This episode starts out in mid-blackout, but for MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer), a light goes on. She feels like News Night received a miracle and says so to the staff in an impassioned speech. If Jules, the hit man played by Samuel Jackson in 1993’s "Pulp Fiction" was a female, British, Caucasian member of the media elite talking about nightly news instead of “popping a cap” in someone, you might recognize the beats of MacKenzie’s opening monologue. She thinks that God, disgusted with the un-newsworthiness of the Casey Anthony trial, has intervened and pulled the plug on the salacious coverage. And just when she’s whipped the room into something resembling tentative agreement, the lights come back on. Does this mean God doesn’t exist? Or maybe that he likes Anthony Weiner coverage? The only things it means for sure is that the backup generator started working, and we haven’t heard the last of Casey Anthony on News Night.
Love, Violence and Indecisiveness
Of course the problem with running wall-to-wall coverage of the Casey Anthony trial is that you run out of things to say pretty quickly. Anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and his team enlist Maggie (Alison Pill) to pressure her roommate Lisa, a college friend of Anthony’s, to dish on what she was like back in the day. But Lisa doesn’t have much light to shine on the case and is reluctant to go on the air.
In an effort to recruit her, Maggie and Jim (John Gallagher, Jr.) head down to the dress shop where Lisa works to pressure her. But Jim, also Lisa’s ex, wants something else from her too – a second chance at love. She finally relents and agrees to go on the air that night, but resists Jim’s advances, despite his deployment of some top notch floppy-haired hangdog pouting.
But Lisa, who gets no pre-interview and is prepped only through a cheat sheet on infant murder statistics, bombs on the air when she makes a clunky comparison between infanticide and abortion. Yikes. The outraged masses respond by vandalizing Lisa’s place of business, which was easy to locate because she’s really bad at using her privacy settings on Facebook.
Meanwhile, she’s warming up to Jim, who is tragically and finally (!?) realizing that he does love Maggie after all. But Maggie, of course, is still with hothead producer Don (Thomas Sadoski), who turns out to be kind of a two-timer anyway. After Jim gets a poetic pep talk from Mac, he decides to confess his love to Maggie, but finds himself intercepted by Lisa, who thinks he’s there for her. It looks like the star-crossed newshounds will have to wait until next season.
None of this chaos would have gone down if it wasn’t for that stupid Casey Anthony coverage, right? Wait, why were they covering that again? Ah, yes, the debate. If you remember, Will has his heart set on getting to moderating a debate for the Republican primaries and the staff at News Night has been cramming and running simulations, often at a Chinese restaurant, for weeks to prepare their pitch to the GOP. But despite Will’s cozy relationship with one of the evaluators, things go south when they realize the News Night format would entail some hard questions and follow-ups. The demonstration is impressive, with different members of the ACN team playing Presidential candidates and Will quizzing them. It only takes this half-minute montage to demonstrate how lousy our actual debates are, but we quickly get some insight into why. The GOP representative is infuriated and feels like the debate, with its lack of softball questions, was making a mockery of the candidates. Needless to say, Will loses his bid, and along with it, a little more faith in his party goes away too.
The upside? News Night can go back to ignoring Casey Anthony’s trial and Anthony Weiner’s shenanigans. We can only assume that the network has seen the folly of their ways, and is ready to embrace News Night again as a newscast with integrity, ratings be damned!
On second thought, they might want to start praying for another blackout.
Win Rosenfeld is a producer and national television correspondent. He's produced and reported for PBS, NPR, and Current TV. He's a bad actor, but his portrayal of Linus in the 3rd grade production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," was widely acclaimed by his family.