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You Must Watch This: The Newsroom (Ep. 3-5)

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I've slacked off a bit, this I know. Five episodes in and I've only half-assed the reviews of the first two episodes so to make up for this, and to bring us up to speed in anticipation for episode 6, I'm using this time to "review" episodes 3, 4 and 5. Note: While Dan Rather did review these episodes, he has since stated he will no longer be able to review The Newsroom, so I have chosen not to link to his reviews.

And yes, there are SPOILERS

I've decided to go a different direction since a pattern has started to emerge through these first five episodes. It would appear that while each episode has it's plot lines to move all of our characters forward, The Newsroom gives up a bit more information on a particular character or two. Before I get started, though, here are a few words about the series as a whole and a move that Aaron Sorkin made that I'm scratching my head about. 

First, the increasingly left-leaning plot lines. I'm left of center politically, but these last couple episodes (as good as they've been) have made me question where this thing is going. I love what Sorkin is trying to convey with The Newsroom trying to break the ugly cycle of the media mimicking (and driving) the extreme partisanship that this nation is experiencing by driving the hard-nosed facts regardless of the face opposite McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). The problem is that the faces opposite McAvoy have been solidly on the right. Episode 3 was a straight forward attack on the Tea Party or more specifically the grass roots Tea Party being co-opted by the super rich (read: Koch brothers). A common complaint is that while McAvoy keeps proclaiming he's a conservative, the character doesn't appear to really display any traits of a conservative other than (in episode 4) a curious amount of gun knowledge.

In episode 4, Sorkin has the team attacking the stupidity of the right for standing on the mountain tops declaring Obama will take away our guns (after reporting on the AZ Rep. Giffords shooting) when, in reality, Obama has done no such thing. Episode 5 was focused mostly around the Arab Spring (Egypt), but later took on my home stat's governor, Scott Walker in the now ancient history Madison protests due to his attack on the unions while balancing the state budget. Now, I'm all for setting idiots straight because, let's face it, many people discussing politics these days are idiots but much like every other news story, I'd like to see Sorkin take on the left wing morons as well. I guess only time will tell if we'll see the other side of the coin but for the time being, The Newsroom is still worth your time.

Second is Sorkin's decision to replace a good chunk of the writing staff for Season 2. There isn't really much to say about this other than it's most likely a response to the statements relating to the comments about Sorkin's right wing bashing. Some reports had him firing all but one of his writing staff, while others said it really wasn't that bad and was fairly normal for a show going into a second season. Of course the detractors of The Newsroom's writing are salivating at the mouth to report this so it will be interesting to see if season 2 will take at look at both ends of the political spectrum. With that out of the way, let's take a brief look at the focus character from episodes 3, 4, and 5.

"The 112th Congress"
Episode 3gives us a deeper look into one of the standout characters of the show, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston). In this episode Skinner, who heads up the news outlets belonging to the mother company, goes toe to toe with the owner of the mother company (and her douche bag son) while leaving McAvoy + Co to go about the direction of picking the Tea Party apart. Of course, since many of the newly elected are tied to the Koch brothers who fund a great deal of the network, the owner's pissed about the direction being taken by McAvoy's team with Skinner's permission. Waterston is perfect as Skinner and his performance really shines. I'm looking forward to how this battle will turn out as the season moves on.

"I'll Try to Fix You"
Episode 4 focuses quite a bit on both Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill) and Will McAvoy as each of their relationship issues really come into play. I have to be perfectly honest - this is the weakest episode so far and while I only had to watch the others once to write about them, I had to go back and rewatch this episode to remember the character moments. So what did I find from the second watch? Well, Will and I share the same tolerance for shallow and stupid, Maggie has a short term memory dysfunction and Sorkin just realized he was on HBO and could say "fuck" a lot (see the clip below). The second time around proves that this episode stands as the weakest so far but the episode ends on a very strong note with the reporting of the Giffords shooting. On the upside, Skinner and Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) get the best lines of the episode with Skinner taking pot shots at McAvoy and Sloan just generally being awful at giving relationship advice. I'm looking forward to seeing how Sorkin fills out the Sloan character because Olivia Munn is the epitome of awkward and thus fits perfectly.

Episode 5 gives us a much deeper understanding of Neal Sampat (Dev Patel), a nerdy type with a penchant for Bigfoot. Throughout this episode, Sampat tries to convince the other staff that Bigfoot exists. While this was quite the humorous look at Sampat, the real story comes out when they try to find an Egyptian to report on the Arab Spring from within Egypt. Someone that was willing to risk their life to bring the real story from the streets. Sampat and this insider quickly build a rapport because Sampat, as it turns out, lived through the July 7, 2005 terrorist bombings of the London Underground and reported on the events with his personal camera, breaking the real story. When the insider goes dark, Sampat spends countless hours trying to figure out what happened to the insider and stops at nothing to rescue him from (as he would later find out) the Egyptian Army holding him captive. We find out in this episode what Sampat is really made of and realize that he's much more than a lovable nerd.

The next episode of HBO's The Newsroom airs tonight, to come on back later this week for the rundown of episode 6.

But hey, it's your time. Waste it how you see fit.

You Must Watch This: The Newsroom (Episode 2)

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I find myself sitting on my couch in awe of the events taking place on the TV in front of me. I have come across few series lately where stutters in playback have had me chomping at the bit to get things ironed out. As a matter of fact, I can name only 3 shows in recent memory, including The Newsroom that got me so riled up: Game of Thrones (HBO) and Sons of Anarchy (FX).

So why is it I like The Newsroom so much?
Are there lavish parties with excess, drugs and naked people all over the place? No (not yet at least).
Are there murders by the hundreds? Same answer as before,
What about midgets (or dwarves), please tell me there are some little people running around? Nadda.

What there is is meaningful moments of dialogue with actors and actresses that don't feel like they're trying too hard (still not sold on Olivia Munn's character yet, admittedly) to sell themselves. There are these little moments that build the characters up like elaborate puzzles, shaving off layers of the mystery one spec at a time. The topics covered are real stories that we lived through and the frustration of the spin placed on these stories is (at least to me) infinitely relate-able. This is only part of what makes The Newsroom so great (so far).

In Episode 1, we jumped in to a transition period and saw how everyone pulled together to create this awesome, top notch production. Episode 2 shows the flip side of the coin - what it's like to deal with a disaster (especially when you know it). You know that the rest of the episodes could go either way...there will be hits and misses but, dammit, it will be entertaining.

Again, though, if you need more convincing, listen to the man who's lived the life for years as Dan Rather reviews Episode 2.

Next time on Opportunity Assassins, I'll take a look at Episode 3 and from there, I will get to a more normal weekly schedule for my reviews. The Newsroom airs every Sunday at 9PM central on HBO.

But hey, it's your time. Waste it how you see fit.

You Must Watch This: The Newsroom

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It is a very very rare occurrence that a new TV show comes around and absolutely blows me out of the water. HBO's brand new drama, The Newsroom is one of those shows.

I won't bore you with a long rundown of what the first episode entails because Dan Rather already did a much better job than I could ever do.

Instead, I will leave you with a little taste, which is by far one of the best performances of Jeff Daniels' career.

You can find the whole of the entire first episode thanks to HBO on YouTube, which I would have graciously embedded if given the choice. This includes, as you will see, the video above so watch one or watch both, it's up to you.

But if you've trusted me before with your viewing options, trust me on this one. Beg, borrow or steal to watch this show and thank me later.

But hey, it's your time. Waste it how you see fit.

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