Will: Everywhere I look people are screaming about how bad government is!
Don: What's your position?
Will: That people should know what they're screaming about.
The Newsroom is an American television dramedy series on HBO, created by Aaron Sorkin, which chronicles the behind-the-scenes events at a fictional cable news channel as they report real events from recent history. The ensemble cast is headed by Jeff Daniels as News Night anchor Will McAvoy, who, together with his staff, set out to put on a news show "in the face of corporate and commercial obstacles and their own personal entanglements." Other cast members include Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Dev Patel, John Gallagher, Jr., Olivia Munn, Thomas Sadoski, Sam Waterston and Jane Fonda.Sorkin, who created the Emmy Award-winning political drama The West Wing, was reportedly developing a cable-news-centered TV drama as early as 2009. After months of negotiations, premium cable network HBO ordered a pilot in January 2011 and then a full series in September that year. By the time the second episode had been broadcast, HBO had renewed The Newsroom for a second season.Sorkin did his research for the series by observing several real-world cable news programs first hand. He serves as executive producer, along with Scott Rudin and Alan Poul.Not to be confused with the Canadian sitcom of the same title.Official website
This series provides examples of:
Actor Allusion: Jane Fonda, cast as the owner of a cable news network, who was married for ten years to Ted Turner, owner of CNN. It's probably no coincidence that it's called Atlantis Cable Network (owned by Atlantis World Media), an homage to Ted Turner's Atlanta-based cable network.
Adorkable: Maggie, Jim, and Neal. Sloan is definitely a nerd, but perhaps too hot to count.
Amusing Injuries: Maggie hits Jim in the head with a glass door, twice. In the same episode, Don attempts to tackle a door (and fails).
Anachronic Order: "The 112th Congress" takes place over a several month period, while framed and intercut by a meeting between Charlie and Leona.
And There Was Much Rejoicing: In "5/1", Bin Laden's death was portrayed as this. However, Neal's girlfriend, whose father died during the 9/11 attack, slipped away from the celebrations, stating that it didn't make her feel any better.
Armor-Piercing Question: The show's first scene has Will's considerable apathy armor pierced by the question, "What makes America the greatest country in the world?" Will refutes the question out of hand, flatly stating, "It isn't." Cue tirade. This came full circle in the first season finale. "Sorority Girl" Jennifer Johnson is applying for an internship at News Night. Will demands that she asks the question again, and when she does, he answers, "You do," and hires her on the spot.
Asian and Nerdy: The two Asian characters are the nerdiest in the cast. Neal is the resident techie and a paranormal enthusiast. Sloan is an economics egghead with no social skills.
Will: You touch my staff and you are walking into a world of hurt. I have an hour of prime time every night and I will rededicate my life to ruining yours [...] I'm going to make a meal out of both of you. I'm just a middle-aged man who never lived up to his potential. You don't want to be on the wrong end of me if I ever do.
Bad Boss: Will prior to the beginning of the series. He's trying to fix that, though.
Batman Gambit: Towards the end of episode 1, it is revealed that Charlie hired MacKenzie as part of a successful Batman Gambit to get Will to return to doing hard-hitting journalism.
After Sloan shoves Neal and yells at him several times, he overtly flirts with her in response.
After Sloan implies interest in Don, but then decides to continue working on the show, she gruffly insists that they never speak or make eye contact with each other. Don's response to this is essentially, "Yeah, right."
Benevolent Boss: Charlie is a really nice guy who backs Will up all the way and even pushes him to do a better job with his hard-hitting journalism. He's also got a manipulative streak, which he uses to promote the good of the show and his employees.
Will is a Bully Hunter and will flip out if you try to bully him or threaten people he cares about. He tells a tabloid reporter, "You touch my staff and you are walking into a world of hurt." Unfortunately he can take this impulse too far.
Sloan is touchy about her weight. She's open to the idea of Neal criticizing her in order to pose as an internet troll, but flies into a rage when he suggests talking about her butt. Afterwards, she demands that he reassure her that it's not big. In another scene, she's told she's (professionally) "expanding" and immediately assumes that it's an insult about her recent weight gain.
Big Bad: Leona Lansing, owner of the network and Will's boss, who is in the background threatening to fire him if he criticizes Big Business (and the Koch brothers specifically) too much.
Blackmail: In the Season 1 finale, Charlie manages to save Will's neck and end TMI for good when he shows up with evidence about the Lansings' creating a News of the World-hacking-like scandal. It's a gambit; the evidence is phoney, but the bluff is successful.
