast and an iconic character like James Bond can survive decades with different looks, then why not Star Wars and Han Solo? I’m excited to see what Disney can do with Episode 7, 8, and 9 and now I’m going to play fanfic producer and tell you about my dream cast for the sequel trilogy:
Luke Skywalker - Chris Evans. Luke is older now, but has to retain some of that sincerity that makes him different from Han Solo’s cynicsm. Chris Evans from Captain America has shown that he can delicately balance the integrity and leadership needed to be a Jedi. But make no mistake, Luke is a not a pushover. Ask Jabba the Hutt what he thinks of Luke (oh you can’t, he’s dead). That is why we can’t cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt here, for example, even though I hipster man-crash on him (and he wishes he was Han Solo).
Leia Organa (Solo) - Anne Hathaway. Looking back at the original trilogy, it’s amazing how well-cast it was, particularly when it came to Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia. Leia is complicated. She’s so many things in the trilogy—a stuck up princess, a rebel leader, a sex symbol, a girl with a crush, a warrior, a sister, a friend. She has to be able to talk politics but hold her own against the wiles of Han Solo. Among today’s actresses, only Anne Hathaway comes to mind as someone that can play pomp, sass, and sexy so comfortably.
Han Solo - Michael Fassbender. To round out the comic-book trifecta (Avengers, Batman, X-Men), I propose Magneto himself as our new Han Solo. Here’s what you need to know about Han: he’s a fighter more than a lover. Anyone who thinks otherwise likely thinks Greedo shot first (hint: he didn’t). Our James Bond analogs would be Sean Connery and Daniel Craig over Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan (sorry, Timothy Dalton). This is why Michael Fassbender, with his physical intensity, is our perfect Han Solo. Sure the fanboy in me wants Nathan Fillion to play a space cowboy again but Captain Reynolds fought a war he believed in and lost then resorted to crime to make ends meet. Han Solo did that… but backwards except he won his war, which is why you need someone with a dark side like Fassbender to pull this off.
Lando Calrissian - Idris Elba. Sure Idris was also in Thor and Prometheus, but the world knows him as Stringer Bell and that is Baltimore’s modern-day Lando. Lando Calrissian is a businessman first, and a scoundrel second. But foremost, he’s a charmer, which means the ladies have to love him. The move Lando makes on Leia the first time he sees her is a microcosm of Lando’s charisma. If Denzel Washington was 20 years younger, he could have pulled this off. But in 2015, I want Stringer Bell/Idris Elba sweet-talking "Hello, what have we here?". You can tell Leia wants to administrate his facility.
Obi-Wan: The Force will be with you, always.
To end, let’s not forget the reason we love these characters so much is because of not who they are, but what they represent.
This one is hard to review because it’s so drenched with Sorkin’s politics that one cannot review without some bias. Since I subscribe to Sorkin’s brand of politics (influenced by David Frum, David Brooks, or any moderate Republican), then I will not write without bias. In fact, as you’ll see in #4, I will write with a lot of bias. I liked this episode far more than the second and on par with the first, but I’m concerned that the show is still finding its voice right now. Four out of five stars (but can be bumped down to three if you’re not into his politics).
What I liked:
Rocky 2. The board room felt like a confederacy of dunces when the Rocky 2 analogy was thrown out and that was the point. I’ll simultaneously chastise and high-five Sorkin for casting Jane Fonda as the head of the network because of its obvious allusions to her real-life hubby, Ted Turner. But to have her sit there motionless for most of the show while the board (led by the over anxious c-level executive who turns out to be both son and president) laments about seven percent is a well-executed slow burn. The dialogue between Fonda and Waterston is pure uncut Sorkin.
Sorkin romantic subplots! Look… I may play a cynic but I’m secretly a hopeless romantic. Instead of doing work on Friday night (sorry Dallas!), I ended up spending two hours re-watching the American President. I like Sorkin romantic subplots. They’re high on rhetoric but low on saccharine. In spite of the damsel in distress nature of the Alison Pill panic attack scene, I really enjoyed the chemistry being formed between Jim and Maggie. They won’t get together until the second season but at least Jim has an ally in Dev Patel. I was going to make a slum dawg reference here but … oh dammit.
