Let’s start with the 800-pound gorilla in the room: During its two 10-episode seasons on HBO, The Newsroom was plagued with pretentiousness, embarrassing portrayals of women, and an exhaustive use of expository monologues when one or two sentences would have sufficed. Sadly, replacing the Aaron Sorkin-created drama with a one-man show about Sam Waterston’s perpetually drunk, old-school newsman Charlie Skinner wasn’t an option, so instead, The Newsroom is being allowed to die a slow death with an abbreviated third and final season in which not enough has changed.
The female characters remain poorly written, maybe not as badly as in the past, but the extreme shifts from brilliant to blithering idiot (see: McHale, MacKenzie, under “bridezilla”) are still there and are still inexcusable. And while the show has been strong enough to allow us to develop feelings for these characters—we really don’t want to see Neal Sampat (Dev Patel) in prison (although he might just find some Bigfoot-believing kindred spirits up the river)—Sorkin is giving us a lot to process this season. Who knows? Maybe he’s taking his frustration over The Newsroom’s premature cancellation out on the critics, as well as the audience, because he’s decided to, like his monologues, cram not one, but two hot-button plotlines into the six-episode season.
The result is an overwhelming desire to scream at the TV screen, which is then rendered impossible because you’re so exhausted from trying to keep up with how financial-news analyst Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) figured out that ACN is poised for a corporate takeover or what exactly Neal did to necessitate legal action that you’ll probably fall asleep before managing a weak, “Khaaaaan!“-esque “Sooorrrrkkiiiinnnnn!!!!“
At the same time, it’s not like we expected The Newsroom’s lame-duck season to all of a sudden present us with well-written female characters or snappy, concise descriptions of how the U.S. government was involved in causing fatal riots in a fictional African country. But, there are some high points to the new season, which make it worth checking out, even if it’s just to say goodbye. The acting by Jeff Daniels and his supporting cast is as impeccable as ever, and credit must be given to both the actors and Sorkin for the exquisitely staged reporting montage of the Boston Marathon bombing. Daniels’ pained expressions as his character, Will McAvoy, struggles to keep his composure upon learning that one of the bombing victims was an 8-year-old boy, reminds us that all of our hearts broke during that awful week in April of last year, even that of an arrogant, stubborn celebrity news anchor.
So it’s a few months after the end of season 2. Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill) has grown out the PTSD-related spiky crimson hairdo that was the result of repressed emotions following a psychologically disturbing trip to Africa, is back as a blonde and seems to have ditched all residual lusty feelings she had for colleague Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.). Completely unbelievable, but good, since Jim is still dating former Romney bus embedded reporter Hallie Shea (Grace Gummer), who has conveniently landed herself a gig at Atlantis Cable News Digital.
NEXT: Same problems, different stories