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.