Can Aaron Sorkin’s new show capture that West Wing magic?
Tonight, The Newsroom airs on Sky Atlantic. The anticipated new series from Aaron Sorkin, writer behind The Social Network and The West Wing, will it be another win? Or get cancelled after a year like his Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip?
Well, HBO have already renewed it for a second season, so he’s passed that milestone, but can it live up to his well-regarded previous work?
The series centres around Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), bland anchorman of a middle-of-the-road news show, who exposes himself as having opinions in a moment of weakness. So he tries to recreate himself as a presenter of substance, with the help of producer Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) and a cast of underlings so massive you can look them up yourselves.
In short, idealistic TV news journalists try to change the world. The similarities to Sorkin’s other shows about idealistic politicians, idealistic TV comedy writers and idealistic TV sports journalists have been well documented, he’s buried himself in his comfort zone, but is The Newsroom good or not?
Well, it has pleasant moments, particularly if you enjoy well-written dialogue, and the pilot does a good job of introducing a large quantity of characters with personality. The final sequence of the episode, where the news broadcast itself happens, has real energy.
But for whatever reason, Sorkin has toned down the comedy element in his writing, and turned the preaching way up. Before the aforementioned broadcast sequence, there’s a prolonged period of speechifying that makes the epic 72 minute running time feel flabby.
Finally, there are romantic subplots. Sorkin has never been great at writing those, but he tries his hand at a love triangle, albeit a simplistic one with an obvious Good Guy and Bad Guy. Hopefully the Bad Guy will reveal hidden depths, otherwise this is bordering on Glee territory.
It’s slickly made, the acting is great and there are funny one-liners, but if you’re annoyed by TV programmes lecturing you, you could really hate this show. If you can overlook all that and enjoy the drama, or are blessed enough to agree entirely with Sorkin, there’s entertainment in The Newsroom, but you still hope he gets past the bold mission statements and into subtler, more ambiguous stories soon.
The Newsroom starts at 10PM tonight, Tuesday 10th July, on Sky Atlantic. More information on their official site.
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