TV Review: “The Newsroom” – Breaking News is Broken

Written by Jesse Gelinas August 07, 2012

This just in…

Aaron Sorkin’s latest brainchild is a bit of an oddity. It has a lot going for it: a great writer at the head of its production, a solid cast including the criminally underused Jeff Daniels; familiar, relatable material; an interesting look behind the scenes of today’s mainstream media, all served by a fantastically put together trailer that hooks you in immediately with one of the best written, most well-informed TV rants in recent memory. So what makes it so strange for an HBO drama? Well, it’s not great.

The series introduces us to newscaster Will McAvoy (Daniels) fresh from a public display of pent up frustration with his country’s political bullshit that leads to him unwittingly branding him as a liability. In the wake of the scandal that follows, he loses his entire production staff to another news show, and is told he’ll now be working with a new executive producer, who happens to be his ex (Emily Mortimer), who is bringing with her a new staff of hungry, young go-getters, none of whom Will has any interest in keeping around if it means he’s stuck working with the woman who broke his heart. And so, we watch the ragtag crew of misfits as they try to soldier on while covering every major news story of the last two years (starting with the BP spill). What could possibly go wrong?

A lot, believe it or not. For a show with such a good writer at the head of it (you may remember Sorkin from “A Few Good Men”, “The West Wing”, and “The Social Network”) it just doesn’t measure up to HBO standards. The dialogue is witty, and the tension does build effectively occasionally, but it’s as if Sorkin can’t find his pace and hold it. Every conversation is like a rapid fire verbal battle between coworkers, and it’s over before you even know what either of them was on about. The worst offenders are the two associate producers, Jim and Maggie, and yes they are essentially this show’s Jim & Pam, Monica & Chandler, Beavis & Butt-Head, etc. Every conversation between the two just rings hollow. We get it, there’s romantic tension that you’re trying your hardest not to let explode in the first half of the season. Settle down.

The head wound is from being beaten over the head with their “chemistry”

“It’s not the greatest country in the world; that’s my answer!”

Daniels does a stellar job leading the cast, and is the most believable in his role. Mortimer as well is an effective leading lady, and hopefully this show gets her some more mainstream roles. Everyone else is passable, but at the same time the characters themselves are kind of the problem. After the two leads, each and every one of the young crew members is just another cliché. Jim and Maggie are bad enough as the pretty couple they’re trying to get us to root for, but we’ve also got Dav Patel (of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame) as one of Will’s writers and resident conspiracy theorist, and Mister “Law & Order” himself, Sam Waterston, as the aging news division president who refuses to stop believing in McAvoy’s potential. It’s like watching the Mighty Ducks of news teams.

The biggest problem with the show is its interpretation of recent history. Yes, recent history is now up for interpretation apparently. I know that it is rather difficult for a writer to create a politically driven show about news broadcasting without injecting some of his own politics into the mix, but when you spend an hour with these people every week and they spout out every stereotypical liberal talking point while making fun of Republicans left, right, and center (but mostly right), it just gets a bit too tired a bit too fast. Don’t get me wrong; I understand reality has a strong liberal bias, but the show preaches way too much.

“You’re a f***in’ news man!”

It honestly confuses me. The show has all the ingredients. It should be a lot better. Solid writers, solid actors, and a smorgasbord of major world events that have rocked the past two years. But it just seems like the cast is going through the motions sometimes. It sometimes seems as though the show is too off the wall, and just trying to entertain, and sometimes it seems like the cast is taking it so seriously, like they truly believe this show’s message is going to change the world.  I really can’t tell which it is.

The fact is though, that the show had better pick up some real momentum in the remaining episodes of the season if it is going to have any potential at achieving true greatness that so many of HBO’s projects attain. It’s already renewed for a second season. I hope it’s worth it.

6/10

 

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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