It’s a show about a show about the news.
If that reminds you of the tag line from a Comedy Central ad for a weird little two-season ABC network program called Sports Night, you’re not far off. I’m referring to The Newsroom, another (more recent) show also helmed by Aaron Sorkin, which ran for a total of 25 episodes on HBO, the finale airing on December 14. It starred Jeff Daniels (Dumb and Dumber, 101 Dalmatians) as news anchor Will McAvoy, and Emily Mortimer (Howl’s Moving Castle, Hugo) as the news show’s executive producer MacKenzie McHale. The Newsroom actually has an excellent ensemble cast, although several of the episodes, and most of season three’s over-arcing thread feature Will and MacKenzie trying to figure out where they stand with each other.
If you’re already familiar with Sorkin’s previous works, like Sports Night or The West Wing, you’ll have a decent idea of what to expect from this series. There’s no shortage of sexual tension or characters moving from one relationship to the next. I don’t know if that’s because of the fast pace and high stress of living in that segment of society, but it seems to get blown out of proportion for the sake of sensational programming.
There’s also a lot of very strong opinions and characters trying to do what they think is right (with varying degrees of accuracy and success). Even in episode one, the viewer sees MacKenzie rousing Will from his highly rated by-the-book, dialing-it-in news show to start taking a stand on issues and making full, well-rounded reports. Usually when a tv show decides to talk about real news events, they do a little rewriting and renaming to make it fit their fictional world. The Newsroom does almost none of that. They leave world events intact, sometimes even using legitimate video from other preexisting news features. It makes for high-impact storytelling. I think one of my favorite story lines was from season three, when the network’s finance reporter Sloan Sabbith gave one of the tech guys a dressing down for developing a mobile app that would allow people to share when and where they saw various celebrities.
There’s a lot of compelling material to The Newsroom, and I almost didn’t watch it because I didn’t think it would interest me, but Will’s response to the question of what makes America great drew me right in. The end of the series echoed strongly of the end of Sports Night, and I’d like to think that even though Sports Night was entirely fiction, it’s possible they could be set in the same universe. This show may not be deserving of a rewatch in my book, but if asked whether I’d still have made the decision in the first place, I’d probably say yes.
Rating: 4th gear
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