Here’s as much as I gleaned from the final episode of The Newsroom’s first season: Will is an angry, great journalist because he survived an ulcer, started ripping out his IV tubes in the hospital, and stormed off as the triumphant opening notes of “Baba O’Riley” played. Maggie and Jim deserve each other because of their similar age and frowns. MacKenzie is histrionic enough to be mistaken for a hare in a pencil skirt. Sloan has a hard time balancing intelligence and needing to talk about how intelligent she is. And best of all: Jane Fonda makes everything better — even if its so hard to love anything about a show whose characters argue like high school freshmen in a pathetic Great Books discussion every single week. Unsatisfying and the same old bowlful’a pretension we’ve come to expect. Hiss.
But anyway, good news: Jane Fonda made her third and final appearance this season as Atlantis Media CEO Leona Lansing, a honcho with ratings on the brain, corruption beneath her well-manicured fingertips, and a world of contempt for her meager news anchor Will. I care about this character. She cuts through underlings like the Miracle Blade. Hell, her bangs are miracle blades. This episode, Will, MacKenzie, and Charlie told Leona that they know her son Reese hacked MacKenzie’s phone. Now that he’s caught red-handed, Leona and Reese are forced — blackmailed? — into allowing Will to present News Night the way he wants: as an angry, great journalism show for great, Edward R. Murrow-loving Americans.
In this scene, Jane basically goes from cocky (She fires Wil upon learning from her phone-hacking son that Will was high during the bin Laden broadcast) to reticent (She feels betrayed by her son, and bedgrudingly supports Will in his newsy crusade). But I prefer my version of a powerful Jane Fonda character, not Aaron Sorkin’s. Here’s some revamped dialogue for the two-time Oscar winner’s most recent scene.
“Let me tell you something, Will. My pathetic, un-pantsuited Will. My Willy Loman. Have you heard of the theater, Mr. McAvoy? The legitimate stage? That’s where the hardest pantsuit-style conversations take place. On the greasepaint. In Helen Hayes’ cackling shadow. In the unforgiving dungeon of Thespis. That place where Lee Strasberg forced me to imagine sipping a cup of chamomile for over 30 straight hours. ’Hey, Henry’s kid, you taste the f*ckin’ tea yet? Sip it, Henrietta. No pressure, you cockeyed little girl, but Ellen Burstyn could taste the tea and decaffeinate it in her mouth.'”
“The point is, I had my feelings replaced with Talbot’s businesswear in 1994, Will. Got a good deal on my age-old scorn. You were nothing in Terms of Endearmeant, by the way.”
“Dare you snap at me about propriety when my mother killed herself and my father still performed in Mister Roberts that night? Dare you nip at my fine, putty-colored lapel like a sapsucker? Don’t you look away now, you little impotent hobo. Drink in Ms. Leona’s eyes, these fierce, buttered eyes like cold opals lodged in a cataract. Drink them in. Swallow them. Ahhhhh. This is what gave Tom Hayden angina.”
“My chin, Will. I’m pointing it at your tears. Do you need a handkerchief? Use Charlie’s humiliating bow tie. Use MacKenzie’s face. Are you drinking my tea yet, Will? Jason Robards certainly tried.”
“I give up. Go have your little career, Will. Go ruin Gen X with Dumb and Dumber and let Marcia Gay Harden trample your pockmarked ass in God of Carnage. I’ll be here channeling the mighty wrath of Barbarella and Lillian Hellman without even trying. I’ll just go to bed and stab a couple more pillows with my hair. Then get up and greet the day with a few hundred more cartwheels. Because I’m onto you, Will. You and your pathetic crybaby pageant News Night. Your D+ efforts conjure — oh, what is this? — a bitter, damp taste in my mouth. A sinister chamomile. So to Mr. Lee Strasberg, I say: I’ve done it. In spite of you. Tell Anne Bancroft it’s her goddamn turn.”