After viewing the pilot and several subsequent episodes, I found Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” to be full of brilliance — inspiring, funny and wonderfully acted. But the show, premiering tonight (6/24) on HBO, has taken a critical drubbing from coast to coast, accused of such ills as being “intellectually self-serving” (Time) and “crammed with incessant gibber-jabber” (The Washington Post). Well.
I liked that Sorkin got on his soap box when he wrote “The Newsroom.” When a gifted writer with something important to say gets on a soap box, I think it’s a good thing. The “West Wing” creator and “Social Network” Oscar winner has spent a sizeable portion of his career on a soap box, writing his trademark densely-packed dialogue to great effect. He is right that we need to look at the infections afflicting the news media today; that no less than our future depends on it.
But it isn’t just that the show advocates in favor of Americans using their brains – insisting that Americans have brains — that makes it attractive. Sorkin and Jeff Daniels give us a memorable character in scorchingly smart anchor Will McAvoy, who starts off as successful but listless, an aging lion apparently resigned to an unsatisfying status quo in his cable channel cage. The return of his former lover and executive producer Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) reawakens his passion for real news and sets loose the journalistic beast.
Surrounding Daniels and Mortimer are an A team cast that includes Jane Fonda and Sam Waterston, and the winning young John Gallagher, Jr, Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel and Olivia Munn. The show moves at a quick clip that matches the furious pace of the newsroom.
Mackenzie wants Will to be Don Quixote, bringing the truth to the public as Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite did in the past. Certainly, Sorkin is tilting at some windmills himself with “The Newsroom,” hoping that an audience that has shown disinterest in the news media in recent years will care about a news team that cares. Here’s hoping they do.