Keep your Eyes on the Prize
By: Lady Sharon
By: Lady Sharon
While trying to continue doing the real news, News Night hemorrhages viewers to channels covering Casey Anthony. They struggle to find their way clear to covering it themselves, also knowing that their ratings could hurt their chances to win the network’s bid to cover the Republican debate.
Charlie comes face to face with his anonymous source, Late to Dinner, and gets some info on the wire tapping that ACN is doing to feed tabloid gossip on Will to TMI. Meanwhile, Mac’s ex-boyfriend, Brian Brenner, is in house doing a cover story on the show.
The show is still struggling to find its exact voice, and is perhaps more soap opera than weekly drama, like The West Wing or ER. As we begin the home stretch in Sorkin’s 10-part play, I wonder if that’s what it’s meant to be or if it will change for Season 2.
Until then we have The Blackout. A two-parter, this ep does its job faithfully of setting the stage for many intriguing plotlines that we’ll have to tune in next week to see resolved.
We Don’t Do Entertainment News
News Night refuses to report the Casey Anthony trial at the end of May, 2011, and in 5 days half a million viewers leave their show and go to Nancy Grace. (blech)
|Douchebag is one word.|
Previously, they wouldn’t care. But… News Night is in the running to get the Republican Primary Presidential Candidate Debate. They are pitching the RNC on a new debate format, and they likely won’t get the debate or the new format if their ratings are in the toilet.
Keeping his eye on the prize (the debate), Will reluctantly agrees to cover the Casey Anthony trial. Mac blows a gasket on him.
Mac: "A child is dead, a very troubled mother either did or didn’t kill her, her parents are waiting to find out if their daughter’s going to get the needle, so thank God for TiVo…. It’s entertainment and it’s just this side of a snuff film."
Charlie reminds her that “a ratings hit like this is all Leona needs to fire without having to explain why.”
While I’m becoming increasingly less enamored of the screaming matches, I did appreciate finally seeing the smart savvy Mac. She was articulate, persuasive and finally acting like an EP outside of the control room.
This scene was a succinct and powerful parable from Sorkin: A nice little fantasy about the process other news organizations may? do? should? go through to determine which earth-shattering stories they’re going to dump in favor of the day’s “tragedy porn.”
…Which also includes covering Anthony Wiener’s crotch shot.
Don, Master of the Dark Arts
In order to cover Casey Anthony in true Casey Anthony style, the News Night staff needs to get “a crash course on how to exploit this tragedy and to erase all boundaries of what should be used as entertainment.” Mac brings in Don for this.
What show did Don work on before that makes him an expert at doing crap news? He didn’t seem to have a problem digging deep down to find that slimy side of him. Nevertheless…
|Don: "Little of her coverage is about the law. It’s all about an emotional appeal… |
[and leads you to] draw your own thoroughly uninformed opinions..." Photo: source
Everyone needs to watch this poignant scene! It breaks down how tabloids, Access Hollywood, and specifically Nancy Grace choose what to show when during their segments, and explains exactly the way these sinister plans successfully manipulate us.
(Note from LS: I was unable to include a video of the entire scene, but found it here. Watch it!)
It’s our daily dose of schadenfreude, our guilty pleasure, and a primal example of what’s wrong with us. We all know who Casey Anthony is and can recite facts about the tragedy, yet I’d wager few of us know even who Paul Ryan is.
All because we’re drawn to entertaining television, and can sleep better at night if it’s dressed as news.
Global Clarity is Late for Dinner
Charlie meets his NSA source, aka Late for Dinner, at the library for some top secret canoodling. His real name is Solomon Hancock. His current title is: Assistant Deputy Director of Technology and Systems, Cryptology and Mathematics at NSA. (Is that mouthful really necessary?)
Solomon basically tells Charlie that the NSA is bugging everyone, and everyone’s cell phones have a bot on them that turns our mics live all the time. Sheesh! Or rather, shush!!! The program is named Global Clarity.
Solomon wants Charlie and ACN to report his whistle blowing on the NSA. They are “warrantlessly” spying on Americans under the guise of fighting terrorism, which in his mind makes our government just as bad as the Russians of the cold war, and he wants it stopped.
He also claims that he can prove that TMI is doing the same wire tapping as News of the World and that Reese Lansing is ordering it. (I knew he was a douchebag!)
If ACN runs the story, Solomon will give Charlie the evidence he needs to prove Reese guilty and give them information they needed to protect themselves against the tabloid attacks.
Charlie, Will and Mac put Jim on the case. More to come on that I suppose…
This seems like a win-win situation. Solomon gets to serve a healthy slice of “up yours” justice to big bad government. ACN gets a huge story and ammunition to bring Prez Douchebag down, and save Will in the process.
But I have two questions:
- Doesn’t this smell a little bit like payola, resemble a lot like what Will just did to Brian, and isn’t there something wrong with that?
- In an episode where everyone’s keeping their eyes on the prize, what’s Hancock’s ulterior motive?