Blatant Lies: "Bullies" has two examples of this: First, the Japanese translator tells a few Blatant Lies about both what TEPCO representative Daisuke Tanaka says and what Sloan is asking him. When Sloan calls the translator out on the lies, she reports Tanaka's earlier statements he made to her off the record, a serious breach of journalistic ethics. Charlie figures a way out of the predicament by a second blatant lie: having Sloan claim that she made an elementary Japanese mistake, even though anyone who speaks Japanese and heard the report would know that she is too fluent in Japanese to make such a mistake.
Book Ends: The first season starts with Will being asked by a sorority girl "What makes America the greatest country in the world?", whereupon he launches into a tirade that America is not the greatest nation in the world, and reinvigorates him on a crusade that literally imperils him. The season ends with the same sorority girl joining News Night as an intern, inspired by Will, and asking Will the same question. Will's answer this time: You do.
Jim's first day on the job sees a major incident that his college roommate and his sister just happen to be perfectly positioned to give him an advanced scoop on.
Also, the fact that one of the biggest stories of the year practically fell in their laps on MacKenzie's very first day on the job. If it hadn't, who knows if Will would have retained her beyond the first week?
When the show is forced into covering the Casey Anthony trial to recover from significant ratings slip, Maggie's friend Lisa (a pre-existing character) just so happens to have gone to high school with her. Lisa admits on-air she did not know her well, but the mere fact they could advertise having such a person on the show still helped them tremendously.
Cultural Cringe: This infamous clip with McAvoy saying why America isn't the greatest country in the world.
Dawson Casting: Inverted in the case of Sloan, who is presented as at least a few years older than Olivia Munn, the actress playing her. Sloan has two PhDs and several years of post-doctoral work and real world experience, most likely placing her somewhere in her mid-to-late 30's, whereas Olivia was only just 30 when they shot the first season.
Sloan. Will criticizes her lack of judgment and says that she's supposed to be the smartest person in the newsroom due to her two doctorates. She counters that she's good at economics, not other things.
MacKenzie is stated to be the best EP in the business, but has a number of foibles. She has to use her fingers to do basic arithmetic. She's surprisingly clueless about technology for a reporter who's been in the field. She also admits that she knows absolutely nothing about economics.
Eagleland: Will has a large rant in the pilot about how ludicrous it is for Americans to think it's the greatest country in the world, when it reality it has a lot of problems that it ignores. He wants to return to Ye Goode Olde Days.
Enraged By Idiocy: Will does not suffer fools easily and is prone to lecturing those around him when they express opinions that he finds stupid, even when it's against his self interest.
Epiphany Therapy: In "Bullies," it takes a single therapy session to establish that Will's Bully Hunter personality comes from standing up to his abusive father. He also discovers that his trouble sleeping is due to guilt over having Sloane lie on air, but this is instantly subverted: it's just late-night bacon snacking.
MacKenzie gets hers in the first episode with her Don Quixote speech to Will and, when the show goes to air with breaking news, the line "Nothing on the prompter is what this man eats for breakfast."
Don Keefer gets his first in "I'll Try to Fix You" when he shuts Reese Lansing down with "A doctor pronounces [Gabrielle Giffords] dead, not the news." His biggest one, however, is his ruthless, brutal deconstruction of Nancy Grace in "Tragedy Porn".
Jim's comes when he keeps pushing the Deepwater Horizon story despite the alert not going red, then gets two sources to comfirm that it's much, much worse than what is being reported.
Neal's comes in "Amen", during his work with the Egyptian reporter Khaled.
Eureka Moment: Charlie when he realizes why Will keeps ending up in the tabloids. The tabloids are owned by ACM, and everything is a ploy by Leona to create an environment where firing Will would be seen as logical.
The Everyman: Jennifer Johnson, the generic college student who is moved by Will's program to make a difference in society.
Executive Meddling: In-universe, the higher-ups of the network want to cut the wings of Will and Mac for being too outspoken against certain corporations and groups. This interference gets fought by Charlie, who acts as a protector.
Being a very intelligent, overly-qualified, idealistic man constantly battling to raise standards, who is fiercely protective of his staff, and in turn inspires great love and loyalty from them, Will can be interpreted as a darker and more foul-mouthed version of Josiah Bartlett. Also note that initially, Bartlett was a rude, raving Bad Boss who couldn't remember the names of his own inner circle until he was nominated as candidate for Presidency, which parallels Will's own transformation from having half his staff leave him and constantly calling Maggie 'Ellen' in the first episode, to having the entire team regarding him as 'Coach'.
