Will: Everywhere I look, people are dressed up in costumes, screaming about how bad government is!
Don: What's your position?
Will: That people should know what they're screaming about.The Newsroom
(2012-14) was 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.
HBO renewed the series for a shortened third & final season in November & December of 2014.
Not to be confused with the Canadian sitcom of the same title.Official website
This series provides examples of:
- Aborted Arc: The death threat subplot of Season One is completely dropped with the beginning of Season Two, as is Lonnie, the bodyguard.
- Accidental Misnaming: 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.
- Adorkable: Maggie, Jim, and Neal. Sloan is definitely a nerd, but perhaps too hot to count.
- Alliterative Name: MacKenzie Morgan McHale, Sloan Sabbith, Leona Lansing. Taken up to eleven with Mac in the season two finale.
Will: I would like to introduce the future Mrs. MacKenzie Morgan McHale McAv—that's not gonna work, is it?
- 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.
- The newsroom erupts into applause when CNN retracts their identification of the Boston bombers. Will and Charlie yell at them for it, saying that CNN stumbling doesn't make ACN any taller (though after their speech they high-five each other in excitement).
- 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.
- Armor-Piercing Slap: Happens to Charlie. His government contact blames him for his son being fired from ACN and eventually overdosing. When Charlie retorts that his son deserved to be fired for his unprofessional behavior, the guy casually slaps him hard. Charlie (and the viewers) are justifiably taken aback.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "Election Night" when Charlie is listing everything that's gone wrong at ACN over the past few days.
We aired a doctored tape in support of a fake report
, the guy who doctored the tape
is suing us, the women who's always wanted to fire us won't let us resign, the unhappiest guy in the building is in charge of morale...WE! HAVE! GONE! TO! THE! ZOO!
- Artistic License – Sports: A critical plot development in the second season during an interview with a subject who is obsessed with March Madness, college basketball's post-season tournament. A character even uses the game clock later to figure out that the interview tape was edited. However, the actual game being played on the background TV is a 2011 regular season game between Kentucky and Florida (perhaps as a nod to Florida alum Stephen Root, who played the character being interviewed). The game was played at Kentucky, while March Madness games take place at neutral sites.
- 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.
- Badass Boast:
- 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.
- And in season 3's "Run", Will sets up Neal's escape, right under both ACN's and the FBI's nose when he figures out the situation's beyond anyone's control anymore. Just by asking for take-out menus in his office.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension:
- 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.
- Berserk Button:
- Big Damn Kiss:
- Two in "Election Night, Part II". Sloan & Don and Will & Mac.
- At the end of "Oh, Shenandoah" Jim and Maggie.
- 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. In Season 2, it's revealed that the tape was never recording, and Charlie has nothing on Reese. The consequences, if any, have yet to be seen.
- Bittersweet Ending: The series finale. Charlie Skinner is dead, Pruett still owns ACN, and the Newsroom team will have to fight an unending daily battle with him to retain the channel's journalistic integrity and uphold Charlie's legacy. But on the plus side, Will and Mac are going to have a child, Jim & Maggie and Don & Sloan's relationships are going great, Neal is back from his 'exile', Mac is promoted to Charlie's position, and the team has the chance to fight another day.
- 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.
- 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 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 introduction in the pilot episode has him read a random yellow news alert (lower priority) without anyone telling him to, which leads to the Deepwater Horizon story. Maggie, after mentioning this scene in the second season finale, ends the episode by clicking on a random yellow news alertnote .
- The series finale, "What Kind of Day Has it Been?" includes a series of flashbacks that set up the circumstances that led to the events of the series premier. We see Charlie's growing disillusionment with Will becoming the 'Jay Leno' of news and how he hires Mac to revamp News Night, and how Mac went to the fateful talk at Northwestern and ensured that the 'Sorority Girl' got to ask her question about what makes America the greatest country in the world.
- Bowties Are Cool: Charlie is usually wearing one. Leona says it makes him look like a balloon salesman.
- Brainless Beauty: MacKenzie insinuates that Will's dates are all these. The first one is actually a grad student, though only of physical therapy. The second one is a brain surgeon.
