(WARNING: Significant spoilers follow!)
So let’s get this out of the way now: tonight’s episode was somewhat better than the previous one, though not by a lot. It’s about McKenzie (Emily Mortimer) and her relationship with Will (Jeff Daniels). It’s about Jim (John Gallgher, Jr), and his relationship, both work and personal, with Maggie (Allison Pill). And it’s about SB1070.
For those of you who live overseas and don’t know what SB1070 is, allow me to enlighten you. It was passed by the Arizona legislature and signed into law a couple years ago and it basically moved enforcement of immigration laws into the hands of the state. It included a very controversial provision whereby police were required to ask for immigration papers from anyone they had “a reasonable suspicion” were in the state illegally. Given that Arizona is right next to Mexico, and not next to Canada, you can imagine how most people figured this was going to go. It was very controversial when it was passed, and last week the Supreme Court invalidated some of the law.
Anyhow, I digress. The main point of this week’s show is that McKenzie is trying to get Will to make it into a more serious, news-based show. Something that doesn’t chase the ratings, as Will’s boss (Sam Waterston) puts it. It’s a good idea, but frankly naïve in a news network that’s financed by advertisers who follow the ratings, though I was pleased to have them point out that, no, there are not in fact always two legitimate sides to every argument.
This leads to all sorts of bickering and misunderstandings as efforts are made to get Arizona’s governor on the show. Then after she cancels, efforts are made to get other people on the show. What they end up with isn’t pretty, and ends up being pretty much a disaster.
I do like the “behind the scenes” stuff in the show. That’s what I’m tuning in to see, frankly. It’s kind of like with The West Wing, where I tuned in, at least for the most part, to watch the “sausage making”. The personal relationship stuff was ok, but I was far more interested in the political things.
It’s the same thing here. I am bored by the relationship stuff, and annoyed by the incredibly telegraphed and obvious set-up for McKenzie’s email oopsie. I fear that the show might end up falling into the same trap that Studio 60… ended up in. In that show, they tried to get us invested in relationships that came out of nowhere and weren’t very convincing. It’s kind of the same thing here.
That said, while the relationship stuff bored me, the newsroom stuff itself continues to be interesting, and I was very pleased to see how a well-intentioned effort at putting together a good show can fail spectacularly. I think if the show (which was just renewed), can reign in some of the personal relationship stuff, or at least hold off on it until the characters are a bit more established, we could well wind up with something very good.