Worth Watching: Sorkin, HBO’s ‘Newsroom’ Takes On Cable News With Mixed Results
Keith Olbermann may have left the building but his bombastic spirit reverberates through “The Newsroom.” The much ballyhooed Aaron Sorkin drama finally arrived last Sunday on HBO. Whether fueled by less than stellar reviews or high hopes for the show’s future, the premium cable channel is now offering the first episode free on a variety of outlets including its own website, YouTube and Daily Motion through July 23.
I’m watching the show in real time with you, so my thoughts here reflect only the first episode. In a nutshell: it soars and falls on Sorkin’s talents. His signature quick fire dialogue is here, but so are his self-indulgent polemic monologues. When he is on the mark, few TV writers ( or for that matter playwrights or screenwriters) can match the fluid musicality of his dialogue. But when he sinks, he sinks with a Titanic thud. It’s too soon, frankly, to say if “The Newsroom” will survive the latter, but so far it’s not all smooth sailing.
The show clearly aims to explore the media, and most specifically cable news, in much the same way Sorkin’s brilliant multi Emmy award winning “The West Wing” treated presidential politics. The story revolves around Will Mcavoy an ill-tempered cable host who implodes on a college panel, takes a hiatus and returns to find his middle- of- the- road show “News Night” revamped with his ex-lover at the helm as executive producer. Elements fraught with simmering drama, right? yep, but be warned: the trailer showcases the very best of the show.
Still there are glimpses of interesting characters and intrigue–professional, social and oh, so personal–to come. The cast is solid, though everyone from Jeff Daniels as Mcavoy to Sam Waterston as his boss play everything at such a fever pitch, there’s little time to decompress between scenes. Emily Mortimer as the ex-love interest turned producer, so far, offers the most nuanced performance. There’s also a cadre of young upstarts who, for now, remain largely undeveloped. But get set for some potentially awkward romantic triangles dangling among the crowded news room’s cubicles.
It should be noted that the re-formatted show’s first show focuses on the BP oil spill, an indication that real news stories ( albeit old news) will ooze into “The Newsroom,” the way many real issues seeped into “The West Wing.”
While it’s a mixed bag, there is much to recommend giving “The Newsroom” at least another episode or two before signing off. Cable news junkies and fans of Sorkin, in particular,may be among the harshest critics. But if we stick around, we may also see the biggest pay out. Some things do actually get better over time. And are ever sweeter for the waiting. So Stay tuned. I know I will
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