- Break the Haughty: Throughout season 3, Hallie has been defending viral media more and more over the "old media" that Jim works for. After being fired from ACN and taking a job with a site with "bonuses for page views," Hallie and Jim enter a tense period, but he tries to be supportive (while still needling her about her writing degrading as it shifts in content). Eventually, this comes to a head in "Contempt" where they have an argument where he lets all of his feelings about her come out. At the very end, he wants Hallie to cut through her philosophical arguments about "digital revolution" and "likes, page views, followers" and honestly ask herself if she believes in the value of what she's writing, as a journalist. This cuts pretty deep.
- Bully Hunter: Will is revealed as one in "Bullies," though his instinct to attack bullies ironically turns him into an unwitting bully himself.
- Captain Obvious: Charlie jokingly claims that he and the Yippies almost managed to levitate the Pentagon. Will says that's not possible because the Pentagon is a big, heavy building.
- Casting Gag: Outspoken liberal activist Jane Fonda is cast as ACN CEO Leona Lansing, who comes down hard on Will for criticizing the Tea Party for business reasons in spite of being a liberal herself.
- The Cast Showoff: One of the main plots of "Bullies" hinges on Sloan Sabbith's fluency in Japanese. In real life, Olivia Munn was predominantly raised in Tokyo, Japan, and later minored in Japanese.
- Catch Phrase: Several characters, but predominantly Charlie, are fond of saying "I'm not fuckin' around!"
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The complicated e-mail messaging system is integral to the story of 2nd episode.
- Also, Will's amended contract comes back to bite him in the ass in episode 4.
- The televised basketball game in the background during the Stomtonovitch interview.
- The engagement ring Will uses to trick Mac in "Bullies" sits in his drawer for a season and a half, and gets brought back out again towards the end of "Election Day, Part II".
- Cluster F-Bomb: Hello, HBO. Hello, TV-MA rating.
- Comically Missing the Point:
Leona: Did I ever tell you about the time ... I raised $42,350? ... It was the last $350 that were the hardest. I sold my clothes, dealt a little weed—
Leona: Just kidding, I didn't sell my clothes.
- Contrived Coincidence:
- 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 in the office. 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.
- Cool Old Guy: Charlie, president of ACN news division, is a Reasonable Authority Figure and a retired Marine.
- Dare to Be Badass: Leona gets two over the course of the series.
Charlie: We don't have the trust of the public anymore!
Leona: Get it back!
- And a retroactive one from What Kind of Day Has It Been:
Will: I'd like to make a career out of doing the news. *pause* Leona?
Leona: Who's stopping you?
- Deadpan Snarker: Everyone.
- The Ditz: Part of a literal, live and uncut Terrible Interviewees Montage. The three pro-SB 1070 people Will interviews (a self-professed immigration expert, a Gun Nut, and a Dumb Blonde beauty pageant runner-up), who are so incompetent that Will has to make their arguments for them. All the people who could provide good defenses for the law were taken by other news shows, to cut down on the strawman feel.
- Ditzy Genius:
- 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.
- Doomed Moral Victor: Invoked and lampshaded repeatedly. Also perfectly justified: the team is very good at their profession, and as even Reese points out in the season 2 finale, they perform a needed public service, and they make it look cool.
- Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male:
- Sloan slams Neal up against a wall for saying her ass is big (despite him explaining beforehand that it's a lie), and this is, naturally, Played for Laughs.
- In Season 2 MacKenzie starts doing this to Will, one time slamming him against the wall twice, though considering the size difference, he's allowing her.
- Shelley gutpunching Neal because she was angry with his boss was played for laughs
- 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.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The first season uses a different opening from the second and third seasons, with a slightly different arrangement of the theme.
- 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 Sloan lie on air, but this is instantly subverted: it's just late-night bacon snacking.
- Especially Zoidberg: Will's disgusted ending to the stupidity of the SB-1070 interview in "News Night 2.0".
Gwen: I think we're creating an environment where pageant contestants are afraid to speak their minds when it comes to important questions and what-not, and that's not the America I grew up in!
Will: You're twenty years old. That is the America you grew up in.
Gwen: Not in Oklahoma.