The McRib. I’m really starting to get Don’s character. I sense that deep down, he knows the right thing to do. But that right thing almost always conflicts with personal gain. And it eats at him that he has sold his soul to push the McRib at 10PM or string Maggie along. But it’s not enough for him to stop. Because even deeper down, he’s not the valiant honorable man with integrity he wants to be. Deeper down, he’s the character we see on TV—someone who subconsciously perceives Will, Maggie, Jim, MacKenzie, and the whole lot of them as idealist which equates to weakness. No one wants to join the losing team (even if Will proudly boasts that he will).
Which brings me to this point… the politics. There’s no getting around what Will’s character, and by proxy, Aaron Sorkin and some of other showrunners of Newsroom think of the Tea Party and the 112th Congress. Granted, there is some liberal artistic license with hyperbole and rhetoric used by Sorkin to describe the naivete of the poor Tea Party interviewees or the convenient RINO that co-sponsored a bill to help veterans (a fictional senator Bryce Delaney but the proxy is true for many incumbent GOPs who were ousted in their primaries). The argument being made by Will, Sorkin, and centrists like me is that the Tea Party is not the modern GOP led by Reagan and Goldwater but something else entirely. Harken back to my first post when I said presenting two sides isn’t fairness when it’s a false equivalency. Criticizing the Tea Party for any reason today will be perceived as partisan because even presenting facts is now a partisan position. So not everyone is going to like this. Which brings me to…
What I Didn’t Like
Someone give MacKenzie some backbone. I really like the idea of her character: a tough-minded liberal journalist who has the pedigree to stick to her center-left position because she can’t be perceived as naive since she’s seen it all. A woman who was the equal to the great Will McAvoy. Someone who took real bullets while covering the news that needs to be covered. So why is she the jealous school girl here? Right now, Will’s foil isn’t a single person (although Jane Fonda may become that person) but the perception of the news media and America’s ignorance. It’d be nice if along the way MacKenzie provided a real frenemy to our Sorkin protagonist, that is until season 4 when they get together.
Sorkin is onto something here. It’s the news as it was intended to be covered. It doesn’t have the cynicism of The Daily Show because it’s sincere. Since it’s covering the recent past, there is never any pressure to “break” news before it’s fully baked (looking at you CNN, Fox News, and HuffPo). And in spite of what you may think, it’s not nearly as partisan as Maddow and nowhere near the stratospheric craziness of Hannity. It’s as if Sorkin decided that 55 minutes of Newsroom would be the high-level drama you might find on HBO and 5 minutes would be actual news coverage as he imagined it to be. I’d take that.
If “We Just Decided To” was a Sorkin master class, then “News Night 2.0” is a Sorkin overdose. This review is late in coming because I’ve had such a difficult time watching it, it proved equally difficult writing the review. I understand that the purpose of the second episode was to show the News Room gone awry (especially compared to the serendipitous first episode). Showing a catastrophe is one thing; becoming one is something else. 1 out of 5 stars.
What I liked:
Sam Waterston. He seems to be the only adult in the room at all times, even when he’s a grown man drinking Scotch and playing online poker during a work day. It’s clear that Sam is intended to be the moral compass for what Newsroom wants to be.
What I didn’t like:
"The Blackberry Fiasco" or "Is this an episode of 2 and a Half Men or an HBO dramedy written by the great Aaron Sorkin?" I find it hard to believe that Aaron Sorkin, whom had months to write, would use a cliched set piece like an office email gone wrong as the catalyst for the second episode of his flagship show. Yet, here we are. The plot device was lazy and the reactions from MacKenzie to everyone else was over-the-top and unbelievable. I’m supposed to believe this hysterical woman braved years covering Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan?
"Race to the Finish"or “Is this an episode of 2 and a Half Men or an HBO dramedy written by the great Aaron Sorkin?” I find it hard to believe that I have to type this twice. The second plot pivot was Maggie’s bumbling of Governor Jan Brewer’s exclusive because of something that happened in college with Gov. Brewer’s aide. How convenient? Did Sorkin spend months writing episode 1 and mail it in for episode 2? We’ll never know.
