So it happened. It really happened. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences called AMC's bluff and went through with its awards ceremony last night despite running against the first, Twitter-spoiler-rife airing of Breaking Bad's supersize, penultimate episode, blithely handing out every last one of its statuettes like nothing more important was happening down the programming grid. They did not, as we humbly suggested in a very polite letter addressed to the President of Television, divert the hundreds of limousines carrying the presenters and nominees into the Nokia Theatre parking structure and hold everybody there until Monday night, with full in-car food and beverage service by always-accommodating host Neil Patrick Harris, so that we could have the necessary time to digest the more important show before dealing with the unnecessary distraction of their awards presentation.
But they never answered that letter. And so we, either because we are insane or because we made a cold, hard calculation about how to get through four hours and 15 minutes of total viewing as efficiently as possible, actually watched the Emmys first. Well played, TV Academy. We were weak. We blinked. We hope you feel good about the fact that we waited around to discover who took home your biggest prize before we allowed ourselves to actually watch that very same series demonstrate its current creative dominance. You're the winners today.
Oh, right: winners. We're here to talk about the winners. If you require the list of all the Emmy winners, you can find that right here, from your Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series to your Outstanding Costume Design in a Two-Time Variety Special (if that was a category — maybe it was. It's hard to be sure; they're handing stuff out for three hours). Right now we're more interested in the big winners, the totally unexpected winners. The winners we're still thinking about this morning, in the moments when we're able to catch our breath between the post-traumatic heart palpitations Breaking Bad gave us.
The real winners.
Let's run through them before the shortness of breath kicks in again.
I am drowning in a sea of 'ships! It's time to change up the format, to better bring you up to speed on where all the most important love connections stand as we head into an uncertain, possibly Newsroom-less future. But don't think about that right now. Let's live in the moment with our ACN buddies. Pop the champagne, light a Cuban, and and let their love open the door to your heart.
Will & Mac (Willkenzie)
Those of you who were certain that Mac could never marry Will because of how torturous her name would be if she took his are still futzing with the parental controls on your cable so that you never have to hear the words "MacKenzie Morgan McHale McAvoy" again, and those of you who were certain Mac could never marry Will because HE IS A HORRIBLE, EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE MAN, well … you probably stopped watching this episode as soon as you saw that flash of Tiffany blue. Only the twisted mind of Aaron Sorkin could dare to make us believe that a woman could go from barely restraining herself from delivering a righteous pummeling to her asshole ex after discovering he planted a wedding ring in his office just to fuck with her, to accepting a marriage proposal (real this time) from him 30 minutes later. (I'm on record as being overwhelmingly uninvested in this 'ship, but even I had to watch that scene from the other side of the room so as not to inflict similar damage to my television.) At no moment did Will McAvoy ever have to admit or come to terms with the fact that he had ever acted unreasonably, save for some grave faces in the dressing room that really just read as "Gosh, Mac, look what kind of bad things you've driven me to do." His proposal is painted as an act of heroism because he finally found it in himself to grant Mac the forgiveness she will never deserve for making him feel small at one point in his life. And she would be a fool to turn him down, because despite every immature, petulant, nasty thing he's said and done, he is made of truth and magic and she should be so lucky to be able to call herself his wife.
This one's for Emily, whose Newsroom recaps are almost enough to make me dive back in — but not quite. Funny or Die has spoofed the opening scene of Sorkin's most divisive show in "A Message to Aaron Sorkin," allowing Luke Barnett (as Will McAvoy) to illustrate exactly why the show is un-sit-throughable to so many viewers who wish that it could only be good. We're supposed to be content with snappy patter? "Sherlock has dialogue, Gilmore Girls has dialogue, House, Veronica Mars, even Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a zinger every now and again" [wait, "even"? GIVE BUFFY HER DUE]. The video also compares The Newsroom's Golden Globe nominations to "winning a most-improved award in your eighth grade math class." Ouch.
