The Newsroom Season 2 premiere recap

The Newsroom‘s news meeting has, like it does, devolved into a cacophony of references, marginalia and gossip, notably about why producer Jim has gone off to New Hampshire to cover the Romney campaign. Don, snarky, semi-cynical guy who produces the 10 o’clock hour, intercedes: “The clock’s run out on this conversation. If I’m going to sit in on your rundown meetings, I can’t get mired in these kinds of detours. It’s like playing golf behind a foursome of blind people.”

Thank you, Don (Thomas Sadowski). Thank you because it is a good thing Jim has departed to wallow in post-stupid-moony-non-relationship sulking and the indignities of puerile BS-dissemination that is big-ticket American politics. Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) went to New Hampshire because he couldn’t deal with insane producer Maggie (Alison Pill) and Don’s making a go of a cohabitative relationship in the face of Jim and Maggie’s repressed “feelings for each other”™ and the fact that late last season she delivered a manic rant about how life isn’t a Sex and the City to a Sex and the City tour bus that Jim happened to see and ran-after-her™ so they could share a coiled-spring kiss.

As you’ll remember from last year, The Newsroom takes place a year-ish in the past, affording creator Aaron Sorkin the opportunity to give his intrepid awesome fictional News Night team the chance to get stuff right where all other bad real newspeople failed. As you also might remember, Sorkin’s sadistic obsession with awkward yearning unrequited love largely accounted for easily half last season’s screen-time at the expense of some compelling story arcs and episodic coherence. It was therefore nearly cathartic last night on The Newsroom Season 2 premiere episode, “First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Lawyers,” when Don happened onto a YouTube video someone on the Sex and the City tour shot of Maggie’s monologue, dumped her and Jim didn’t move quickly into another coiled-spring kiss. Shedding the baggage, not surprisingly, lightens the whole presentation and helps Sorkin get on with storylines holding the promise of being interesting.

As he does via Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater), the gung-ho fill-in for Jim’s job, whose peculiar news focus dovetails with that of brainiac business anchor Sloan (Olivia Munn), the more unseemly and extraconstitutional manifestations of the national security state. Looking to score immediate points, Jerry convinces EP Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) to bring in an ex-military guy for a segment on the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes with cavalier disregard of civilian targets. The military guy proves didactic and bad on-air, but he tries to make amends afterward by offering Jerry a tip on major story, the kind, he says, that “makes careers and ends presidencies.”

Thus commences the investigation into Operation Genoa. This was hinted at in the episode’s/season’s cold-opening framing device, a preparatory interview by a legal team of lead anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). Set 14 months hence, it suggests the story went horribly wrong and gives us an assuring indication that the show is going somewhere instead of pinballing manically from one mini-morality-play to the next after each requisite detour into somebody’s romantic flagellation.

Not that we won’t have some pinballing. The Newsroom‘s Season 2 premiere attempts to make some somber hay out of news chief Charlie (Sam Waterston) taking McAvoy off the team’s contribution to the universally overwrought 9/11 anniversary coverage because he recently referred to the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party as the “American Taliban.” Though a phrase used routinely among progressive circles for its utter aptness, in Newsroom-world it causes some consternation, including Atlantis Cable News president and jerk Reese Lansing getting uninvited from a major congressional committee hobnob and Jim being excluded from riding on the New Hampshire Romney press bus.

Meanwhile, staff technerd Neal (Dev Patel) has noticed some curious digital movement suggesting the emergence of a new grass roots wave called Occupy Wall Street. He attends a loose gathering downtown and is immediately asked to leave by meeting facilitator Shelly Wexler (Aya Cash). He inquires as to why they are hostile to media coverage.

Maybe it is because she is a diminutive fire-eyed Levantine redhead, or because she answers his query, “The media’s going to cover it, but they’re going to cover the drum circles and the crunchy uninformed college kids yelling at the ‘earners,’ which coincidentally are the same guys running Time Warner, News Corp. and [ACN parent] Atlantis World Media. You don’t have the patience for complex things  . . .  [y]ou take Wall Street bullsh-t like ‘limited government’ seriously. You and I, God and everybody knows the banks couldn’t survive until lunch without zero-interest loans from the government and bailouts when they bet a hard-eight and lose. They’re straight-up fraud, and you cover Casey Anthony” – but either way, Aya Cash is officially the hottest woman on television.

Maggie, meanwhile . . . oh, hell, who cares. There are some hints between here and the framing device that she’s going crazy, but it apparently eluded Sorkin, somehow, that she was crazy before.

And if it took breaking up with her to make Don the funniest-guy-on-staff he is becoming, win-win all around.


The Newsroom Season 2 picture: Melissa Moseley/HBO