Reverse race-baiting. There are two black characters on the show, neither of whom are in the top-billing. One is Gary, who is not a supporter of Obama, and Kendra who is. Also, Kendra got double 800s on her SATs. I don’t know why any of this is relevant. If Kendra played the role of Maggie and was a bu(b/m)bling optimistic associate producer with a heart of gold, then I say we are getting closer to a post-racial America. But she isn’t and we aren’t.
Don. Why is his character written to be so unlikeable? Is he the Joffrey character on Newsroom? If so, then Maggie I’d watch out. Don’s likely to have two prostitutes maim each other by episode 5.
In the show, two things resonated with me that broke the fourth wall. One, Will apologizes to Charlie for putting on a bad show. I accept your apology, Will. Two, MacKenzie asks Will if he’s in or out.
In spite of News Night 2.0, I’m in, MacKenzie. Until next week, some Sorkinisms.
Hello blog. I’m back. And I’m back because Newsroom is great.
Let me start with my biases. I like Aaron Sorkin. I like his writing and dialogue. I like his politics (from what I can gather). I like the characters he creates—the tragically flawed Sorkin Übermensch that rejects what came before because of an innate sense of what they feel is truly good. It was in Andrew Shephard, President Bartlet, Billy Beane, Mark Zuckerberg, Lt. Daniel Kaffee, etc. (worth noting: they’re all men; Sorkin writes himself into the protagonist). I like them because they are the men I want to be: idealist, intellectual, tough but compassionate, and with a high sense of integrity for what they feel is right.
So what’s all the fuss about?
The critics have chimed in. Here’s a brief rundown, with the apropos choice words:
New York Times: At its best (…) “The Newsroom” has a wit, sophistication and manic energy that recalls James L. Brooks’s classic movie “Broadcast News.” But at its worst, the show chokes on its own sanctimony.
Miami Herald(which I only put on here because the review is not so much a review about the show’s execution, but how much the reviewer hates Sorkin’s politics): Monstrously misconceived and incompetently executed, powered by a high-octane blend of arrogance and contempt, The Newsroom is an epochal failure, a program destined for television’s all-time What Were They Thinking? list.
Washington Post: It’s a puppet show with Sorkin as the only hand, expressing his displeasure with the tenor of public discourse.
The only criticism I have with the show is that skewering journalists today for their pandering to the lowest common denominator, embellishing poor content with modern whiz bang Tupac holograms (I’m looking at you, CNN), or their blatant partisanship disguised as fact-telling (Fox News definitely, MSNBC tries to) is not new. It’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and his Kaufman-esque counterpart, The Colbert Report.
This show works for me because it speaks to me. It may not speak to you. You may sit to the right or left of me politically (or don’t even care about politics). You may believe it’s fair to give equal voice to creationists, birthers, non-scientists speaking about climate change, men to speak for (not about) women’s rights, etc. I don’t. I think it’s a false equivalence. I don’t think Obama’s a socialist because he wants to raise the highest income tax bracket up a few points from its historic lows and I think Romney was a very successful businessman because his job was to make money for his limited partners, not create jobs, and shouldn’t be vilified for it.
You don’t agree with my politics? Or Sorkin’s for that matter? Stop reading my blog and don’t watch his show. Sorkin doesn’t hide from who he is: a recovering cocaine addict, leaning left on his politics, who is smarter than most people and likes to let the world know how smart he is. Sound familiar (except for the cocaine part)? Sure, it’s self-indulgent but it’s his show and it’s my blog!
Now that we’ve gotten this out of the way, next week’s review will be more… technical. I figure by now, I would’ve scared off half the people anyway. The show was well executed, well acted, well written (I like his monologues and walk-and-talks), and I like the fact the show is set in the recent past so the viewer has the advantage of 20/20 hindsight. With Sorkin, most viewers are playing from behind anyway so it’s good to handicap it a bit. It’s a little too ideal? Too unrealistic? Too political? C’mon, it’s being aired after the one-hour drama about over-sexed vampires being an allegory to homosexuality. It’s not TV; it’s HBO.