As we've moved from "Sports Night" up through to "The Newsroom," the men in these relationships have tended more and more toward being right all the time, while increasingly the women should have known better -- either than to have once walked away or to be waiting for something to happen instead of making a move. Mac has been so far the worst off of the bunch, alternating between being Will's conscience and his emotional punching bag, between providing him inspirational speeches ("Be the moral center of this show, be the integrity!" she urges toward the end of this past Sunday's "News Night 2.0") and humiliating both of them by accidentally emailing the entire company the reason they broke up. Mac's ditziness gets amplified in the character of assistant-turned-associate producer Maggie (Alison Pill), in whom Mac tellingly sees a younger version of herself and who, in the same episode, also ends having a sexual misadventure aired to her coworkers. That's not an issue -- the issue is that it comes out after Maggie neglects to reveal her past relationship with someone with whom she's been assigned to do a pre-interview in preparation for air, itself a serious professional mishap even before she messes it up and costs the show an exclusive.
"The Newsroom" is a workplace drama in which the female characters all seem anxious to be schooled, to be secondary, from the knocks Mac seems to seek out to the manipulative and toxic on-and-off relationship Maggie keeps returning to (blind to the noble, adoring Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) pining away) to the hiring of financial analyst Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn). Several journalist have called out the moment when Mac makes Sloan a job offer to report on the economy every night. Sloan reponds "There are people are more qualified than I am -- I can put you in touch with some of the professors I studied under," to which Mac says "They're not going to have your legs." The legs comment is, whatever, easy TV cynicism -- it's that Sloan would suggest other potential candidates for the dream gig she's just been told about is appalling. Is it meant to be a sign of modesty? Is it intended to be more likable for someone who's just talked about her qualifications and why she doesn't want to do morning shows to then defer when actually presented with a prime job and chance to shine? Why would an ambitious professional journalist ever act like that?
We're only two episodes into "The Newsroom," and it's got enough raw potential to be something much better -- Mortimer and Pill are proven gifted actresses, and Munn's shown significant comedic spark on screen before in otherwise unremarkable dreck like "I Don't Know How She Does It." They deserve deeper roles than this -- especially in a series that starts off with Will lecturing a college girl and seems to have never quite escaped that vein. I still enjoy Sorkin's dialogue, even the extra-sanctimonious variety seen too often in this series, and his faith in work as a haven remains moving even as the depictions of the relationships on which that work is built have curdled. This doesn't need to be and shouldn't be a show about great men and the women who appreciate them -- for the benefit of the people watching and for those on screen, we could all use something richer.