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"The Newsroom" Is Over

On Sunday night HBO’s "The Newsroom" had its series finale and I breathed a big sigh of relief, had a shot of whiskey and threw my ACN cap in the air. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the show – because I loved it when it began and stuck with it for the past three seasons – but I increasingly found myself hate-watching it and ranting about it after every episode, cursing myself for devoting another hour of my life to something that was ultimately so unsatisfying. It was like I had a "Newsroom" hangover every Monday morning.

I’m not doubting the quality of the show – I give creator and writer Aaron Sorkin credit for tackling some important issues and trying to give us insight into the process of news gathering. I felt the writers did a good job of weaving real events into the fictional workings of a cable-news show, and it was fascinating seeing those stories from the viewpoint of the media. I may have even learned a thing or two about journalistic ethics.

But there was so much I found frustrating about the series. I felt the cast wasn’t diverse enough. The relationships all felt sterile and robotic. The female characters all seemed a little too neurotic and jumpy, and always appeared only as sidekicks to the male characters. (I yelled a big ‘Aha!’ today after the contents of Sorkin’s Sony hacked emails were published and he said some things about male actors having a more difficult job and being held to a higher standard than female actors. Humph.) (Yes, I read those emails. I said I may have learned a thing or two about journalistic ethics.)

I was hoping the series would redeem itself with its final episode, and it looks like they tried since everything was tied up so neatly with a bow.

But the final two episodes told me that it was time for the series to go. First off, there was that ick-inducing, victim-shaming rape plot in the second-to-last episode. The storyline involved a young college woman who had been raped on campus. She was being interviewed by producer Don Keefer about a website she’d started where victims could publicly name their attackers.

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Right from the start it felt wrong. I’m aware of Sorkin’s reputation for creating controversy with his shows, but this felt so hostile and creepy. Don was acting like a jerk, and was more concerned with the reputation of the accused perpetrators than of the plight of the student victim. When he arrogantly left her dorm room with a flippant wave of his hand I was praying he’d get hit by a bus on his way back to the station. (His girlfriend, ACN’s financial analyst Sloan Sabbith, might be a little sad if that happened but we’d never know since she never changes her facial expression.)

I was hoping the series would redeem itself with its final episode, and it looks like they tried since everything was tied up so neatly with a bow. Will MacAvoy and MacKenzie McHale find out they’re having a baby, Jim Harper finally tells Maggie Jordan he loves her, Neal Sampat quietly returns to his desk in the newsroom after hiding out in South America and Don finds out he didn’t indirectly kill Charlie Skinner with his refusal to do the campus rape story. Charlie’s widow gives Don one of her late-husband’s ties, and Will plays guitar and sings! These wacky kids are going to be okay after all.

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The episode opened with MacKenzie finding out she’s pregnant while on a phone call with her doctor outside the chapel at Charlie’s funeral. She goes inside to tell Will, which takes us to the first of many flashbacks and ends with Will in the present, grinning in the church. I guess this was so we didn’t have to be so sad about Charlie dying, but I felt cheated and wished that they’d have left the funeral scene alone so I could be sad for a minute. Although in hindsight I guess that really sums up my feelings about the show ending – a death of something once beloved that I can’t feel too badly about.

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