Similarly, Charlie is a darker version of Leo McGarry, his best friend, his greatest ally, his fiercest defender, and — on occasion — his harshest critic.
Will appears to have a similar relationship with his bodyguard that Jed Bartlet has with his body-man Charlie Young and the cadre of Secret Service agents assigned to protecting POTUS.
The episode "Bullies" has Sutton Wall, an expy of Robert Traynham, the real-life openly gay adviser to Rick Santorum.
Jim also has similarities to another Jim what with him being a dogged Nice Guy with a serious crush on an unavailable woman, his adorkability, even the same haircut. Maggie is also a lot like Pam.
First Episode Spoiler: It's only at the moment the BP spill story hits, about halfway through the pilot, that a caption reveals the show is set two years in the past.
Foregone Conclusion: The show is about how News Night is trying something radical: providing hard news to the public regardless of ratings. However, the show centers on real historical events that were not influenced by the existence of News Night. Therefore, News Night cannot have any actual impact on American culture without the show jumping into an Alternate History. Episode four has Will admit that his assault on the Tea Party had no effect on their rise to power. It's also pretty obvious that their revolutionary debate format was not going to come to fruition.
Foreshadowing: Leona Lansing's last line in "The 112th Congress" is "do you wanna play golf or do you wanna fuck around?". Its blink and you'll miss it but in most other episodes there is a set of golf clubs in Charlie's office suggesting what his choice will be.
Will McAvoy is an Aaron Sorkin Republican. He's an old-school, moderate conservative who is extremely disgruntled by the current state of the Republican party.
In the first few episodes, he lambasts the idea of American exceptionalism.
He mocks Sarah Palin, dedicates himself to taking down the Tea Party, and rakes Rick Santorum over the coals.
In the fourth episode he lectures a woman against gun ownership and breaks off their date because she has one in her purse. Ironically, the woman is a Fox News Liberal herself. In "Bullies," he repeats his distaste for firearms.
In "Bullies," he argues passionately in favor of gay marriage and debates a gay Republican advisor of Rick Santorum.
He describes the phrase "sanctity of life" (in reference to abortion) as an empty platitude, though a later episode reveals that he's pro-life.
His atypical views for a Republican are frequently lampshaded. In the fourth episode, US Today repeatedly describes him as having recently become liberal. Each time Will hears this, he insists that he's a registered Republican. Later he snarks that the difference between him and other conservatives is that he doesn't think that hurricanes are caused by gay marriage. In "Bullies," his staff has no idea that he's a Republican and is shocked at the revelation.
When asked why he's a moderate Republican, he says that he grew up in such a small town that he didn't meet a Democrat until college.
The season one finale has Will admitting that people call him a RINO (Republican In Name Only), but insists that his moderate views represent real Republicanism, as opposed to the Tea Party's agenda.
The newsroom is very unhappy about having to resort to a few Fox News Conservatives to argue on immigration, resulting in Will having to make their own argument for them because they really don't know what they're talking about.
Freak Out: Maggie's mid-meeting panic attack, exacerbated by not having any Xanax on hand. Jim eventually talks her down from it.
Gangsta Style: After Will disarms his date, he points her (empty) gun at her gangsta style.
GIFT: Will introduces an identification system for online commentaries because anonymity enables cowardice and wackiness. This apparently makes him the target of a credible death threat.
Going for the Big Scoop: Will invokes this in a magnificent takedown of a gossip columnist who has the gall to call herself a journalist.
Will: I’ve got a guy on my staff who got hit in the head with a glass door Thursday. His forehead wouldn’t stop bleeding but he wouldn’t go to a doctor ‘cause I got another guy who got beat up covering Cairo, and the first guy wouldn’t see a doctor until the second guy saw a doctor. I’ve got a producer who ran into a locked door ‘cause he felt responsible for the second guy. I’ve got an 18-year-old kid risking his life halfway around the world and the AP who sent him there hasn’t slept in three days. I’ve got 20-somethings who care about teachers in Wisconsin. I’ve got a grown woman who has to subtract with her fingers staying up all night to learn economics from a PhD who could be making 20 times the money three miles downtown. They’re journalists.
Green-Eyed Monster: MacKenzie gets extremely catty around Will's dates, despite the fact that she's in a three-month relationship herself.
