Jane Fonda Said Something on Last Night’s Episode of ‘The Newsroom’

This week’s episode of The Newsroom once again began with its horrible opening titles accompanied by Thomas Newman’s overwrought theme music. The Newsroom’s titles are a joke that was funny in the first episode, but one that has quickly become tired after three. After those 90 tortuous seconds that begin with a black and white image of Sputnik (my eyes won’t quit rolling), the episode commences and we see a montage of News Night‘s staff receiving an urgent email from Will (Jeff Daniels), who then delivers a heavy-handed monologue from the top of six thousand soapboxes at the beginning of his newscast. This terrible, self-important speech, which lasted anywhere between four and 120 minutes (I can’t actually be certain), causes his staff worship him and, apparently, the owner of ACN’s parent company, Leona (Jane Fonda), to despise him. "From this moment on," Will tells his audience, "we’ll decide what goes on the air based on a simple truth: that nothing is more important to a democracy than a well-informed electorate."

Let’s call that speech point A on a timeline. Now let’s call the next scene, a board meeting on the 44th floor of ACN’s building in midtown Manhattan, point B. The distance between points A and B is six months, and the episode bolts through those six months while occasionally flashing forward to the board meeting (point B). It’s almost as if the episode’s writers (Aaron Sorkin and MTV News’ GIDEON YAGO) were so bored with the first two episodes of the season that they felt compelled to fast forward through six months and just highlight the good parts, only there aren’t any good parts. The events of those 180 days include Maggie (Alison Pill) and her Xanax-deprived love triangle, Mack’s (Emily Mortimer) frustration with Will’s blossoming love life, Will’s attacks against the Tea Party (remember: it’s 2010!), a reference to Inception (remember: it’s 2010!) and some anonymous patron at News Night‘s after-work karaoke bar singing India.Arie’s "Video."

But none of that is important. The meat of the episode was that board meeting (point B), where we learn that Will’s new style of reporting the news (objective and fact-based with no segments produced for the purpose of either improving ratings or appealing to advertisers) has decreased News Night‘s audience over those six months (point A to point B). Charlie (Sam Waterston) finds himself being reprimanded by Leona and her son (an actor who looks very familiar but one I don’t feel compelled to Google. Maybe it was Chris Messina? You don’t care). 

But wait. That’s wrong. For most of the episode, Leona’s son does the talking while Leona just sits and looks. Or sits and reacts. Or sits and tilts her head. Or sits and shakes her head. Or sits and goes in and out of focus. It isn’t until the 49-minute mark that she stands to speak. "Jane Fonda is about to make this show worth watching," I thought. "She’s about to make these 2.8 episodes worth my time." I watch her pour a glass of water and take a sip. I watch her swallow. I watch her mouth open, and then I hear the beginning of the worst kind of Sorkin monologue:

"Moses and Jesus are playing golf," she says. I stop listening.

She goes on and on, I fall asleep, dream about watching season two of Enlightened instead of this garbage, and then wake up as her monologue ends. "I’ll fire him, Charlie," she says. "He’s gonna tone it down, or I’m gonna fire him.

So wefinally have some stakes—some semblance of motivation for at least one of the characters that should last throughout the remainder of this first season. Jane Fonda may fire Jeff Daniels. That means she’ll be in future episodes! Great! It also means I need to keep watching The Newsroom. Shit.

I really hope they hired Sway to write the rest of the season.

Everything Every Female Character Did During Episode Two of ‘The Newsroom’

The second episode of The Newsroom opens with Will McAvoy (Dumb and Dumber‘s Jeff Daniels, according to Wikipedia) sitting in his home office studying the names, faces, and backgrounds of his new staff—a sign of a growing dedication to them despite his outward hostility. Good for him! That’s great! Nice guy! I, however, will continue referencing Wikipedia each time I want to know one of those morons’ names.

Speaking of morons, this episode centers on MacKenzie’s (Emily Mortimer, according to Wikipedia) attempt to change the way News Night reports the news. She calls it "News 2.0," because in this parallel-universe-alternate-history-2010, people still speak like it’s 2006. They also use email like it’s 2001, something we discover as MacKenzie (again, I had to consult Wikipedia) accidentally sends a personal email to her entire staff. But that wasn’t the only thing a female character did on last night’s episode that made me question Sorkin’s opinion of women. He likes writing women so that they spend a great deal of screen time either performing tasks for men, being frazzled, or both.

Here’s a list of everything the female characters did during episode two of The Newsroom.