Charlie to Leona: “Danger, Will Robinson!”
|Leona: "You let him know that he is one tabloid fuckup |
and a ratings point away from having his own podcast."
Charlie tries to warn Leona about the big ol’ can of whoop ass they’re about to lay down on her. He doesn’t give out any deets, he just tries to convince her not to go to the mattresses on Will.
I can’t figure out why he’d try to help, other than he’s a good guy and they’re technically on the same team.
But he didn’t do a great job. It didn’t work. Leo McGarry would have done it better, smoother and it would have worked.
Ex-Boyfriend and Cheater, Come on Down!
During this upheaval, a reporter is on an all-access pass to do a cover story on Will and the News Night 2.0 philosophy. A reporter that Will hand-picked. But it’s not just any reporter, it’s Brian Brenner. Mac’s ex. The one she cheated on Will with.
Well, Aaron Sorkin always says that to create drama all you need is two people that disagree. We got three. Why would they all consent to this car-wreck-in-the-making?
|Brian Brenner, played by Paul Schneider |
of Parks and Rec fame. Photo: source
Will has one reason that’s rather noble: he can set the terms of the article. Will insists that Brian not deeply investigate Mac, specifically with regard to all three of their intertwined love lives, and the unfortunate accidental email Mac sent.
Mac doesn’t really have a say, but Will explains to her that by doing this, he can guarantee that Brian won’t pap her.
It’s nice that Will wants to protect her, and does something ethically questionable, but yet chivalrous to accomplish that.
…One last reason why Will’s putting everyone through this pain: hopefully get Brian to out Leona’s sinister plan to get him fired. And Brian has already grasped the entire scope of it, rather quickly if you ask me. But good on ya, mate!
Will Drops In on Dr. Jacob
All this with Brian proves mentally too much for Will, who barges in on his therapist, Dr. Jacob. When he explains it all to him, the doc says this:
Dr. Jacob: "You’re holding your hand over the candle because you think the trick is not minding… And while you’re working your way through all this, you’re hurting MacKenzie."
Bingo! Subconsciously, he’s doing it to make Mac pay penance.
Frankly, he’s finding too many ways to hurt Mac, and I’ve officially had my fill. He either needs to back off and apologize to Mac, or get back together with her. Stop figuratively smacking her around, for the love of Pete!
But Dr. Jacob is right, it’s not about accomplishing the trick, it’s about forgiving. A lesson that’s easier said than done.
Neal Pitches the Trolls
Good ol’ adorkable Neal, pitches a story to Mac about going undercover to penetrate the secret society of internet trolls.
To gain access though, he’ll have to provide proof that he’s successfully hijacked a forum, blog or website. Admirably, he doesn’t want to “ding an innocent person” so he’ll need to do it to someone on the News Night staff… like Sloan?
Sloan is Just Unhinged – or is she?
They spend an awful lot of time this ep letting Sloan rant about how important it is that they do a segment on the vote not to lower the debt ceiling. She makes some compelling arguments and Olivia Munn has her best performance yet.
|"Listen here, Sampat!"|
Ultimately, I still don’t get her.
In defense of his women, Aaron recently told reporters, that once you establish them as “thoughtful, curious [and] plainly smart… You can have them slip on as many banana peels as you want.”
While I agree with him, I just haven’t seen enough evidence of their smarts yet. People telling me they’re smart doesn’t count. I want to see it in action.
Furthermore, the “banana peels” they slip on are cliché, overworked, and not plausible (the email snafu, utterly inept relationship skills, and poking a big burly guy in the chest just for thrills).
All this results in characters for whom I’m not quite yet ready to wave a banner. I hope that whoever he fired on the writing staff was the one responsible for those jokes and that the new guys or gals do it better.
Maggie and Sandy
In covering Wiener's wiener, Maggie gets stuck producing a segment where a brunette bimbo, Sandy, shares tweets she exchanged with Congressman Wiener. Sexts. Not terribly creative ones, either.
|Check out Neal's reaction. Priceless. Photo: source|
Sandy wants to “show everyone what kind of man he is.” Even though we can clearly see that it does nothing but prove what kind of woman she is. Maggie can barely contain her disdain, but goes through with it anyway.
They’re all in the studio to pre-tape Sandy’s segment and the stress of the day is wearing on everyone, when...
End Part 1.
Keeping an Eye on the Prize or Selling Out?
So, they’re covering Casey Anthony and hating it: abandoning their principles for ratings. They’re also sacrificing something arguably smaller in order to achieve something more significant.
Will: "I want the (Republican) debate! I want to fundamentally change the way we interview presidential candidates for the job. If that means we have to be Jerry Springer for a few weeks, I’m willing to pay that price."
A lot of the criticism of the show has been about how un-real it is. It doesn’t get more real than this. This is the conundrum faced by news outlets, businesses, hell, regular old people every day. We all gotta “eat our vegetables.”
When we next meet our caped crusaders, we’ll see how the threesome, the tapping, the troll, the source, and the debate end up… and if it was all worth it.