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EMMY SUNDAY: “The Newsroom” Finale, of Politics and Relationships

**UPDATED**

 "The Newsroom" season two delivered everything, but what's next and when?

“The Newsroom” season two delivered everything, but what’s next and when?

Producer Ken Ehrlich said host Neil Patrick Harris will ‘celebrate television’ as the emcee of Sunday night’s ceremony, with special tributes set for stars such as ‘Glee’ actor Cory Monteith, and performances by Elton John and Carrie Underwood, the latter of which will recognize important TV events such as the assassination of JFK and The Beatles’ first appearance in the U.S.Touching tributes and a nod 1960s television on tap for Sunday’s Emmys

IT WAS hard to know what to expect when season two of “The Newsroom” began. After a critical avalanche that left Aaron Sorkin determined to challenge his critics while meeting their demands, it left first season fans wondering if they’d be left in the lurch (we weren’t). What happened during the summer was an overhaul that elevated “The Newsroom” beyond the moralizing critics complained about, while also addressing the sexism reviews that female characters hadn’t been given their due. The result is a finale that combined it all, including the relationships that make our lives worth it.

The action I describe in the finale below unfolded in the second season above the harrowing collapse of a fabricated report that was manipulated by a seasoned newsman with an agenda. “Genoa” was first marked as an “institutional failure” threatening to take down “The Newsroom” team. Then it dawns on Charlie (Sam Waterston) that it’s not anyone’s fault but the fraud who sent them all down a long, destructive road. His epiphany made possible through the ballsy bluntness of Leona Lansing (played by Jane Fonda), who won’t allow her team to grovel at the feet of a journalistic fraud and corporate golddigger.

Leona is the rock on which ACN, “The Newsroom” network, is built. The scene Ms. Fonda commands as “Genoa” collapses, in a performance that should have scripts landing on her doorstep and her phone ringing off the hook, is the heart of what drives the entire season. Lose someone’s trust. Leona offers the one and only one solution: “Get it back!” It’s not the number of scenes she’s in, but her presence that sustains her prowess; even when she’s not there, she’s there, but when she is it’s riveting.

The heart of “The Newsroom” is also the message of relationships, life, and the business of politics itself, which is what watching a Sorkin drama is all about.

Maggie (played by Allison Pill) gets out from underneath Don’s (Thomas Sadoski) thumb only to find traversing the world’s most dangerous places can leave even a television news traveller with PTSD.

Jim Harper (played by John Gallagher Jr.) gets a girlfriend he actually likes and likes him back, but it’s not Maggie, who he can’t see is crashing to earth through the biggest signal a girl can send: cutting her own hair and dying it Halloween orange.

…and finally, the furtive looks, obvious chemistry and worship from afar glances between Don and Sloan (Olivia Munn) go from secret puppy dog admiration to public affection in a workplace lip lock that has anyone who loves “The Newsroom” sputtering with old fashion giddiness at the lustful female consummation that in itself is enough to long for season three.

All of this prepares the viewer for Mack and Will’s (portrayed by Emily Mortimer and Jeff Daniels) final moment of relationship truth. Propelled by that thing that keeps any two people from destroying what they’ve got and hope to build that’s better than they’ve had before. It’s the ability to just stop keeping score, forget betrayals, and chalk up the mistakes as closed subjects so you can trudge ahead together with a clean slate.

Any critic who is displeased with Mack and Will’s romantic Frank Capra crescendo this season, complete with a whopping Tiffany diamond ring, probably doesn’t like Aaron Sorkin narratives in the first place. Cynics hate this stuff and television critics are immune to the humanity that often seeps through Aaron Sorkin’s characters in dialogue that have plot lines that fade and dip, go dark, but never stay black.

A lot of that is due to the relationships, what keeps us all believing, never stopping, because that person beside you is there to help you keep going.

When the season started there were moments that made the most intrepid television fan blink and grimace, but when you’re in the throes of a Sorkin narrative being reworked it’s a commitment. Yes, this, too, is a relationship, which can only survive through trust.

That’s what politics is about, too. Certainly those entrusted with telling today’s stories to the public need it, the trust of those watching. Politicians need it, too, but trust today is a tattered commodity in this country for good reasons. Aaron Sorkin’s stories are about crafting characters, relationships and a plot where good work and important deeds can thrive beyond the political virus that infects our idealism.

Whether or when HBO and Aaron Sorkin make a deal to bring “The Newsroom” back is unknown. There will always be a need for the drama and story Sorkin is telling, of which he has no equal, because someone out there has to keep writing a reason to believe, because cynicism leads to ground.

…HBO is infamous for renewing its series early, but, despite network executives’ indication that they are happy with the ratings and want a third season — and despite Jeff Daniels’ tweet suggesting Season 3 is a go — no official announcement has been made. The hold-up, it seems, is tied creator Aaron Sorkin’s busy calendar. “We are excited about proceeding to a Season 3 and are continuing our conversations with Aaron about schedules,” HBO said in a statement. [TV Guide]

The story of American politics is the tale of how we live together. The ugly dealmaking the tool of politics that crafts America’s progress or not. People bemoan politics, politics as usual, make snide remarks about the myth of “a different kind of politics,” which doesn’t exist. There is only politics, whose alter ego is war.

One reason our politics isn’t working is because our relationships aren’t either.

How we traverse it all is the stuff of life. The amazing resilience of the human spirit to forget and forgive and always be willing to start over, try again to do better, which requires humility to look at who you are, and the courage to embrace a new direction when the current path doesn’t support your aims anymore.

This piece was written the week before the Emmy Awards, which are tonight, because I grew up with the television as my babysitter. Neil Patrick Harris and the Emmys celebrating the 1960s will be wonderful to watch. For me, TV was the ultimate democratic form of entertainment, long before the internet began flattening things out further. It seems fitting that “House of Cards” got several Emmy nods, as our choices expand.

Yes, I love television, even if the stable of my viewing is news shows. That’s what a DVR is made for and I torture, abuse and overuse it at our house.

So, for anyone who also loves television, tonight is a celebration of the medium that has shaped modern America. We’re all rooting for our favorites, even if people like me also tune in to see the incomparable Neil Patrick Harris.


This post has been updated; originally posted on 9.19.

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