Will: Especially in Oklahoma.
- Establishing Character Moment:
- 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."
- Jim's comes when he keeps pushing the Deepwater Horizon story despite the alert not going red, then gets two sources to confirm 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.
Newscorp doesn't own TMI. We
- Mac has one when she looks at a digital timer and figures out that the basketball shot clock on the Stomtonovitch footage reveals video tampering.
- 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.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Maggie, in the framing story of Season Two's first episode, serving mostly to Fore Shadow bad things in her future.
- Maggie is so Donna that it hurts. Likewise, Jim is unmistakably Will Bailey, who was an expy for Sam Seaborn.
- Charlie does a good Isaac from Sports Night.
- Sloan is pretty clearly an Erin Burnett expy.
- 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. Both of them also have drinking problems.
- 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.
- 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.
- Flanderization: Jim has gone from being a complex, moody, workaholic Deadpan Snarker to being a cantankerous Jerkass.
- 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.
- Played with in season 2, where it appears they've received some sort of gigantic story that would have likely changed America's political and national security situations... but it ended up being false, and the season's framing device has them talking to a lawyer trying to contain the damage.
- Season 2 episode 2 has a subplot where Don tries to find a way to leverage his contacts to get the execution of Troy Davis called off. It doesn't work.
- Don Quixote is frequently used throughout the series as justification for redoing the news on their "mission to civilize" and an example of what they should try to become. Don Quixote was insane and of course failed in his mission.
- Leona Lansing's last line in "The 112th Congress" is "do you wanna play golf or do you wanna fuck around?". It's 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.
- In Season 2, an African child is told that Maggie's hair "is called blonde [...] and it's nothing but trouble." It turns out that the child's fascination with Maggie's hair causes him to be in just the right spot to be shot dead.
- At the beginning of "Oh Shenandoah,” the guard warns Will that during long stays in solitary confinement, people can have bouts of Sanity Slippage. Come the end of the episode reveal...
- For Want of a Nail: One of the themes of season 2 is noting how the disaster that has befallen the news team was set up by a wide assortment of small and unrelated incidents. Will gives a speech to his legal team listing many other examples of the trope found throughout history.
- Fox News Liberal:
- 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.
- Lampshaded in season two, when a pundit accuses him of calling himself a Republican solely so that he can criticize Republicans from a position of safety.
- 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.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you look at the basketball game during the edited interview with Stomtonovitch, you'll see the basketball game reveals Dantanna's cut and paste job. It is the piece of evidence that proves to be their downfall.
- 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.
- Give Me a Sign: Mac asks God for a sign when she's about to engage in sleazy journalism and the lights go out, saving her day... briefly.
- 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 wouldnt 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 Aesop: Subverted when an EPA bigwig is interviewed on News Night and tells Will that any attempt to fix the environment is futile because it's too late to stop the end of the world.
- Green-Eyed Monster: MacKenzie gets extremely catty around Will's dates, despite the fact that she's in a three-month relationship herself.
- Groin Attack: How Sloan gets revenge on an ex who leaked naked pictures of her to the internet.
- Heel-Face Turn:
- Don in "Amen." After being a ratings and image-obsessed jerk for the first few episodes (not to mention being wrong about almost everything), he's shown extremely upset over the kidnapping of Neal's Egyptian contact, even dislocating his shoulder trying to break into a producer's office. He's a lot more sympathetic afterwards.
- Taylor Warren, Jim's archnemesis from the Romney campaign, gets hired as a pundit for ACN's 2012 election coverage.
- Reese Lansing is an antagonist in the first season for placing profit above journalism and scheming against the main characters. He starts to shift in the second season and becomes firmly in the Newsroom's camp by the third, though he still makes the occasional gripe that ACN could be more competitive with rival news channels.
- Leona Lansing is an Anti-Villain for the first season and becomes much more sympathetic by the second season.
- Heroic BSOD: Will has one early in the second season when his calling the Tea Party "the American Taliban" gets him kicked off of ACN's September 11th anniversary coverage. He starts exaggerating his conservative views to try to convince everyone (including himself) that he's not a partisan hack.