Hoist by His Own Petard: In the pilot, Will renegotiated MacKenzie's contract so that he'd have the option to fire her at the end of every week. To do so all he had to do was drop a million dollars from his salary and add a non-compete clause to his contract, which Leona plans to take advantage of once he starts broadcasting against ACM's wishes. Hiring Brian comes back to bite him, too.
Hot Scoop: Sloan Sabbith, who is hired as much for her looks as her intelligence. Played by Olivia Munn.
Hypocrisy: Leona Lansing. She claims that Will's firing, within the context she'd created, would be seen as an "honorable step by a corporation willing to sacrifice ratings for integrity." Incidentally the reason that she is contemplating firing him is because he and his team are going after her backers, attempting to do that exact thing.
I Call It Vera: Will interviews a militia member who insists on keeping his rifle Jenny in the shot
Idiot Ball: The Lansings don't bother to check the evidence against them before caving. Leona also insists that her son admit to criminal actions in the presence of several journalists with whom she is feuding. Previous episodes characterize the Lansings as shrewd and calculating.
I Take Offense to That Last One: Accuse Will of inappropriately groping women, spending exorbitant amounts of money on a suit, and verbally offending his dates? Sure! Just don't call him a liberal. He's a card-carrying, registered Republican.
Informed Judaism: Elliot, which is only mentioned when Don is complaining about him being overly optimistic as opposed to stereotypically pessimistic
Most Writers Are Writers: As is normal in Sorkin's works, more characters have more poetry memorized than anyone in the world (besides English majors). And love quoting it.
Ms. Fanservice: Sloan is reluctant to accept her position because she fears being used as such. MacKenzie admits that she'd be passing over equally- or better-qualified economists because she's got great legs, but ultimately insists that she's being hired for both her credentials and her looks.
Sloan: Do you want me to do pole-dancing while I explain subprime mortgages?
MacKenzie: If you think it would help. Look, I wouldn't offer this to you if I didn't think you were qualified.
Mushroom Samba: Will spends episode 7 tripping on a cocktail of weed and Vicodin. Played entirely for laughs, as any sign of this intoxication disappears as soon as he is on camera.
My Name Is Not Durwood: Will spends the entire pilot calling Maggie "Ellen", and makes several other mistakes as well because he's so out of touch with his staff.
In the beginning of the show, Will has no idea that people think he's an asshole. In episode four, he and Sloan talk about how they have no ability to mingle at a party. We also see him piss off several women in what were supposed to be romantic moments. In spite of all this, Will gets plenty of dates.
Other characters, as well as Sloan herself, say that she has no understanding of human interaction and only understands economics.
Nostalgia Filter: During his tirade, Will claims that America once stood for noble principles. He never identifies when this supposed golden age was.
Offending the Creator's Own: In-universe. The Republicans are not amused by Will, who pounds them daily because he believes that the GOP has lost its way.
Will: I'm a registered Republican, I only seem liberal because I believe that hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure and not gay marriage.
Open Says Me: Don tries to get into Reese's office so they can rescue a foreign correspondent taken by the Egyptian military. He bashes it with his shoulder and Reality Ensues when he collapses to the ground in pain. Subverted.
Delivered twice by Leona Lansing in the punchline to her joke: "Do you wanna play golf or fuck around?"
Also Will's response when Sloan points out that the vast majority of the American electorate has no idea what the debt ceiling actually is.
After the RNC rep pulls the plug on Will's presidential candidate debate demo (because Will is less interested in lobbing softball questions than calling out the candidates for their campaign rhetoric), he asks Don if Elliot would moderate instead. Don shuts him down with "Eat me." The rep then offers the job to Sloan by asking her if she'd like to be a star; her answer is a curt "Fuck you," representing nearly the only profanity heard from Sloan to date.
An interesting spoken version, where Will literally spells it out: "None of this is the fault of a twenty year old college student, but nonetheless you are a member of without a doubt the worst period generation period ever period!"
When Mac accidentally sends an e-mail to the entire office about how she cheated on Will...
Will McAvoy: You know how sometimes something happens in an instant that's so astonishing you just... shut down? MacKenzie McHale: Of course, that's understa– Will McAvoy: THAT DOESN'T! FUCKING! HAPPEN! TO ME!
