Dear Aaron Sorkin –
I have watched every episode of the Newsroom this season. I enjoy that the story is set in the recent past and though I know a lot of critics dislike the rampant idealism, I for one like the sentimentality and hopefulness embedded into each episode. Call me a sap, but I like making the news heroic. I like that it’s making today’s events important and epic rather than belittled fodder for debate. We forget that. It’s high time news got epic again.
That is not to say the show is without flaws. Though I am watching, I have yet to cross over the line into true fan-dom. I’m so in love with the dialogue that I forget the annoying tendencies of the characters, namely MacKenzie’s “crazy clumsiness” when it comes to the simple act of dialing a cell phone or setting up a white board (Isn’t she suppose to be a smart, educated leader? Why add the “gorgeous klutz” factor when Will McAvoy, another educated leader, has no “woh-woh-whoop” elements to be seen? Except when he is high? I’m not saying he needs to be clumsy. I’m saying why not bring her up to his level? If you want her to be silly, get her drunk, or high or whatever, but please, Mr. Sorkin, at least give MacKenzie the integrity of knowing how to press buttons on a blackberry) or Maggie, with her genius sentiments overshadowed by her immature panic attacks (does Jim Harper really have to explain the concept of breathing to her in order for them to “have a moment”? I mean, seriously, breathing?).
And it’s a criticism you’ve received in the past, Mr. Sorkin. The idea that you, musical theater loving, sensitive, lovely Aaron Sorkin, do not know how to write for women. I, for one. don’t believe that. I think you can. And I also don’t think you mean to make Sloane Sabbith become an idiot right before our eyes by naively shouting something off the record on the air of a news show she is subbing for only to get her suspended. (No brownie points for making her know Japanese either.) I think you think Sloane is a powerhouse, a double threat of PHDness and sexy, the ultimate ideal women that Destiny’s Child would’ve sung about if they still existed. But she’s not. And I also know you are trying to make each character slightly flawed, because that’s what TV viewers love to watch and characters should be flawed. So what is it? How can we fix this? How can I become a true non-closeted fan of The Newsroom? And then it hit me. I have the solution.
I should be on the show.
Now now, Mr. Sorkin. Hear me out. I think this is a really brilliant idea. I already have a part worked out in my mind. And I know it’s a good part because I have practiced it in the shower and car numerous times so I know it totally works. You should also know that I am an aspiring writer whose favorite productions include Sports Night and The Social Network AND my dad shows a clip from the America President in his classroom every year. I have been in sketches based on Studio 60 and A Few Good Men so I am TOTALLY QUALIFIED to be pitching this idea to you. Plus I am SURE you are still reading this letter considering in the first paragraph I was hypercritical of some of your main characters.
You clearly want someone like me around. After all, Gideon Yago wrote an episode. GIDEON YAGO. As in, “Hi I’m Gideon Yago here with an MTV News Brief.” (Did I mention I write ukulele songs on youtube?)
Okay, here is the pitch.
I would play Michelle McAvoy, Will McAvoy’s estranged daughter. So estranged in fact that she goes by Michelle Dean, her mother’s maiden name (though as their bond grows closer over the years, Michelle may go back to McAvoy.) Michelle was born out of wedlock, though Will and Michelle’s mother never married (and maybe it will be a huge guest starring role with who the mother is in later seasons!). Because Will was so focused on his career and later McKenzie, Michelle was largely out of his life which has resulted in Michelle’s life long resentment toward Will. In recent years he tried to reach out but she shut him down. He paid for her college education, yet he wasn’t invited to her graduation. The irony is, Michelle has an interest in the news. Specifically, she wants to report the news to her generation, and make young people interested in what is going on around in the world beyond youtube and facebook.
She has great credentials like her father. She’s like Will: opinionated, intimidating, bossy. She’s incredibly educated and motivated to make a career on her own. The problem is, Will himself. Here is a sample intro scene. Michelle has just snuck into his office one day in a comical way to get to a famous news anchors office without revealing who she was. Will has to get security guards away from her and bring her into his office. He hasn’t seen her in a long time. (Please add Sorkinisms at your discretion.)
Michelle: Hi… Dad.
Will: Michelle. Hi. How are… um, have a seat?
Will: Everything okay?
Michelle: Yeah, um. Yeah.
Will: Wow. You look–
(Michelle takes a deep breath)
Michelle: I brought you my resume.
(she hands it to him)
Will: So you did.
Michelle: As you can see I am incredibly qualified for the internship program here.
Michelle: I’ve had two at the local news outlets, and recently finished up at CNN in their correspondence department…
Michelle: The stipend I can negotiate, however I am fresh out of college so pro bono is not out of the question.
Will: Michelle. I can’t. You know I can’t just give you a job.
Michelle: You wouldn’t be just giving it to me. I’m qualified! Overqualified. If you could just look at my resume…
Will: Nepotism puts as bad taste in my mouth. Besides I’m sure the program was closed months ago. It’s not like I know anything about it.
