Well, evidently Dan Rather thought it was awesome.
(He's reviewing the series for Gawker, of all things.)
I accidentally had music playing when I started the episode, and the track in question was cinematic background music. Took a while to realize that Two Steps From Hell's "House of Fire" wasn't supposed to be playing over Will's dramatic speechifying.
To be honest, I kept zoning out for bits of the rest, so my reactions are going to be less organized. If anything important seems to be missing, please bring it up.
That opening speech: This was a moment when I really felt the based-on-Keith-Olbermann aspects. As in, it was excellent and refreshing, if you only listened to a carefully curated snippet of it. The problem is that the snippet in question was preceded by ick. (Will's apology is on the level of apologizing for not preventing 9/11? Why not just go the whole Godwin while you're at it? "Like most of Europe, who stood by when the Nazis invaded Poland, I was not diligent enough. Please forgive me, America.") And then followed by ugh. (It went on and on and on...dude, seriously, all this time during which you're preening to us about how much good solid news you're going to be doing from now on, all of it would be much better spent doing the news.)
Possessive weird love triangle nonsense: Needs to go awaaaaaaay, wharglbargl. Will+Mackenzie pseudo-jealousy scenes make both characters less likable and take away precious screentime
Actually, that scene with the panic-attack cooldown: was pretty excellent. In fact, it could have been flawless if it weren't plonked down in the middle of this ongoing "Maggie has trouble and whatsisface comes to the rescue" narrative. Can't decide whether I would rather mentally rewrite it so that Mackenzie is the one who steps in with Field Trauma Expertise, or so that Maggie does the cooldown talk when whatsisface gets triggered.
No, seriously: I can't remember either of Maggie's dudes' names. I know one of them is Jim, but I don't know which.
Jane Fonda: Killed. Absolutely killed. The character is cursed with being Wrong Genre Savvy, but I absolutely love this ruthless older businesswoman type, and am glad they're setting her up as formidable rather than having her immediately fall to Sam The Eagle's Noble Idealism as expressed through Manly Yelling.
Sloan needs more screentime: I'm not saying this because I want more Olivia Munn on my screen (well, not only that). We're getting glimmers of a character arc for her, and it looks like a potentially fascinating one. In her debut, she was standing in front of a screen delivering a canned set of numbers and facts; now she's behind a desk during the main broadcast, interacting in realtime with guests who have their own agendas. We see her trying to get a handle on this position -- "Um. You know that's not how the debt ceiling works, right?" What we need is some focus on her, so we can track her journey to being the kind of anchor who will comfortably and authoritatively shut people down. She already has the Power of Knowledge; time for her to grow into [a less dickish version of] Will's Power of Being Stern And Loud.
Also, I love that she was out drinking with the guys, and Will was all "Just us guys...and, uh, Sloan." That fits so much better with her businesslike, no-nonsense, socially awkward character, and isn't even trying to keep continuity with the earlier halfhearted "you get the job because you have legs that guys like to look at" thing. Sloan's the opposite of a sex object for the guys at the office, because her personality is more important than her looks. This is awesome. More of it, please.
So, Dan Rather likes it?: He says it gets the details of newsroom operations down well, which is good to hear. But as for the gushing, overall praise...honestly, I get the impression he's reacting to its message of "hey, the news business is kind of screwed up, you guys" as if this is the first time it's been said. Like (and this is a really weird analogy, but bear with me) the first time a queer kid finds a series with queer characters, and even if it's objectively awful writing, your reaction might still be dominated by "Wait -- are those two -- can they do that? OMG, they can! ACTUALFAX GAY CHARACTERS, THIS IS AWESOME."
...and now that I've kind of drawn an analogy between Will+Mackenzie and Louis+Lestat, I'm just gonna end this post, because there's nowhere to go from here but down.