- He's Back
- Hidden Depths: Will was an established lawyer prior to becoming a journalist, a speechwriter for Bush 41 and is a registered Republican who enjoys his weed.
- 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.
- Hollywood Nerd: Sloan, Neal and Jim are all the sexy variety.
- 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.
- How We Got Here: The final episode, "What Kind of Day It Has Been," gives flashbacks leading up to the first scene of the first episode. A conversation between Jennifer Johnson and Mac while they are waiting on line at Northwestern shows Jennifer is intelligent but worried about the future. It actually gives some context to the first scene of the first episode, although the viewers would have to watch it again to get Once More with Clarity.
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: Charlie can't resign because Leona wants to fire him one day for annoying her.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- Charlie criticizes Will for smoking and takes his cigarette away, then takes a drag off of it.
- Will and Charlie lambaste the newsroom for cheering CNN's failure, then covertly celebrate with each other.
- 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.
- If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You: In the season three premiere, Will is upset when he finds out that Mac has had his breakfast order of French toast, scrambled eggs and bacon with a side of bacon and Dr. Pepper, replaced with Greek yoghurt, a gluten-free muffin, hardboiled eggs, one third of a banana and green tea.
- 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.
- Important Haircut: Maggie shows up in the first scene of the second season with a short, scary haircut. When Will's lawyer reacts with horror, he explains that she was traumatized while on assignment.
- Informed Judaism: Elliot, which is only mentioned when Don is complaining about him being overly optimistic as opposed to stereotypically pessimistic
- Insane Troll Logic: Jerry's plan to sue ACN involves piling on a bunch of lawsuits regarding minor issues (as well as his firing over Genoa) in the hope that at least one of them will stick. Don lampshades the insanity of Jerry's plan when he himself gets sued for calling Jerry a sociopath during a reference check by Kickstarter.
- Insult to Rocks: When questioned about his likening of the Tea Party to Taliban by the ACN lawyer, Will deadpans that "The Taliban resented it."
- Intrepid Reporter: Jerry Dantana seems to think he's one when it comes to the Genoa story.
- Iron Lady: Leona Lansing, CEO of the network, played by Jane Fonda.
- It Will Never Catch On:
- Jim dismisses Neal's enthusiasm over WikiLeaks as a non-story in episode 3. Neal reiterates his interest in WikiLeaks in a later episode, but it's again ignored.
- The newsroom is unimpressed by Neal's tales of Occupy Wall Street, but he stubbornly insists on pursuing the story.
- Jade-Colored Glasses: Will.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Both Will and Don are starting to emerge as this, especially after episode 5.
- Kent Brockman News: The series is about averting it.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- When Jim's group is told that there will only be one hotel room for the three of them, Hallie quips, "Well that was a predictable plot twist."
- One character accuses Will of calling himself a Republican solely to criticize the GOP from a position of safety. Critics accused Sorkin of making McAvoy a Republican for this very reason. Bringing the accusation into the show allows Sorkin to reply to it in-character.
- In the first episode of the third season, Will and Mac talk about which "act" the newsroom's story is in. Will eventually declares that they're at the end of their first act, and thus there is still more story to tell.
- When someone points out that Maggie is giving a monologue, she admits that everyone in her office tends to do that.
- Lighter and Softer: In a meta-sense, the show stands out as lighthearted and idealistic when compared to the average HBO sordid, ominous and cynical one-hour-long drama.
- Like Brother and Sister: Will and Sloan. He says outright that she's like his little sister.
- Love Confession:
- Sloan, to Don Keefer, in "The Greater Fool":
Don: Why are you single?
Don: No, seriously.
- Will is implied to have made one to MacKenzie in a voice mail message, but the full message is deleted by Nina Howard. He and the audience find out what it says in "Willie Pete". He never stopped loving her.
- Love Dodecahedron: Sloan has a crush on Don who is dating Maggie who has a crush on Jim who is dating Lisa. Wow.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: In a professional sense, MacKenzie to Will.
- Meaningful Background Event: Since the actual newsroom is directly behind Will during broadcasts, it's possible to see important characters scrambling about to get information to the proper people.