Will: My answer is no. God and here I was thinking you wanted to grab a lunch or something. Catch up.
Michelle: Your answer is seriously no?
Will: Do you know it’s been two years since I’ve even gotten an email from you?
Michelle: It was at Christmas at least.
Will: I have work to do.
Michelle: I understand.
(she begins to leave)
Will: I’m disappointed in you Michelle. I didn’t think you’d turn out like this.
Michelle: You’re disappointed? I graduated college Summa Cum Laude from Harvard.
Will: The commencement in which I was not invited to.
Michelle: My experience more than qualifies me…
Will: Good, then you you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a job the normal way.
Michelle: Yeah, except I’m related to you!
Will: What is that suppose to mean?
Michelle: I have been on four interviews, five interviews, getting moved up and moved up and more and more excited with each step in the process and then suddenly, when I am so close to getting in, they are suddenly not interested or they found someone “better suited for the job.”
Will: That’s the name of the game.
Michelle: No. That’s the name of you. Because I’m loosely attached to the newest world wide news pariah named Will McAvoy: ratings killer and media pisser offer. Do you think any network is going to trust me with boosting ratings in 18-25 when they don’t even touch you with a ten foot poll? It’s hilarious that I have been dodging you my whole life but the one thing I rightfully take bites me in the ass.
Will: And that is?
Michelle: Your damn money. You paid for Harvard, so naturally people want to know why. I was fired from CNN when your stupid rant hit youtube. They thought because it was at some college event that I had something to do with it. They blamed my firing on budget cuts. I’ve been to every news station on the planet applying for internships and research teams and even janitorial bullshit but it’s not like I can just lie when your name comes up. Do you know how hard it was for me to come here today and grovel at you of all people? Do you think I actually want to work for you ? You’re disappointed? YOU’RE DISAPPOINTED? You know what? Thank you. Thank you for your assistance in proving that I have done everything possible to try to legitimately work in this industry before I resolve myself in being a Starbucks Barista.
(she tries to leave the room. McKenzie enters)
McKenzie: Will, I need to… Oh, Michelle. What are you doing here?
Michelle: You won’t hire me, but she’s on your roster? Nice.
Will: (shouting after her) If you watched my show you would know that.
Michelle: (just in earshot) No one watches your show. That’s the problem.
(She looks around the newsroom and realizes she just insulted everyone in there by saying that)
Right? RIGHT? So now you have this fun strong fearless character who will give Will some more humanity, an obstacle to McKenzie and Will rekindling their relationship and, also, a bizarre friendship with the skiddish Maggie. Obviously Will has a change of heart and hires her, but only under the name Michelle Dean so the rest of the newsroom doesn’t know that they are related, something that Michelle is happy about as well. Of course, Maggie, who is nutty, immediately is intimidated by the presence of another girl in the group. So she spends the first meeting eyeing her. And Michelle, (me), will call her out on it because that’s how these women will stop being so stupid about shit.
Scene where Maggie and Michelle meet.
Michelle: Hi. I’m Michelle.
Michelle: Maggie. Will you quit staring at me Maggie?
Maggie: I wasn’t…
Michelle: You were. Or you were leering. Staring or leering. I couldn’t decide. Either way, could you not? If you are worried that the other new blonde girl is out to take your job you are taking the whole girl power feminist movement back a few notches.
Maggie: I wasn’t.
Michelle: Or if could you do equality leering. Cuz if you are worried about me you should be just as worried about that Indian dude or that dude or that dude or that chick or…
Maggie: I don’t…
Michelle: I don’t even want your job.
Maggie: Why not?
Michelle: Because I don’t know what it is.
Maggie: Associate Producer.
Michelle: Oh shit, I do want that job. I’m kidding. Hey can we grab a coffee sometime? I don’t have any friends. Like any.
Maggie: Um. Sure.
Michelle: Cool. (walking away) Seriously, I don’t want to steal your job. I might try to steal your boyfriend though.
But is she kidding? Could there be a love triangle with Jim and Maggie and Me? Could we show true girl friendship between these two and give Maggie some girl power? Could we see the humanizing concerns of the news through how Will looks at his daughter? Could we figure out how to bring in younger viewers by being meta and having a character whose sole job it is is to bring in younger viewers?! I THINK SO!!
OH, Mr. Sorkin! I can see it now. I can see my mug in the center of the Entertainment Weekly Bullseye saying “More on this wonderful character as she develops.” All the interviews we’ll give together on how adorable it was that you cast me after reading this here blog/letter. How we will become life long friends and see musicals together and win emmys together and become Ozzy and Harriet writing partners. It will be the rebirth of you and the introduction of me.
And THEN I will become an official fan of The Newsroom.
So, Mr. Sorkin, what do you say?
“This is what I fantasize about when I am at work.”