TV Review: Sorkin’s The Newsroom — Corny, But Inspiring

The Newsroom is the worst of Aaron Sorkin and the best of Aaron Sorkin; you can't have one without the other, and I'll wager that anyone who's ever enjoyed his work must know that. Set at the fictional, New York–based cable network ACN, the show is part of an unofficial triptych of shows about how TV is watched and consumed. Like its predecessors — the mostly fondly remembered Sports Night and the train wreck Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip — it's equal parts screwball comedy, workplace drama, and polemic about what's wrong with America and American media and how they could be fixed if we'd just find our moral compass, or what's left of it, and quit being slaves to ratings, profits, and cheap cynicism.

If you rolled your eyes at that last sentiment, The Newsroom isn't worth your time. From the minute that Thomas Newman's stirring opening theme kicks in, you know you're in for a tale of ideals reawakened and cynicism rejected — a show in which tough professionals try to walk a fine line between pragmatism and Pollyanna softness while putting out journalism that Edward R. Murrow would have been proud of. The two main characters, cable news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and his executive producer MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), are trying to turn their hour-long nightly news program into a beacon of journalism. Set in the very recent past (2010–11 to be exact), the show has plenty of flaws, some of them deep: The monologues often become position papers, even harangues, and its men tend to be less easily flustered and kooky than its women. But its optimism is bracing. Created by Sorkin and co-produced by Greg Mottola (Undeclared, Adventureland), it feels more like a broadcast network drama than something that would air on HBO, a channel whose dramas tend to tell us that our institutions have either decayed into irrelevance and corruption or were always rotten. Read More...


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