- Meaningful Name: Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda) was named in honor of two successful businesswomen: real estate developer Leona Helmsley (she of "Only the little people pay taxes" infamy) and former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing.
- Meta Guy: MacKenzie says everything that the audience is supposed to think about the love triangles. "Don is supposed to be with Sloan, and Jim is supposed to be with Maggie!"
- Metaphorgotten: Mackenzie on a few occasions, notably when Leona tells Will "not to shoot and miss," leading to:
Mackenzie: Lucky for Will he's got the aim of a sharpshooter... who's been trained to... shoot and hit, uh, the target that-
Will: You can't just start to say something with-
Mackenzie: I know, I'm sorry.
- Missing White Woman Syndrome: Mentioned in passing from time to time.
- 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). Not to mention an encyclopedic literature background that looks suspiciously like that required for a World Literature PhD. And they all 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.
- Post-Genoa, Charlie twice encounters Leona at parties where she is stoned on pot. She proudly cops to it the second time.
- Named Like My Name: The staff includes a black man named Gary Cooper. That's the joke.
- Nerd Glasses: Sloan occasionally wears a pair to remind us that she's a nerd.
- Nerds Are Sexy: The cast is basically a bunch of politics nerds who are all presented as sexually desirable. Sloan and Neal are the nerdiest members of the cast and they don't lack for romantic opportunities.
Charlie: You're a nerd and I'm a nerd, and you make nerds look bad.
Sloan: No, I make nerds look gooood.
- Never My Fault:
- Jerry Dantana intentionally edits a clip to make it look like a three-star general admitted that the U.S. used chemical weapons. When Mac finds out and fires him for this massive violation of journalistic ethics, he has the gall to sue ACN for wrongful termination. Dantana thinks that the rest of the crew is just as guilty as him because they failed to catch him before they aired the Genoa story. Never mind that his editing the clip was the reason why they aired the story in the first place.
- Charlie's longtime government contact, Shep Pressman, has some rather odd views on who's responsible for his son's death from drug overdose. Charlie apparently deserves to be assassinated because he fired an emotionally unstable addict who'd leaked sensitive info from the newsroom. Not that Shep had asked for Charlie to shelter this kid or anything, he was just supposed to know who he was and give him a break.
- Nice Character, Mean Actor: In-universe. On his newscasts, Will is known most of all for his inoffensiveness. In person, he's got quite a temper. Though he's more of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- Noodle Incident: Sloan set Tim Geithner on fire, just to show the other cabinet members that she could.
- No Social Skills:
- 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.
- Not So Different: In "Contempt," Hallie comes very close to comparing Jim to Will in terms of desperation to be liked by an audience he doesn't really respect. A bit of a headscratcher, as Jim isn't on-air talent.
- 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.
- Office Romance: Most of the main characters have been or get into a relationship with someone else in the office. Even Gary Cooper, who has very little characterization, is revealed to have slept with several random staffers. In the third season, this trope gets lampshaded when a new HR manager decides to put his foot down on the issue.
- "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.
- Precision F-Strike:
- 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 getting on the phone with ACN's daytime control room to stop a morning show host from relaying a defamatory story about Will and Mac, Charlie orders the control room to "put me right in his fucking ear".
- 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. Thereafter, whenever Sloan drops an f-bomb, it's a sign that she is absolutely furious.
- ACN becomes the first news organization to learn of General Petraeus's impending resignation over an extramarital affair. Unfortunately, this happens after ACN retracted the Genoa story, so it's too risky to report on potentially libelous stories about the Armed Forces. Charlie's response is to walk into the middle of the newsroom, where everyone is busy working on the 2012 election coverage and scream "I mean, what the fuck?!"
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- Charlie Skinner, head of the ACN News Division, is a stern but quite pragmatic boss (and fairly snarky when dealing so much complicated and prickly issues as the news entails). He often has to make hard decisions, but usually tries to do so without venting a lot of emotion into. Other times he vents a lot of emotion into it (but to show he cares, much like Will). Even when he has to fire someone for a screw-up, he mediates their downfall because he doesn't like being a bully for no reason.
