Pretty soon, I plan to do a “5 favorite TV shows” post series on here. I rarely see a show these days that has the potential to crack the top five, but Aaron Sorkin’s latest gem, The Newsroom, is one of those rare candidates. Sorkin is one of my favorite TV/movie writers of all time. Just look at the gems he’s given us: The West Wing, The Social Network, Charlie Wilson’s War, Moneyball, and many shows and movies I haven’t seen but are regarded as classics (Sports Night, A Few Good Men, The American President). There aren’t many writers with that kind of pedigree.
The Newsroom hooks viewers from the very beginning, in which main character Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels), disgusted by partisan pundits shouting at each other, delivers a speech about why America is no longer the greatest country in the world. While it may be difficult to stomach for some, he makes some great points. His entire news crew leaves him following a suspension for his behavior, and that sets up the show’s premise. McAvoy and his new team at Atlantis Cable News, led by executive producer MacKenzie McHale (portrayed by Emily Mortimer) set out to do away with sensationalized shock-value media and to foster a well-informed public, in the vein of great news anchors like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. They have some challenges, to be sure, and the conflicts between their mission and a media landscape that is still predominantly ratings-driven are portrayed with Sorkin’s usual deft touch. Other solid acting performances in the show come from Law & Order vet Sam Waterston as Charlie Skinner, and Dev Patel, who you may recognize from Slumdog Millionaire, as Neal Sampat.
The show has faced criticism for the shots it takes at Republicans, but Sorkin has brought on some conservative consultants for the second season, and has said that they will add a political perspective to the show that he doesn’t have. The only real criticism I have is that the show tends to get a bit caught up in itself at times, and scenes will sometimes devolve into characters shouting at each other.
The fact that McAvoy and McHale are ex-lovers (along with a love triangle among three of the other characters) gives the show the requisite sexual tension that keeps things interesting. But The Newsroom’s primary strength is its realistic portrayal of a news outlet, with intelligent witticisms thrown in for color. The only drawback is that the show is on HBO, which many viewers don’t have access to. If you’re a Comcast customer, the first season has been on Comcast On Demand for free for some time, so you can catch up before the second season premieres on July 14. It’s only ten episodes, so it won’t take too much time. And trust me, you’ll enjoy the ride.