A quick review of last night's "The Newsroom" coming up just as soon as I take the battery out of my cell phone...

"The Blackout Part 1: Tragedy Porn"(*) was perhaps the most successful episode of "The Newsroom" to date. The clunky romantic comedy was almost entirely absent, and the show was very much aware of what a jerk move Will was making by getting Mac's ex-boyfriend Brian(**) to write the profile. Beyond that, Mac was again competent and right (and if she failed Sloan, it was because Charlie and Will had previously failed her), Maggie didn't seem like the worst character in the history of scripted television, and the scene where Don analyzed the way Nancy Grace's show works was a smart and yet non-preachy bit of media criticism. And the Casey Anthony-related ratings plunge not only created a plausible source of tension among the staff, but seemed like a fair discussion of the practical costs of their idealistic approach to news.

(*) The two-tiered title briefly made me wonder if HBO had uncanceled "Hung."

(**) If Sorkin hadn't already avoided having Jenna Fischer and Lucy Davis meet in an episode of "Studio 60," I'd have been more disappointed that Paul Schneider (Brendanawicz) and Alison Becker (Shauna Malwae Tweep) never crossed paths. Then again, Mike Schur never put Rob Lowe and Bradley Whitford on screen together last season on "Parks and Recreation," so Sorkin's not alone in avoiding the in-jokes.

That said, I think there are still some structural issues that I'm not sure can be fixed. Having so many of the decisions driven, for instance, by Will's desire to host a debate of the Republican presidential candidates didn't ring true — not that Will wouldn't want to do it, but that the RNC would consider it for even one pica-second after Will had spent the last year publicly hammering the Tea Party and other sacred cows of the party. Beyond that, by incorporating real people and events into the show, "The Newsroom" then loses the ability to rewrite history. Just as "News Night 2.0" isn't going to change the way news is covered in general, we know that this new debate format either won't be used at all, or if it is, that it won't affect a single thing about the election or the way it's covered. It makes the show's Don Quixote, tilting-at-windmills theme even more overt than Sorkin may have intended. It's an idealistic show about people who are destined to fail at virtually everything they care about. They may be able to outmaneuver Leona and Reese with some help from their NSA contact(***), but they're never going to accomplish anything about raising the level of discourse. We live in the real world. We know how terrible it is. Josiah Bartlet could change his world if Sorkin wanted him to; Will McAvoy can't. 

(***) Of course Charlie wouldn't have seen "The Dark Knight." And Hancock's description of the program made it sound not dissimilar to the all-seeing machine that powers "Person of Interest."

And having Reese Lansing exist in the same universe as James Mudoch isn't quite as problematic as having "Studio 60" take place in a universe where "Saturday Night Live" existed (and "Studio 60" therefore came off as a slavish imitator), but it's still a more complicated thing to pull off than doing a "Law & Order"-style ripped from the headlines story where you're not constantly referencing the real people who inspired it.

Overall, though, these last few episodes have been significantly better than where we were around the time every woman in New York was throwing a drink in Will McAvoy's face, and this was probably the best one so far.

What did everybody else think?