- Judge Cedarman in "Contempt." He has to arbitrate between the Department of Justice seeking out a leaker of classified documents within the government and a major public figure standing behind the 1st Amendment. Being reasonable about matters like this is his job.
- "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.
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.
- Retcon: In the series premier, "We Just Decided To", and subsequent episodes, it is strongly implied that Charlie and Mac are old friends who go way back, and that Mac used to work for ACN with Will. But the flashbacks in the series finale "What Kind of Day Has it Been?" reveal that Charlie had only heard of Mac's previous relationship with Will, and first met her shortly before the events of the premier, in order to hire her. Moreover, previous episodes (most notably Season 2's "The Genoa Tip") revealed that Will began his journalistic career in ACN as a legal correspondent, before becoming the lead anchor after he successfully anchored on 9/11. But according to the aforementioned flashback sequence Will worked at CNN at some point in the past, along with Mac.
- The Reveal: At the end of season one, it's revealed that MacKenzie really was there at the campus debate, holding up messages which inspired Will's tirade.
- At the end of "Oh Shenandoah,” it turns out Will never had a cellmate; he was wrestling with a projection of his abusive father the entire time.
- Revenge: In season 2, it's revealed that Charlie's government contact fed him incorrect information to destroy his career. The contact blames Charlie for his son's death by overdose after getting fired from ACN.
- Ripped from the Headlines:
- On a one-to-two-year delay. The very first episode is about the Deepwater Horizon spill.
- The framing story of season 2, the fallout from false reporting on Operation Genoa, was ripped directly from CNN's "Operation Tailwind" fiasco in the '90s.
- Romantic Runner-Up: Don and Lisa for Maggie and Jim, respectively. They become aware of it pretty quickly, but, combined with some slick denials by Maggie/Jim, manage to ignore it for a while.
- Running Gag:
- Neal's obsession with doing a news story on Bigfoot in episode four. His obsession with the paranormal quickly becomes a recurring character trait.
- Whenever Maggie and someone else are arguing, it is always right by where Neal is working.
- "James Tiberius Harper!"
- In the Election Night episode of season 2, Sloan cannot finish a sentence without someone, usually Will, cutting her off.
- Scary Black Man: Will's bodyguard, though he's no less intelligent and witty than any other castmember. It's his physical presence that fits here, not his attitude.
Policeman: (stopping Lonny when he chases a stoned Will down the street) You're a big guy, okay? Don't do anything that's gonna make us nervous.
Lonny: (dryly) Nothing I can do about being big and black at the same time.
- Screw Politeness Im A Senior: Charlie and Leona are practically dance partners for this trope.
- Serious Business: Poor Neal is stuck running menial errands for both Sloan and Mac in "Election Night." Sloan has him tracking down a book with a faked signature of hers that sold at a charity auction for $1,000, calling it "fraud." Meanwhile, Mac wants Neal to correct which university she went to on her Wikipedia page, saying, "We're going to get this one right." It's implied that both tasks are motivated by lingering guilt the women feel over the Genoa fiasco.
- Self Plagiarism: The first ten minutes of The Newsroom uses nearly the exact same set-up as the first ten minutes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, where a main character has a very public meltdown and the show is forced to rebuild in wake of the consequences. Sorkin is now engaged in writing a Fix Fic for his Fix Fic...
- Set Behind the Scenes: takes places at cable news channel.
- Shipper on Deck: Mac ships Jim/Maggie and Don/Sloan.
- Ship Tease:
- Show Within a Show: News Night. Internally known as News Night 2.0 after it's revamped by Charlie, Will and Mackenzie. The follow-up show at 10pm hosted by Elliot also gets some attention.
- 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.
- Signature Style: This show is pure Sorkin.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: MacKenzie on one side, Leona on the other.
- Smug Snake: the Romney Press officers are absolutely infuriating in their smug refusal to answer any of Jim's questions about the lack of consistency in Romney's positions, and in their characterizing Jim as being the one to be unreasonable.
- Spiritual Sequel: To both Sorkin's shows Sports Night and Studio 30 On The Sunset Strip, which both at times took on greater social and political issues in their runs, but it tends to work better here due to the setting.
- 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.
