The Newsroom Review: “The Blackout Part 2: Mock Debate” (Season 1, Episode 9)

The Newsroom is beginning to fall into a bipolar pattern of having scenes that are great and then mixing them with scenes that are terrible. It is a show that has a split personality and the untamed, slightly wild and evil side is in serious danger of undermining all the good work that Sorkin is putting in. Last week’s episode was a real return to form for The Newsroom, after one mediocre and one bad episode, and it’s a real shame that the second part of the two-parter doesn’t keep up the quality.

As the title suggests, we continue directly where the last episode left off, with a neat cliffhanger where the studio completely blacked out and were momentarily saved from delivering a broadcast about Casey Anthony and Anthony Weiner, which goes against the established News Night 2.0 principles. This week starts off with Mac making a rabble rousing speech, stating that the team should group together, put the past few weeks behind them and do the show on the fly in the street, working from a couple of generators.

When everyone gets fiercely behind the idea, punching the air and screaming “YEAH!” like a football team, the power comes back on. Yet again, Mac gets humiliated in front of her staff. And therefore the tantalising prospect of watching the News Night team do the show on the fly (and probably fail while doing so) was washed away. Thankfully, this week The Newsroom does actually show that the News Night team isn’t totally infallible and Sorkin has learnt that it is okay to have characters that fail once in a while.

This week’s episode is built around the mock debate which the team have been prepping for a while. The debate is a new format which will see Will asking the questions that should be asked as opposed to: “Who do you prefer Elvis of Johnny Cash?”

As a UK viewer of this show, I find the fact that this kind of political debate is something “new” in American television both baffling and disheartening. Granted, the UK system of politicians debating isn’t perfect but having a partisan organisation like the BBC delivering several programmes which define their content on getting politicians to defend their policies and explaining what they said is an integral part of having any fair government.

If you want to see what a Will McAvoy debate show would look like check out Jeremy Paxman (a UK anchor known for his tough line of questioning) who, ironically enough, hosts a show called Newsnight, infamous in the UK for its tough berating of useless politicians.

It’s Will’s job to convince the RNC, the committee responsible for promoting the Republican candidates, as to whether ACN will take the GOP debate or not. In order to convince them, the team holds a mock debate, performed by the members of the newsroom. However, the confrontational nature is not what the Republican party wants, for fear that their candidates won’t be able to live up their line of questioning and that it will more or less be the Will McAvoy hour.

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