First Impressions: The Newsroom
Article By: Dan Clark
It’s not TV. It’s TV about TV on HBO. That’s perhaps the best way to describe HBO’s newest drama The Newsroom. The Newsroom also brings Aaron Sorkin back to television. I’m a big fan of Sorkins past work as Sports Night and The West Wing are two of my favorite shows of all time. I find Sorkin has the ability to make the most complex dry issues eerily exciting and compelling. His dialogue is superb and comes out you like an onslaught of lexicon on parade. So with my love of his style when I heard The Newsroom was being released I was supremely intrigued. We are now two episodes in and I am greatly enjoying the show thus far. While I wouldn’t put it on par with The West Wing quite yet I do think it has near limitless potential. The basic premise of the show is a news program attempting to redefine itself as a hard hitting broadcast of yester year. Jeff Daniels plays Will McAvoy who some claim is the ‘Jay Leno’ of news anchors. Someone who is safe and too afraid to take a stand as he is worried it will alienate his audience. During a town hall esc meeting he responds to a basic question in a quite unexpected way. This diatribe for one is one amazing sequence and also completely changes the course of McAvoy’s life. The wet blanket anchor has completely alienated nearly all of his audience. The thing he once feared the most. Instead of wanting McAvoy to retract his statement his boss wishes to use it as a jumping off point for a new type of news broadcast.
McAvoy is extremely apprehensive to this idea at first especially when he learns who will be running this new show. Emily Mortimer plays Mackenzie Machale the new producer of Newsroom and former girlfriend of McAvoy. Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer have this great anti-chemistry with one another. One of the staples in Sorkin’s work is the couple that you want to see get together but never does. This is hyped-up version of that idea. Their disdain for each other is only matched by their mutual love and respect. I’m very interested in seeing where their relationship progresses. I am surprised this isn’t full of more quality characters like McAvoy and Makenzie. In all honesty it’s too early to tell, but there haven’t been many to make an impact so far. In order for this show to work it does need to fix that issue. One aspect that has made an impact (slight spoiler ahead) is the use of real life news stories. I ignorantly assumed like Sports Night they would use stories that are framed by reality but not necessarily true to life. However they are in fact using events that have happened in the past. They started off with one of the biggest stories in the last few years the oil spill in the Gulf. We see the progression of the story as it starts as a simple search and rescue and slowly evolves into an environmental catastrophe. I enjoyed this progression and found the production of the news show absolutely riveting. The pace is hectic and the stakes are towering as they try to find the story all others are ignoring. I’m extremely curious to see what issues they tackle in the upcoming season. My hope is though that they don’t let this facet of the overshadow the story telling and character elements. So far that hasn’t happened, but I can see it being an issue.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this show is the critical backlash it has received. Some of it is to be expected as it is a byproduct of the political landscape we live in. If you are a person who referred to the West Wing as The ‘Left’ Wing I could see the political stance of this program being an issue with you. Personally I leave politics at the door when it comes to entertainment. As long as it’s not beating my head in with a certain view point I have no issue if a show isn’t politically indifferent. The other common complaint is the unrealistic nature in which the news is portrayed. To me this falls under the ‘cherry pick’ type of criticism. Sure this show isn’t a true to life representation of what news is, but would we want it to be? Maybe if it was a documentary, but it isn’t a concern for me as a work of fiction. Was Moneyball a true to life version to how a baseball team is run? Perhaps, perhaps not. The issue is the news media isn’t bringing in any type of knowledge of how a baseball team is really run so they can’t use that argument for that film. Newsroom hits closer to home so they go in with their shields up ready to defend themselves. At the end of the day it’s a television show I walk away from it wanting more. That’s all I need to prove I’m watching something of value. If you haven’t already I would advise at least checking out the first episode as it is available on HBO’s YouTube channel. You can get there through the link below: