Will McAvoy is the bland, non-partisan anchor of fake network ACN’s fake show, News Night. He does a panel at a college with two other newscasters who have political leanings and sits in the middle of them while they bicker about current events, saying little except for how much he likes the Jets. This makes one wonder why people invite him to be on these panels in the first place, but that is never revealed. When a blonde student dares to ask the panel why America is the best country in the world, the moderator pushes McAvoy to say something of substance. At the same time, he hallucinates Emily Mortimer in the audience holding up cue cards about how America isn’t the best country in the world anymore … but it could be. How could it be? By keeping its public informed with quality news broadcasts! It’s not about the people who do the things the news reports on, but the actual reporting of that news that once made our country great. Will says this and much more, most of it anti-America (though he never says which country is the best in the world since America no longer is) and all the students whip out their video iPhones and Youtube happens.
Three weeks later, Will returns from a long vacation to find that almost all of his staff will be moving to another show because they have no hope that he’ll last much longer now that everyone knows he hates America and also because he’s a nightmare to work for – either screaming at his underlings or being so indifferent to them he doesn’t even know their names. Only Neil, the blogger Will didn’t know he had, and Maggie, Will’s assistant who is a clumsy, female, dating Will’s soon-to-be-former Executive Producer (and cries at work like a true professional), decide to stay with him. This gives Will’s boss, Charlie, whose alcoholism is hilarious!, the chance to hire the Executive Producer he thinks will turn Will and his show into News Done the Right Way: By Trustworthy Older White Men Who Are the Voice of the People. And that EP is Emily Mortimer, except now her name is MacKenzie McHale and she’s an America-loving American with an English accent who used to date Will.
Will runs off to find a way to get rid of her while she makes herself at home in the newsroom, bringing in her trusty sidekick, Jim Halpert Harper, to serve as senior producer. Will returns for an argument with MacKenzie, leaving Jim to look at everyone’s computer screens and see a news alert about an explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that Will’s outgoing EP, Don, dismisses. Then we realize that this show takes place IN THE PAST – April 2010, to be exact – and the explosion is the beginning of the BP oil spill. I don’t know why they couldn’t just make up news stories for this fictional program, but whatever. Jim quickly gets on the phone with some Valuable Sources – namely, his old college roommate who works at BP and his sister, who works at Halliburton, which doesn’t make him a great journalist so much as a guy who coincidentally knows people – and they tell him that there is much more to the story. Jim takes this over Don’s head to Will, who decides to go with that story for the night’s show instead of whatever crap Don and his staff wrote for him. It could be because Will is now a noble newsman who wants to inform America and make it a better place like it was in the ’50s (according to everyone on this show, who don’t seem to know a whole lot when it comes to American history), but it may also be to stick it to Don. Either way, it gets MacKenzie and Jim on the job two weeks early and the newsroom springs into action. This involves many phone calls and looking at computer screens. THRILL!