I'm really worried we're not going to spend any more time with Jerry Dantana this season, and that is a shame, because I feel like he's having a lot of weird adventures in this post-journalism-career chapter of his life that we should probably get to see. Even if applying to work in crowd funding was a ruse to get Don to say something sue-able, I love the idea of Jerry Dantana huddled in the corner of a crowded Starbucks, behoodied, warming his hands with a PSL and perusing the listings on Mediabistro, wondering what his next plausible move could be while cursing the slowness of the shared Wi-Fi. For a brief moment he could probably imagine himself at home at Kickstarter, valiantly defending the right to self-publish rapey seduction manuals just to get a rise out of the blogosphere, and editing himself into the final cut of the Veronica Mars movie — a harmless cameo, he'd tell his bosses when he was found out, just enough to add a little something to his reel, ’cause you gotta cast a wide net to stay afloat in this modern media market. He definitely joins up with Anonymous or WikiLeaks next, right? They probably value his disruptive tendencies enough to overlook his grossly negligent methodology.
All I'm saying is that Jerry Dantana's story is far from over, and if we're not going to see any more of it, I'm just going to have to imagine it playing out concurrently in every future episode of The Newsroom.
I'm gonna be honest, the better this show is, the harder it is to 'ship report it. Oh, the pitfalls of doing a recap column with a perilously fuzzy sincerity threshold! "Red Team III" was a solid hour of workplace intrigue and a relentless documentation of the cause-and-effect that led to the firing of Jerry Dantana and all of our most beloved ACN players filing their resignations, and as such it was pretty damn suspenseful. Sure, the Sorkinese was predictably out of control, and perhaps Rebecca Halliday overdid it a little while trying to cattle-prod the Jim/Maggie/Don drama to death, but in general, there was too much work to be done to leave any time for any one of our 129 romantic subplots. Will this stop me from writing about it? I was worried that it might, until the 52-minute mark, when LEONA LANSING (missed u, gurl) stormed in with a Hail Mary of a semi-interactive monologue and saved the episode from almost certain believability. Remember how Jane Fonda is sometimes on this show? I bet you do now.
NEW: Leona Lansing & Daniel Craig (Leoniel)
"You look like Daniel Craig, get up. Oh. You look less like him now, sit down." —Leona Lansing
As previously observed, this season has seen a somewhat troubling uptick in characters declaring an irrational, apropos-of-nothing dislike for things, mostly peoples' given names. It was about time we had a character declare an irrational, apropos-of-nothing adoration of something, and Leona's heretofore undisclosed lust for our reigning blond James Bond was the jolt of positivity we needed. It's hard to tell how much of Leona's fervor was fueled by the Dantana situation and how much was fueled by her Sandy-impeded attempt to give Craig a quantum of her solace, but all's well that ends well, because it got her truth-bomb barrage off to a rollicking start.
"Oh, Don. Don Don. Don. Are you happy with that name? Don?" – MacKenzie McHale
So finally we get a straight answer from Don about why he hasn't gone after Sloan, and it is a pretty inarguable one: Sometimes, when she fills in for Eli, Don is her boss. Bless Don's little heart for being so morally upright in this matter. I guess the only solution is for Sloan and Don to both quit ACN and move to Chicago … Oh wait, there's another option? Some alternate way for Don to have his emotional needs met while Sloan adventurously works her way through the hulking arms of the Giants' starting lineup? Why of course, he can't date someone who works for him, but he can totally date someone he works for!
"The country is divided into people who like sex and people who are utterly creeped out by it. I'm one of the sex people." —Maggie Jordan
I can't even begin to imagine how much Alison Pill's nude Twitpic scandal turned Aaron Sorkin's world upside down, especially in the wake of Olivia Munn's similar scenario earlier that year. Here were two women he'd deemed competent enough to play educated, nonsexual professional women, letting their hormones get the best of them and making dumb tech mistakes IRL. How would Season 2's credibility be affected by the knowledge that these book-smart yet charmingly awkward ladies of the small screen were in fact common harlots on the smaller screen?
