In "I'll Try To Fix You," Aaron Sorkin decides to mostly take a break from the newsgathering part of "The Newsroom" and instead focus on the personal dramas of his characters. This proves to be a bit of a problem.
Now look. I know there are a lot of folks out there who think that people like me are just hating on "The Newsroom" because we're in the media and it exposes all the ways in which we've fallen down on the job. This is not true! I am hating on "The Newsroom" because it has been a pretty poor show in terms of its writing, the level of its research and especially its characters.
I deeply want to love this show and all the people in it. It is much nicer to write about something you like than something you don't. But Sorkin makes it really, really hard. For instance, "I'll Try To Fix You" is tough to write about without mentioning the alarming levels of misogyny contained within. Alarming levels of misogyny make it hard for me to love something.
Like, can we stop having Maggie turn into a screaming wacko every time Jim flutters towards her? It's New Year's Eve, and Don sets him up with her roommate Lisa. Maggie promptly loses it. She gets this near-homicidal look in her eyes and cackles and generally comes unhinged, and repeatedly does this throughout the episode, even during staff meetings. Then later, Jim and Lisa sleep together and it all takes up an interminable amount of time as Maggie flips.
At least Maggie is a sweetheart. Far more odious is the series of encounters Will has with various ladies. Now, I know what Sorkin's defenders will say about this section of the episode, which might be the worst part of "The Newsroom" to date. They will say that it's meant to show how much of a pretentious asshole Will is, since he keeps getting drinks thrown at him. But really, the women he's involved with are there to show how noble and smart Will is, and how much they do not deserve a man of his intellect. After all, as MacKenzie says, they're just a "Netflix queue of crazy divorced women with digitally remastered breasts." So, y'know, not there to be respected.
There's the gossip columnist who instantly propositions him, but makes the mistake of saying she's going to write a "takedown" of a Real Housewife. Cue outraged Will lecture about how evil she is to be going after someone like this, and the first drink in his face. Sure, Will's a jerk, but he's so clearly the repository for Sorkin's thoughts that it doesn't much matter. He is, as he says later, on "a mission to civilize," and who could find fault with that?
Then there's Sloan's friend who brings both weed and a loaded gun on a date with Will, because why not ratchet up the psycho? He, of course, is an expert at handling firearms, and promptly knocks the gun out of her hand and points it at her. "Is it wrong that I'm turned on by that?" she growls. "Yes!" he says. (Sloan later tells him she's also "super-jealous.")
Then there's his third date, who he calls a "bitch" and "mean and insensitive" for also being interested in the Real Housewives. Second drink in face. So, to sum up: poisonous, crazy and a bitch. What delightful commentary by Sorkin on the state of American womanhood.
Also, all of his horrid dates show up in the tabloids because Jane Fonda is out to get him, including through a magazine she owns. We'll see where that takes us.
On the news side of things, Will takes a break from copying Rachel Maddow and copies Anderson Cooper instead. I mean this in the literal sense, because he rips off an entire "Keeping Them Honest" segment that Cooper did about some made-up stuff Michele Bachmann told him in an interview. We even see clips of that interview on the show, which Cooper did the day after the Bachmann interview, instead of over three months later as Will did.
Again, I am not trying to defend CNN as all that is good and true. But it's weird to witheringly critique cable news and then have your solution be things that actually happened on cable news. There are a million other things the industry does wrong. Why not choose one of them?
"I'll Try To Fix You" reaches its climax when real life intrudes on all of the romantic drama. After a particularly high-decibel fight with Jim (she can't stop yelling at him in front of staffers and so he tells her to "sit [her] ass" on the assignment desk, in case we needed reminders about gender dynamics, etc. in this episode), Maggie suddenly sees word of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting in Tucson. Everyone instantly springs to life, as does Coldplay on the soundtrack. The episode ends on a surge of triumph, as Will and the team hold off on pronouncing Giffords dead, unlike CNN and NPR.
Of course, Reese busts in and starts wailing at everyone to call her dead already. He does this three feet away from the anchor desk while a live program is going out. The less said about that the better. Oh, and I haven't even gotten to the Bigfoot stuff. Actually, can we just forget this whole hour ever happened?
Follow Jack Mirkinson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jackmirkinson