Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Newsroom Pulses with Energy as Aaron Sorkin Creates Another Brilliant Television Series

The Newsroom is a new series on HBO from Emmy and Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network).  The Newsroom centers on Will McAvoy who has a minor freak out while speaking in front of a group of college students.  McAvoy is surrounded by two other television journalists, one liberal and one conservative arguing while he is called "the Jay Leno of news" who sits in the middle and does not take a position.  A young college sophomore steps up to the microphone, and asks "in one sentence or less why do you think America is the greatest country in the world?"  The liberal pundit states diversity while the conservative pundit states freedom twice.  Will states "the Jets" but is goaded and goes off on a tirade against the young lady about the problems with the news and America.  Jeff Daniels who plays McAvoy gives one hell of a speech, and his performance throughout the episode proves this show has a fire that can't be put out like in the gulf.

As Will returns back to work he finds out or notices that most of his staff is missing, and the newsroom is empty.  Will is sent up Charlie Skinner's office (Sam Waterson), and he tells him that his executive producer is leaving his show and taking his crew.  Soon Bill finds out that his ex-girlfriend Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) who was having visions of before he went on his tirade will be his new executive producer.  As Mackenzie and Will meet up for the first time a news story breaks about an explosion in the Gulf of Mexico and two things happen the show flashes a date stating that is back in 2010 and they are delving into the BP oil crisis, and the show takes off like a rocket.

The interesting diference is that many critics were harsh on this show saying Sorkin missed, and hit a sour note.  I fervently disagree.  Emily Nussbaum writes the following to close out her piece entitled "Broken News":

“The Newsroom” is the inverse of “Veep”: it’s so naïve it’s cynical. Sorkin’s fantasy is of a cabal of proud, disdainful brainiacs, a “media élite” who swallow accusations of arrogance and shoot them back as lava. But if the storytelling were more confident, it could take a breath and deliver drama, not just talking points. Instead, the deck stays stacked. Whenever McAvoy delivers a speech or slices up a right-winger, the ensemble beams at him, their eyes glowing as if they were cultists."

Quantifying this show naive bordering on cynical is way off track, and if you read the entire article you can that Nussbaum has an axe to grind, one which she will use on Sorkin's head.  One of Nussbaum's major complaints is the misuse of a quality ensemble.  Nussbaum states that ensemble is filled with three minority characters whom Sorkin like in his other show Studio 60 are underdeveloped.  I know most television critics get the first few episodes, but the focus of the show is the dynamic between Will and Mackenzie, and the message of telling the truth and honest journalism.

Sorkin may have his own axe to grind, but within that framework he's stating a message, and most of the reviewers are not listening to the message.  This show centers on a broken government with a population as divided as during the days of the Civil War and the people who have the responsibility of bringing the news to the masses.  Will is walking away from "being Jay Leno" and moving towards being more than just a run of the mill anchor.  The beginning of the episode is his own homage Peter Finch's "I'm mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore" from the film Network (1976).  The Newsroom's first episode proved to be an impeccably written and directed show, that will hopefully continue to challenge the political structure, and the way media outlets operate.  Bravo Mr. Sorkin.

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