Or maybe none of this was in conflict with Sorkin's view of women. Accidentally tweeting a nude selfie seems like a pretty Maggie thing to do, and don't worry, girl, it's normal to lose a few IQ points after a one-night stand — such are the occupational hazards of slutitude. Nevertheless, Sorkin bravely decided to face this irredeemable humiliation head-on last night, both with Sloan's nude photo scandal and Maggie's Sandra Fluke–inspired pro-coitus stance. Apart from the new throaty rasp in her voice, I frankly find it hard to believe that Maggie Jordan is capable of having a hard-partying phase, and the conversation she had with Jim about casual sex was too much Tell and not enough Show (not that I particularly need to be shown, but an actual sex scene on this show would at least give my brain some time to rest between monotone news ticker recitations). But that's not Pill's fault, it's the fault of the writing in every episode up until this one. Oh, and what the hell is going on with her hair? So glad you asked.
Sometimes this show makes me feel dumb. Not because of any lack of education (I went to UCLA) or basic understanding of the hot-button 2011 issues that ACN is facing, but because I can't listen fast enough. The moment the conversation turns to anything other than love and emotions, everyone goes all Micro Machines on each other and I am neurologically incapable of processing all the information. I may start turning on the subtitles, though I'm sure they go by as quickly and unintelligibly as the stock ticker on Moneyskirt Corner With Sloan Sabbith. In any case, let it be known that I'm not sure which battalion took Maggie to which village in Africa for her horrific, bloody journey of self-discovery this week, but I do know about Love and Emotions, and this episode was overflowing with them.
Charlie Skinner: It's literally impossible not to.
STEADY: Will & Mackenzie (Willkenzie)
This was one of those weeks in which Mac goes back to caring a lot about whether or not Will still loves her — and I'm not just talking about a brief, reflective furrowed brow before bedtime, I'm talking all-out, raving, maybe-switch-to-the-doxycycline mania. And this is all while she and Dantana are investigating a potential WAR CRIME! I guess if you need to get your mind off of something as stressful as all that you have to convince yourself that the distraction, i.e., your stalled love life, is up there with gassing civilians on the atrocity scale. Her sudden increased concern over Will's voice mail (voice mail is the new SATC bus YouTube, y'all!) was not without cause, however: We all saw how her eyes lit up after Will's tirade against the GOP debate audience. There is no greater aphrodisiac for Mackenzie McHale than some good old-fashioned hot speechifying. They can snipe and bicker whenever they want as friends and colleagues, but the times she truly misses and fears she'll never get again were those private, intimate moments after a couple drinks when he'd take her back to his place, dim the lights, put on some smooth classic rock, and share ALL his opinions with her.
The Girls have a lot to talk about now that everyone (i.e., Emily) is back in the same room, and Tess and Molly do their best to get her up to speed on everything important that happened on the Internet while she was gone (i.e., "Mass Text"). Our favorite kerfuffle this week was "So Legit," a little unearthed gem from Lana Del Rey's prolific back catalogue that throws the art-diva feud between her and Lady Gaga into harsh relief. We also catch up on the second season of The Newsroom, and try to evaluate whether Aaron Sorkin can really take notes with regard to the complaints about the first season. We also poke around at a highly questionable conspiracy theory about the erratic behavior of former child stars like Amanda Bynes, and speculate how Seth MacFarlane's Cosmos sequel will pan out on Fox. Climb aboard Spaceship Hoodies for this week's supersize tour of the pop cultural beyond.