- The show has been criticized for sprinkling invented stories in with real events to help make its arguments. One example is the fictional Republican congressman Bryce Delaney, who is pushed out by Republicans for working with Democrats to give aid to veterans.
- Surprisingly Good Foreign Language: Olivia Munn's Sloan Sabbith speaks legitimately fluent Japanese.
- Tabloid Melodrama: Will and MacKenzie are targeted by a smear campaign which turns out to be backed by Lansing.
- Take That:
- According to Word of God, the entire series is meant to be a take that to the current state of American news organizations, and media companies in general.
- In the first episode, Will's weak, inoffensive news personality is repeatedly compared negatively to Jay Leno.
- 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.
- In "Boston," Will declares that the media, including the major news networks and the Washington Post, bungled their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing, endangered innocent people and hindered law enforcement agencies.
- Many characters don't have particularly high opinions of social media because people rush to share news and developments without proper verification or make off-color (or outright offensive) comments without fully considering the potential ramifications. In the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, rampant online speculation forced law enforcement officials to reveal sensitive details that they themselves weren't completely sure of. Also, Hallie makes an offensive joke about the Republican Party on ACN's official Twitter account that causes a minor firestorm and is promptly fired for her indiscretion.
- 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.
- Subverted with Will getting out of his hospital bed while mirroring and quoting lines from Man of La Mancha. In the musical Don Quixote dies very shortly after the lines Will quotes.
- As the newsroom prepares reluctantly to bump more important stories to cover Casey Anthony and Anthony Weiner, the power suddenly goes out. Mackenzie is ecstatic, thinking they could do the show they always wanted outside and become a team again. Not so fast, McHale.
Mackenzie: I say the power going out is the best thing that ever happened to us! I say the power going out is what is gonna save this— [lights go back on] SON OF A BITCH!
- There Are No Therapists: Refreshingly averted as of "Bullies". Will's seeing one, who uncovers Will's troubled childhood and (somehow) manages to cut through his bullshit. He's pretty awesome.
- They Do: Will and Mac get engaged in the second season finale.
- Throwing Out the Script:
- 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.
- Walk and Talk: Certified Sorkinism.
- Wham Episode:
- "Red Team III".
- "Boston", the season 3 premier. Neal has a contact leaking him government documents, and by asking them to get more in order to prove their legitimacy has technically committed a federal crime, Will is thinking of quitting, and ACN is in the middle of a hostile takeover by Reese's father and estranged half-siblings. And as the title suggests, it also deals with the Boston Marathon bombings.
- "Oh Shenandoah," big time.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Snarked by Neal as Will declares he's going to "fix the Internet!" Of course, Neal's a hundred percent right.
- What, Exactly, Is His Job?: Charlie says it word for word regarding Reese Lansing, the nebulous President of ACN and son of the owner.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Will is called out by several people on how he treated the college sophomore during his rant in the pilot episode.
- Jim gives one to Maggie when she brings up a personal disagreement during a business meeting.
- Charlie gives a rather epic one to Sloan for broadcasting comments disclosed to her off-record, violating journalistic ethics.
Charlie: WHAT IN THE NAME OF HOLY FUCK WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT?!
- Sloan gives Charlie one right back for his sexism when he calls her "girl".
- Lisa gives a magnificent one to Maggie in "The Genoa Tip", finally calling her out on the ludicrously selfish way she handled the Don/Maggie/Jim/Lisa love triangle.
- And of course, Jerry Dantana gets an enormous one from Mac in "Red Team III" for editing the raw footage of the Stomtonovich interview, compromising the integrity of the whole story and, on a greater scale, tarnishing News Night's reputation.
- Working with the Ex: Much of the tension of the show is based on this.
- Will and Mac. A productive relationship full of peculiar banter.
- 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.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: MacKenzie isn't afraid of anything except jellyfish, which is completely normal.
- You Are Better Than You Think: In "Election Night, Part II", Jim tries to get Maggie to stop beating herself up over Uganda by pointing out that going back into the orphanage to try and save the kid was incredibly brave of her.
- You Called Me X, It Must Be Serious:
- Your Cheating Heart: Nary a scene with Will or Mac goes by without a mention of Mac being the one who cheated on him.