After the last week’s premiere of The Newsroom, a video popped up on the internet—surely to Aaron Sorkin’s chagrin—that showed all the instances of repeated lines in Sorkin films and TV shows. (You can view it here). Taken at face value, this isn’t something to fret about. Quentin Tarantino, for example, steals from himself almost as much as he steals from others, and it doesn’t diminish the quality of his work.
The problem this repetition presents in Sorkin’s work is that his shows purport to portray the inner workings of specialized groups of people. When everything is the same, his stories lose the sheen of authenticity. The general lack of specificity is hammered home at the beginning of the second episode when a chunk of ceiling falls onto Will’s kitchen table, an occurrence so improbable it could only have happened (as it also did in The West Wing) in the Sorkinsphere (Sorkinverse and SorkinDome are also acceptable terms).
Seemingly enamored with the notion of piling on as many Sorkinisms as possible, our beloved screenwriter added not one or two but three additional prominent token characters, headlined first by Olivia Munn’s Sloan Sabbith. Munn’s character is the “Victoria’s Secret” (Will’s words, not mine) sexy-but-smart economist that Mackenzie MacHale (Mac Mac for short) recruits for a segment on the new program lineup she’s plotting for Will. It is important to emphasize that Sabbith is sexy-but-smart, and not sexy-and-smart, because her profound intelligence is written as some sort of genetic bonus like a superpower rather than a reasonable pairing. The other two are a pair of bickering black characters who support and criticize President Obama, respectively.
In returning to the first token, Sorkin provides an opportunity for Will to redeem himself and up his nobility cache. This episode (and the news broadcast therein) takes place surrounding the introduction of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, and Neal Sampat suggests an interview with a man he read about in a Spokane, Wash., alternative weekly (Pro Tip, Sork’: Call it an alt-weekly) whose drivers license was revoked because he’s an illegal immigrant. Will rebuts with the conservative argument that he’d rather interview the guy whose job this man took away. Of course, this is merely a setup for McAvoy to relent on his position at the end of the episode to prove his greatness (or that he’s not an ass, as Mac Mac would have it).
McAvoy’s initial rejection of the interviewee, in tandem with Maggie Jordan’s colossal blunder (she botches the pre-interview with the Arizona governor’s office because she’s young and inexperienced and incapable of being professional and things), leads the immigration coverage to be a staggering debacle, which only leads to Will spitefully continuing the farce to stick it to Mac Mac. Following the broadcast, all the spunky youths of Will’s new team go to a karaoke bar, where they eat tuna jerky. I half-expected (let’s be real, fully expected) Alison Pill to bust out into “The Jackal,” but instead she drunkenly floundered between the two fawning men in her life.
If you remove the general horror that was the actual news broadcast, this episode didn’t mark a significant departure from the pilot. It was riddled with the same problems and benefited from the same perks. That’s to be expected, though, as Aaron Sorkin is nothing if not consistent.