This show is beginning to have as many characters as Game of Thrones and twice as many pairings, and Jerry Dantana and Maggie had more face time this week than either Slon or Slantana. (Magtana? Nooooo. Well? Mayb—Nooooo.) What also makes the ’ship game so hard to track this season is the fact that every character is clinging to an ongoing news story as an escape from a failed pairing, and retconning a lot of prior emotional investment in said news stories. (How could I have predicted that Don's rebound after Maggie would be not Sloan but Troy Davis?) Even the visual cues are proving unpredictable: Sloan was wearing her lucky Romantic Development Hat from Season 1 (the one she gave the "you're not a bad guy" speech to Don in), but spent the entire episode in a Laundromat in Queens, so I'm now downgrading it to a mere Helpfulness Hat. As if that weren't enough, they have replaced the Smartwater in the conference room with Fiji Water, which I believe to be a not-insignificant development. Smartwater is filtered through osmosis while Fiji Water passes through the earth's crust during its filtration process, picking up, as the label on Smartwater says, "random stuff and whatever else the animals that swim in it leave behind." Perhaps that tells us all we need to know about this season as compared to last; love gets more complicated the more stuff it comes in contact with on its way to the surface.
Just like in broadcasting, the rules change every week in the ’ship game. (That is not actually true of broadcasting, there are actually lots of rules, or "laws" if you will, that more or less stay the same.) Keep up, will ya? We're trying to do the news here.
Before we commence another cycle of longing gazes, personal/professional entanglements, and rapid-fire verbal intercourse, I want to make a few things perfectly clear.
1. This is a column for people with emotional investment in the various romantic relationships on the HBO television program The Newsroom. This general category of activity is also known as "'shipping." This is not a recap column. The title of this column is a play on the title of E. Annie Proulx's 1993 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Shipping News. I have never read The Shipping News, but I assume it was about the trials and tribulations of running a Mulder/Scully fan BBS.
We are in the middle of an "angry summer," but on the Internet, we are always in the middle of one angry season or another. Cranky winters and salty springs. U mad? U R. A media event occurs. It is infuriating. People sit down at their laptops, and suddenly it's 12 Angry Men, but nobody has tickets to a baseball game that they've really got to get to. There is all the time in the world, and there are many comfortable chairs available. This rage isn't limited to the predictable commenter "Gotcha" quibbles, because sometimes steam comes out of your ears in an 800-word-thick fog. Here's a sample of what gave the masses hypertension in the past month.
As a reluctant Aaron Sorkin apologist (when he says "elite" he's talking about a meritocracy, you guuuuyssss), I was totally with our own Amos Barshad when he defended our foremost hot speechifier against certain YouTube artists who sought to pull him down from his throne of truth. I mean, a lot of Hollywood types get accused of ripping off, deriving, and rebooting other people's work; if they can only accuse you of self-plagiarizing, that's probably a sign of a really awesome career, right? It's like, why would you lift from Orson Welles or Sophocles when you've got a Mac Performa in a storage unit in Culver City with every Sports Night script ever on the hard drive? But then I got to the "Gather ye rosebuds" section of "Sorkinisms II," and now, well, if the quote that FINALLY inspired Jim to go after Maggie in The Newsroom was merely freezer-burned leftovers from The West Wing, I don't know what to believe in anymore. I need a computer screen to punch — this laptop isn't shattering properly.
The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin's slick instant nostalgia machine, returns to HBO for its second season on July 14, ready to tackle the barely remembered news stories of 2012. (Can you imagine? They didn't even have Vine yet!) I wasn't a fan of Season 1 and I wasn't alone — a fact made abundantly clear by The Hollywood Reporter’s juicy cover story set behind the scenes of the show. In fact, the piece, written by Lacey Rose, is itself downright Sorkiny, with its focus on stern executives, a self-generated crisis, a neurotic creative, and a bizarre blend of apple-cheeked optimism and deeply aggrieved victimhood. Sorkin, the piece says, "is particularly drawn to the dynamic between lawyers and witnesses." So, herewith, we render verdicts on the article's six most fascinating pieces of evidence.
1. Regarding last year's headline-grabbing putsch, in which Sorkin reportedly fired his entire writing staff, the workaholic witness says, "Experienced writers are not going to want to work here because they're not going to get to write. So I'm bringing in people who think this is a paid apprenticeship for a year or two."