  1. Will’s nameless housekeeper: Dusted Will’s office.
  2. MacKenzie: Was flustered while giving a presentation.
  3. MacKenzie: Didn’t know what “auto-correct has been enabled on your Outlook” meant.
  4. Margaret: Didn’t know what “auto-correct has been enabled on your Outlook” meant, either.
  5. Margaret: Looked to a man (literally looked at a man) for answers.
  6. MacKenzie: Didn’t know what a good mnemonic device was.
  7. Kendra: Said something smart!
  8. Margaret: Didn’t know what “prejudicial” meant.
  9. Inconsequential Female Staff Member: Said, “I still don’t understand.”
  10. Margaret: Was frazzled and confused about something.
  11. Sloan: Had an intelligent adult conversation with MacKenzie!
  12. MacKenzie: Had an intelligent adult conversation with Sloan!
  13. Margaret: Was frazzled after ruining a segment
  14. Margaret: Begged Jim for another assignment.
  15. Kendra: Said something smart!
  16. Inconsequential Female Staff Member: Said something smart!
  17. MacKenzie: Thought she sent a personal email, but her misunderstanding of technology caused her to accidentally send it to her entire staff.
  18. MacKenzie: Thought she could solve the previously mentioned problem by pouring coffee on a phone.
  19. MacKenzie: Was frazzled about all of that.
  20. Kendra: Said something smart!
  21. MacKenzie: Made a poor attempt at explaining her past infidelity.
  22. Tess (I just found out Inconsequential Female Staff Member’s actual name!): Was asked to perform a task by Will.
  23. Tess:Nodded at Will.
  24. MacKenzie: Was frazzled.
  25. Margaret: Looked nervous.
  26. Kendra: Said something smart!
  27. Margaret: SAID SOMETHING SMART!
  28. Gwen, the second runner up at Miss USA: Said stupid things on national television.
  29. Gwen, the second runner up at Miss USA: Continued saying stupid things on national television.
  30. Sarah Palin: Said something Sarah Palin actually said once.
  31. Female karaoke singer: Karaoked a a Colbie Caillat song about being smitten with a boy.
  32. Margaret: Drank a Cosmopolitan.
  33. Margaret: Got drunk on that single Cosmopolitan.
  34. Margaret: Was delusional.
  35. Tess: Was asked by Jim to take Margaret home.
  36. Tess: Obeyed and took Margaret home.
  37. Female Bar Patron 1: Told Jim he acted “awesome.”
  38. Female Bar Patron 2: Agreed with Female Bar Patron 1.
  39. MacKenzie: Drank a whiskey (scotch?) on the rocks.

Oh God, the episode ended and Thomas Newman’s horrible self-important theme started again.

 

And then I scrambled for the remote, as desperate to turn off the TV as Timmy and Lex were to turn off the flashlight that was attracting the T-Rex once Nedry disabled all of Jurassic Park’s electric fences.

The Cinematic Little Nothings of Nora Ephron

In one of You’ve Got Mail’s final scenes, Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) discusses the idiosyncrasies of email and instant messaging with Joe Fox (Tom Hanks). “The odd thing about this form of communication,” she says, “is that you’re more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.”

Though she was an accomplished journalist and celebrated author before focusing her career on Hollywood, it was Nora Ephron’s quarter-century of moviemaking nothings—those wonderful little moments found in all of her films, from Silkwood to Julie & Julia—that have been most important to me. Growing up watching her movies helped solidify my love for the art form, and her way with dialogue was essential in developing my passion for writing. They’re what I return to time and time again, because even though our own lives have a tendency of turning to shit, Meg Ryan always finds love (even of it requires a little stalking), Tom Hanks always charms our pants off (even if it requires a little lying), and I’ll be damned if that a cappella version of "Amazing Grace" Meryl Streep performs in Silkwood as those blinding headlights fill her rear view mirror isn’t something to treasure (even if she dies at the end).

But the film of Nora’s that I will always treasure most, and the one I will watch until the end regardless of when I flip to it on TBS, is the impossibly charming and flawless, flawless, flawless internet rom-com, You’ve Got Mail. After watching the film together essentially on repeat for almost three months this past spring (with two amazing people I befriended initially due to our shared love of You’ve Got Mail), the three of us hosted an interactive screening of the film and were fortunate enough to have received Nora Ephron’s blessing for the event. One of the most wonderfully surreal moments of my time in New York was entering the Upper East Side building where her office was housed. She had personally assembled a collection of signed You’ve Got Mail memorabilia to be raffled off at our event and I was directed to pick it up in the lobby, where I rummaged through the oversized yellow orthopedic shoe store bag (I actually held Nora’s oversized yellow orthopedic shoe store bag!) to find a signed poster, DVD, and tote. I thought it would be painful to give the items away at our event, but being in a room filled with over 300 delighted Nora Ephron fans made parting with it—being able to share it—an honor.

After spending the first 90 minutes of Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle seeking out her dream man, kind hearted stalker Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) finally makes it to the top of the Empire State Building (obviously) on Valentine’s Day (obviously) just as Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) and his son arrive (obviously) to retrieve a forgotten backpack. Here, they meet for the first time, hold hands, and descend the elevator to their happily ever after as Jimmy Durante’s classic song begins playing. “It’s so important to make someone happy,” he sings.

And through all her little “nothings,” that’s something Nora Ephron did better than almost anyone else.