when bad shows happen to good actors

Olivia Munn Deserves a Better Show Than The Newsroom

Photo: HBO

On last night’s Newsroom, a not-at-all-viral video of a woman screaming at a Sex and the City tour bus prompted two characters to track a Foursquare posting to a Queens laundromat and convince the YouTuber-slash-fan-fiction author to remove said video. The Carrie wannabe was hesitant; a Twitter bribe followed; it was as demeaning and technologically absurd as it sounds. Still, I did not turn off my television, and I will confess to enjoying exactly one third of the scene: the part involving Olivia Munn. It helped that she was the audience stand-in — Sloan was there to roll her eyes — but Munn was still game in her exasperation, believably rattling off statistics about Twitter followers. It was like she’d been imported from another television show, one where actors have comic timing and don’t have to yell like birthing cows in order to express themselves. I often feel this way when watching Newsroom. Olivia Munn deserves a better show.

She has a natural rhythm, even in Sorkinese; her screwball instincts are top-notch. (Maybe it’s just a question of volume, but I would indulge Munn’s bewildered rants on just about anything, be it drones or how men take a lot of showers.) What reads as batshit emotional immaturity in Will or Mac looks like vulnerability in Munn — a side effect of being beautiful, freakishly smart, and underestimated by all these weirdos. As a television personality, Sloan Sabbith is about 80 times more appealing than the hectoring Will McAvoy, but like her real-life counterpart, she gets shuffled to the side so that Serious People can have mental breakdowns in service of plots cribbed from four-year-old chain e-mails. Not only is Munn underused on Newsroom, she is wasted on its show-within-a-show, too.

You can probably name a number of actors in similar predicaments. I spend a lot of time worrying about Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere (that season finale was not a good look, Nashville!), and I find it disheartening every time I type “Melissa McCarthy” and Mike & Molly in the same sentence. Good actors wind up on middling-to-bad shows (and movies) all the time. Still, my greatest hope for Newsroom is that Sloan will somehow find her way off it — hopefully with a rogue segment outing everyone of her co-workers’ emotional and professional failings on-air. I imagine her walking out of the studio and straight into the anchor’s chair at CNN. Anderson Cooper will be her friend. Noted news enthusiast George Clooney will ask her out. I will watch every episode.

The Newsroom: Olivia Munn Deserves a Better Show