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Welcome, Gasmi, to the premiere of HBO’s newest, big-budget, Sunday “blockbuster” series (Because do they DO anything else?) The Newsroom. It’s also Aaron Sorkin’s “triumphant” return to television after a couple of successful screenplays reminded people that, for all his super fantastic extra douchetasticness, he’s a pretty great writer. Of course, he’s also a prickly, fast-talking, blowhard with wafer-thin skin, so it could always go either way. Which way does The Newsroom go? Well, it’s one episode in and already running long, but maybe it’s super-sized for extra goodness.
We cold-open on a black screen with some guy talking about how “Sharon” has no faith in American individualism but I think he means exceptionalism. Potato, potahto. Image comes up and it’s Jeff Daniels looking mighty pleased with himself while Male Conservative Caricature barks at Lady Liberal Caricature about how he never called Obama a socialist while she aggressively smirks at him then busts out the old canard that by “his definition” Ronald Reagan’s policies were socialist, too.
While they continue to hector each other over the NEA v. the military the sound muffles and Jeff gets squirrelly. The sensitive piano suggests that maybe he’s having a crisis of conscience, or arrhythmia, then he sees a beautiful angel all backlit in the audience. Or an anemic-looking Englishwoman, they often look the same in entertainment.
But no, the halo disappears and she’s just an extra…or is she? Jeff can’t tell and his reverie is broken when Lady Liberal yells about something being code for New York. Jewish. Perverted. And Gay. I think the NEA would get a lot more support if that were its motto.
Moderator interrupts and laughingly asks Jeff, aka Will McAvoy, if he has anything to add. He quips about needing a more precise definition of perverted. You slay me. They’re at a college lecture and the moderator takes questions from the audience. Some kid asks Will what his political leanings are. Will sloughs it off, calling himself a Jets fan. He won’t say if he’s a Republican or Democrat but he’ll freely admit he’s a Jets fan? And I’m supposed to listen to him? The moderator alternately baits Will and answers his own question so that was a waste.
Next question is from a blonde named Jenny. In case we didn’t know she’s a cupcake she asks the panel to answer “In a sentence or less…” why each thinks America is the greatest country in the world. Lady Liberal says, “liberal dog whistle,” Male Conservative says, “conservative call to action,” and Will just smiles smugly and says “The New York Jets.” Stop saying that, please. Moderator decides this is the question he’s going to force Will to answer while the English Angel Lady holds up a handwritten sign saying “It’s not. But it can be.”
Will parries and gives a non-committal answer about the greatness of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, but Moderator isn’t buying it and asks for something human. One last hallucination of the beautifully backlit English Angel Lady and Will snaps “It’s not the greatest country in the word, Professor. That’s my answer.” With everyone properly dumbstruck, Will goes on to tear Lady Liberal a new one because liberals are losers and Male Conservative because he’s talking out of his ass, then makes good and sure to make “Jenny” cry by calling her stupid before unleashing a torrent of statistics the writer’s assistant had to look up, to prove his point: seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, fourth in labor force, fourth in exports, but we do lead in number of our citizens who are incarcerated, number of people who think angels are real, and defense spending. But we do have Yosemite.