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Will is extremely good at dishing these out, which ends up backfiring on him often. In his first scene he nearly alienates everybody by going on a tirade about why America is not the best country in the world anymore, which bumps up his ratings instead. When he delivers one to Sloan in order to spur her, the overzeal makes her perpetrate a gross mistake on air. A remarkable one costs Will a drink in the face and a smear campaign when he demolishes a gossip columnist he was supposed to be flirting with.
Will: I'm not putting you down. I'm just saying that what you do is a really bad form of pollution that makes us dumber and meaner and is destroying civilization. I'm saying, with all possible respect, that I would have more respect for you if you were a heroin dealer.
The Reveal: At the end of episode one, it's revealed that MacKenzie really was there at the campus debate, holding up messages which inspired Will's tirade.
Ep.2 had the name of one of the staff who quit be named Mohammad al Mohammad al Mohammad bin Bazir, a reference to The West Wing episode "20 Hours in America".
Don: He went to Fox.
Will: Fox hired a guy with three "Mohammad"s in his name?
Will telling a tabloid reporter, "I will rededicate my life to ruining yours," is another line taken straight out from Sports Night.
"Gather ye rosebuds" Joshua, er Jim.
Will is frequently likened to the title character of Don Quixote in Man Of La Mancha for his optimism. Ironically, the show has Will "correct" MacKenzie that Don Quixote rides a donkey instead of a horse, but Don Quixote does ride a horse. It's his sidekick Sancho Panza who rides the donkey.
Shown Their Work: The episode about Osama Bin Laden's death was obviously extremely researched: The Rock really was one of the first to tweet out something that seemed to indicate that Bin Laden was dead (and he does really have a cousin who is a Navy SEAL), the Phillies and Mets were playing baseball against each other that night and former Rumsfield aide Keith Urbahn was the first legitimate source to tweet that Bin Laden was dead. It becomes lampshaded at one point when somebody lists off every major network TV show that President Obama's address will be pre-empting, simply as a way of noting how serious whatever he's going to be talking about it.
Strawman Political: While Will is on his crusade against the Tea Party, none of his guests are shown forming anything close to an informed defense of the Tea Party. In "The 112th Congress," Will asserts that an informed defense of the Tea Party is neither necessary nor possible.
In the first episode, Will's weak, inoffensive news personality is repeatedly compared negatively to Jay Leno, who is generally seen as a weak, inoffensive comedian.
The show takes numerous digs at news organizations, particularly Fox News. In "5/1," Will turns on Fox News to show Geraldo Rivera making incorrect speculations. During the debate episode, we see a CNN debate moderator lob Michelle Bachmann the softball, "Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash?"
Sloan uses her lecture on economics to criticize the repeal of Glass-Steagall and calls Bill Clinton out for repealing it.
Will undertakes a vendetta against the Tea Party that lasts the entire season. In an early episode, he calls out the Koch brothers for being the power behind them. The season one finale features an extended effort to dismantle everything they stand for, culminating in calling them the American Taliban.
In "Bullies," Will spends a show criticizing Rick Santorum for his anti-gay agenda.
Don spends an entire scene brutally deconstructing how Nancy Grace emotionally manipulates viewers with trashy tabloid stories and production tricks.
When a particularly insulting Rush Limbaugh rant plays on a nearby computer, Neal punches the screen, breaking it and his hand.
Maggie delivers a screaming tirade against the unrealistic nature of Sex and the City in the first season finale.
Tempting Fate: MacKenzie tells Sloan she desperately hopes there isn't any new piece of nonsense she has to cover after being forced to cover the Casey Anthony story. As soon as she finishes:
Jim: Anthony Weiner accidentally tweeted a picture of his groin to forty thousand followers.
Several episodes make a plot point out of NewsNight throwing out its planned rundown at the last minute due to circumstances or late-breaking news (or, in one memorable case, MacKenzie deciding she's had enough of TV sensationalism).
Will's rant in the pilot episode, when he suddenly drops his cultivated "Jay Leno" facade of pleasant inoffensiveness to say what he's really thinking.
Viewers Are Morons: Discussed in-universe between Will and Mackenzie during their first meeting. Will is a seasoned professional who believes in its validity or inevitable applicability, while Mac is a defier who thinks there is room for intelligent content in the news. She manages to convince Will of his error, but they have to compromise on one occasion when the ratings plummet.
Invoked by Will with Brian. Mac's ex gets chosen by Will to do a piece about them because the situation enforces boundaries in the article.
Writer on Board: The show is filled with lengthy arguments and diatribes by various characters about the state of politics, economics, news, and other topics. It's easy to pick out who Sorkin is speaking through.