Friday, June 29, 2012

The Newsroom

Got a chance to see writer Aaron Sorkin's new show on HBO last Sunday night. If you've read any of my previous posts about Sorkin you would know that I have a soft spot for the guy and his work. One of my favorite shows still is the West Wing and some of my favorite flicks that he wrote; A Few Good Men, Moneyball, The American President, Charlie Wilson's War & Social Network are all pretty fantastic. Now I realize that not everyone loves the guy. Many Conservatives think he's an arrogant Liberal shill who thinks he's smarter than he is. Many critics get annoyed that he writes similar characters and for the most part all his characters speak with the same voice, the sharp, intelligent rat-a-tat dialogue. All of which are in evidence with this new show. In fact his opening sequence pretty much copies from his previous failed show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. In that show actor Judd Hirsch's character, who is running an SNL like show, disrupts the program he is producing, comes on air and voices his Howard Beale complaint about the deterioration of Art and our lobotomized culture. In the Newsroom main character Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is considered to be the Jay Leno of news anchors he supposedly never takes a political position and it's apparent why people watch him. While on a panel with other talking heads he's asked a question as to why the U.S. is the greatest country in the world and he has his moment of clarity. It sounds like a rant but he is obviously pointing out the harsh truth about the path our country has been taking over the last 40 years or so. So after watching both you can see the similarities but the after part is very different, Hirsch's character is fired and Daniel's character merely loses most of his staff and has to re-invent himself. The similarities with Studio 60 didn't bother me so much but for the first time I was a little annoyed with the pacing and some of the dialogue. I really liked the cast but the first half hour was a lot of speechifying and a lot of these characters felt re-used, I thought I saw a bit of Sam Seaborn a possible Donna Moss and this is probably the first time where I really noticed they were all speaking with Sorkin's voice.

Where the show really started to cook was after the new producer arrived, Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) and we got to the crux of the show which will be to report on real news not made up news. They started with the oil spill in the Gulf from 2010 as they try to build the narrative with as much facts as possible. I really thought it was great to see part of the process and to see the info trickle out as the disaster unfolds and the team gets to work. This is where Sorkin excels at his craft it's one of the things that made West Wing so damn interesting was that behind the curtain look. Yes there are speeches and a rosy colored view about politics but you also got to see the process of a democracy in action. Where the West Wing tried to pay homage to our fore fathers Washington, Franklin and Adams. The Newsroom intends to do with Cronkite and Murrow.

I'm going to keep watching this show and see where they are going to go with it. I really do like the overall arc of the pilot and I hope that the real news portion continues. They do have an outstanding cast and I hope that they give these characters a little more time to build. At the moment the character I like the least is McAvoy and that is a problem, hopefully he'll grow on me I have faith in Sorkin on that.  I also hope that he tones down the speeches a bit I felt they went a little overboard in the pilot and it takes you out of the narrative if everyone is just doing that. In the West Wing most of the time the big speeches came at the end of the episode mostly from the President which always, to me, made a lot of sense. If everyone is doing it no one is actually having a conversation and it's going to get dull fast.

So if you get HBO and you want something smart, entertaining and the potential to be a strong narrative about news culture then check out the Newsroom on HBO on Sunday nights at 10 pm.

No comments: