Tomorrow night HBO will introduce the new drama The Newsroom, which comes from Aaron Sorkin, the man behind the acclaimed series The West Wing and the box office film The Social Network.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to participate in an advanced screening of the extended-run pilot of The Newsroom; and given the fact I am neither an Aaron Sorkin fan (although I do have to admit I watched and liked the first few seasons of The West Wing) nor am I interested in current events, politics or the news (in general), I liked what The Newsroom had to offer.
Before I “rambling” on about what I liked (or unfortunately disliked) about The Newsroom, let’s take a look at the general run-down of what the show is about. Jeff Daniels stars as Will McAvoy, the well-known and well-liked news anchor of News Night, whose middle-of-the-road stance for many years has, at least according to the show, made him into the “Jay Leno of nightly news”. What that means in The Newsroom world is that he is likable by both sides of the spectrum. He doesn’t rock the boat nor does he declare one political side over the other.
That holds true until McAvoy, in the opening sequence of the pilot, is shown on the stage at what can best be called a “town hall meeting” at a university with two other political power players. The moderator of the “meeting” seems intent on hitting McAvoy with questions that, at first, he is hesitant to answer with completely honestly; but after seeing someone in the audience, who is either there or not there (that seems to be a trick of his eye – or is it?), he lashes out at a perky, blonde twentysomething co-ed’s question that ends up hurting his reputation and standing with the viewing audience.
Enter his ex-lover MacKenzie McHale (well-known British actress Emily Mortimer), a fellow journalist and producer, who is brought in by McAvoy’s boss Charlie Skinner (the fantastic Sam Waterston) to replace Will’s outgoing executive producer Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski). Ironically or not, Don is currently in a relationship with intern Margaret “Maggie” Jordan (Allison Pill), who was mistakenly made Will’s assistant and then upon arrival of MacKenzie made Associate Producer of News Night.
Among those behind the scenes, as part of Will’s team, are British actor Dev Patel (best known for his working in the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire), as Neal Sampat, who (unbeknownst to Will) writes McAvoy’s blog and also scours the Internet for stories and leads others have missed and John Gallagher, Jr. (from the box office film Jonah Hex), as Jim Harper, who followed MacKenzie to News Night [and plays a critical role in the breaking news that is featured in the pilot]
NOTE: Actress Olivia Munn (the upcoming box office film Magic Mike), will plays Sloan Sabbith, News Night’s financial news reporter, but she was not featured in the pilot.
Now, let’s take a look at what I liked and disliked about the show:
• The pace of the show is not completely lightning-quick, but fast-paced enough to make it reminiscent of The West Wing;
• The characters are quickly identified and the viewers get an easy sense of who each of them are even if there was not a complete explanation (just yet) of their roles behind the scenes;
• It has a slightly surprising twist at the end where Will’s vision from the town hall meeting is fully explained;
• Sorkin knows how to write a drama (since he wrote the pilot) and keep the pacing up so that it doesn’t lose power throughout the full-run of the episode;
• MacKenzie is easily the all-important heart of the show with her passion and drive; and despite spending the past 26 months imbedded in Iraq and Afghanistan, she still maintains the compassion and honesty of a “newbie” [much like Maggie];
• The show, unlike many series on the air right now, has a really terrific opening credit sequence, saluting the classic journalists from the TV era; and
• While the series is set in present day, it isn’t set in 2012; but I’ll let the viewers discover for themselves what year the series is actual based when they watched the pilot.
Whereas, the few things that I didn’t enjoy are minor plot points that, in the long-run – depending on how long the show runs on HBO – could become insignificant. Charlie is quickly revealed to be a heavy drinker; and since I am not a fan of alcohol consumption under any circumstances, that did not endear me to that side of his character. And, while MacKenzie is a strong, capable woman, Maggie needs to step up and take control. She desperately needs to ditch the “deer-in-the-headlights” look that so many young workers have because that kind of stance is NOT going to endear her to the women viewers and it won’t help her in her work. In other words, toughen up, Maggie, or you are going to continue to be trampled over. The only other issue I have, where the overall show is concerned, is the great possibility that the views of Sorkin and his creative team, which are considerably much more liberal and Democratic than mine will turn me and any other conservative Republicans (yes, I admitted that online for all to see) off from the coverage that will be provided on The Newsroom.
That being said, though, regardless of your political stance, I think The Newsroom will be a great addition to the line-up over at HBO even though it is not that great of a companion piece to the horror-laced True Blood.
Make sure to tune in to HBO tomorrow night at 10 PM to judge The Newsroom for yourself and remember the pilot episode actual runs 75 minutes long.