Posted by: ckckred | June 26, 2012

The Newsroom: Sorkin returns to TV with a show about TV

The most anticipated new show of the year arrived this Sunday

Over the past thirteen years, Aaron Sorkin has set himself up to be one of the best writers in Hollywood.  He created the best drama on network television, The West Wing (yes, I think it’s better than Lost), and wrote the screenplays of two of the best films over the past few years, The Social Network and Moneyball.  His accomplishments make it look easy to look over his failures (no one really remembers Studio 60 on the Sunset anymore, good for Sorkin’s career).

And now, Sorkin has returned back to television with The Newsroom, which is about a cable news show headed by Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels).

At the beginning of the episode, McAvoy delivers a profanity-laced tirade at a college student at a political debate similar to Peter Finch’s in Network, stating that America isn’t the greatest country anymore.  McAvoy challenges liberals and conservatives and questions their intentions, and states how America has fallen off its course.

His speech goes viral and is bad news for ACN, the channel McAVoy works for.  McAvoy’s ex-girlfriend, MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), becomes a producer for his show and tries to get McAvoy to improve it by making it more current and hard-hitting rather than being bland or one-sided like most news shows these days.

Sorkin’s inspiration for the series comes from news satires like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which have routinely mocked cable news channels like Fox News and MSNBC for being politically biased.  That’s the real problem with The Newsroom: it feels to similar to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.  Most of the things Sorkin states is the pilot sounds similar to what Jon Stewart said in the “Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear.”  Will’s angry speech sounds like a typical Jon Stewart monologue.
I enjoyed The Newsroom while I watched it, and I would like to hear Aaron Sorkin talk for two hours about cable news today.  But overall, the formula doesn’t work great as a full-length TV show.  The West Wing had moral messages, but never used its characters as loudspeakers.
On the other hand, I have to compliment The Newsroom for its acting.  Jeff Daniels does do a very good job.  And I can praise Sorkin for using pop-culture references (Will’s called the “Jay Leno of cable news”) and using real-life events (the show’s taking place two years when the BP spill occurred).  Also, there was the usual Sorkin wit.
But all of these still make The Newsroom look like a scripted version of The Daily Show without being too different.  I’m willing to watch another episode to see if it gets better.  Hopefully, it will evolve.  And I can recommend it to Sorkin fans (I’m one of them).  After all of this, however, I still felt a little disappointed.

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