Every so often American TV comes up with an absolute stunner - 2012 has "The Newsroom" currently showing on Sky Atlantic. Created and written by Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame, The Newsroom is set in the fictional Atlantis Cable News station. With Jeff Daniels playing Will McAvoy,anchor and managing editor of ACN's Newsnight programme, Emily Mortimer as Mackenzie McHale, his Executive Producer, and a very strong ensemble cast,the viewer sees the behind the scenes events prior to and after each evening broadcast. Each episode has been set around a major event in recent history e.g. Deepwater Horizon oil spill or the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and is intertwined with the personal stories, backgrounds and viewpoints of the Newsnight team.
Aaron Sorkin has created a first class drama with excellent scripts which are superbly delivered - Will McAvoy's monologue in the first episode gives an insight into the strength of writing and performance which The Newsroom, and Will in particular, showcase week in and week out. Each individual is extremely competent at their job and there is a strong team ethos with thought provoking analysis, highs and lows, humour and integrity. Problems and politics with the owners of the station, ably led by Jane Fonda, bubble along in the background and add to the events and day to day pressures.
I would strongly recommend The Newsroom and am delighted to note that it has been picked up for a second season, if I'd more than 5* available to award I would.
on 26 July 2015
There’s a coterie of screen writers working on US TV that are synonymous with quality drama: Steve Bochco (NYPD Blue & LA Law); David Milch (Deadwood): David E Kelly (Boston Legal); Chris Carter (Millenium & X Files); David Chase (Sopranos) and David Simon (The Wire). There are certainly more than a few others but there’s no denying that close to the top of anyone’s list – if not at the pinnacle – would be Aaron Sorkin.
His list of movie writing credits speaks for itself: A Few Good Men, The American President, Charlie Wilson's War, The Social Network, Moneyball, and the upcoming Steve Jobs.
As for his small screen output: what's left to say? I loved the West Wing (see my review: 5 Star: Sheer class from the first episode to the last... 17 Jan. 2015). I also rated his other shows, among them: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which, sadly, only ran for one season.
Being of an enquiring mind I took a look at some of the 1 and 2 star reviews this series has gained. Now, far be it from me to criticize my fellow reviewers’ comments but some of them are enough to make you weep. For those who have written: ‘Absolutely terrible’; ‘Not entertaining’; ‘Boring, over-acted’ and ‘Dire’, you do wonder what their idea of a good, entertaining, well-acted series might be. Still, each to his or her own, I guess.
The clever twist with this series, for me at any rate, is that all the news stories covered by the ‘Newsroom’ are real events with real news footage included. By writing the episodes well after the incidents portrayed – but by filming them as if they are unfolding within the show – Sorkin brings a real urgency to the stories. The writing’s intelligent, smart and witty and often laugh-out-loud funny. Typical Sorkin, then.
With the utter dross that makes up so much of our terrestrial TV (and to a certain extent satellite) output, the sheer joy of watching this show – especially without any ad breaks - is enough to have me cheering at my TV set.
And that doesn’t happen very often, I can tell you that…
on 7 August 2012
The newsroom is everything fans of the West Wing have been waiting for. Sorkin is back to his very best. The characters are quirky, lovable, and entwined. The dialogue is joyfully over elaborate. The plots deal with not only real issues in the news but with the values underlying the production of it. Like the West Wing, it is another window on the concerns of liberal America and the tensions which threaten to tear the Union apart. Sorkin was criticised by some in the media that this isn't a very realistic portrayal of life in a newsroom. His response was to say, "Who cares? This is meant to be entertainment". And as that, it is a five star show.
on 15 November 2014
The opening eight minutes of the first episode explodes in your face like a well shaken can of fizzy pop.
The show itself deals with the behind the scenes comings and goings of - you've guessed it, a Newsroom. Jeff Daniels plays the charismatic, yet belligerent and socially awkward, Will McAvoy, a news anchor for a cable network news channel. Paired alongside him is the tremendous Emily Mortimer as the kooky, loveable, yet brilliant, MacKenzie McHale as his executive producer. These two are just the tip off an exceptional iceberg of talent, and the strong cast do a great job engaging you into their world.
Now back to that eight minutes. I think this is a fantastic show, and while I appear to be a little late to the party I will recommend it to anyone who will listen. This usually goes one of two ways. "Yeah, Jake, that sounds really boring." And they don't watch it. Or "Yeah, Jake, that sounds really boring." Then they watch it and love it. The series opens strongly as it sees the producers of the fictional news show deciding to rethink how they 'do' the news. The concept is a noble one and it definitely makes you sit back and think.
Toward the second half of the series it does become a little more human drama focused, which is a shame in some ways, but by then you are fully invested in the characters and happy to go with the flow and see their individual crises play out. However, and this is why it is only four stars, it never really hits the high note of that opening eight minutes. That doesn't mean it isn't a great show, more like a fantastic meal where the best thing you ate was the starter and you wish you had just ordered three of them instead of a main and a dessert.
All in all, a much needed breath of fresh air from AAPD (another acronymed police drama) to give the old brain a little work out.
on 13 September 2012
It is rare nowadays that I manage to make it through a series - whether from the UK or the US - I usually get bored by second or third episode. However, The Newsroom is different!
From the very first scene showing Will McAvoy's very public breakdown to the last scene of the last episode, I was gripped by the series. I can't wait for the DVD to come out and am rather surprised that wasn't available for release the day after the last episode. I am so looking forward to watching it all again.
This will be in my grubby mitts as soon as it's out.
on 28 January 2015
So if you like your drama about the interplay and script, then this is for you. If you like shoot me ups, look elswhere.
As a big fan of the west wing and a big hater of studio 60 , I waitied for sometime before choosing to watch Sorkin's next offering. It didn't dissappoint. It was fast and sassy and funny with a few serious "Wow" moments - especially that first scene....
I dont think I am as invested in the characters as I was in the West Wing. The big time jumps in the episodes sometimes hinder that. I think the exploration of his "Issues" and the news items which appear are a bit superficial, but hey I'm a geek. Also it is typically Sorkin-esque and preachy from time to time. Get through this if you can, he gets over it in season 2 and it is well worth the investment of time and mild cringe when he goes off on one.
It's one of the few things I would consider re-watching a few times to absorp more of what's happening and to consider the layers of what's presented. Bravo Mr Sorkin.
on 21 March 2013
I think my view of "The Newsroom" is chequered by having already watched "The West Wing", which is one of my all-time favourite TV shows. If you are in that position with me, be prepared to both love and loathe "The Newsroom".
First of all, "The West Wing" was my first real introduction to Aaron Sorkin's work. Therefore, at the time his manner of writing was fresh and new to me. "The Newsroom" suffers the misfortune of having a predecessor to be compared with. It is instantly recognisable as a Sorkin piece:
* Should I repeat a statement to make it seem more important? Should I repeat a statement to make it seem more important?
* The main protagonist has father issues, a la Jed Bartlet. He's also very intelligent and had a brilliant career as a lawyer prior to his being an anchorman, a la Jed Bartlet. Oh and he defends his staff to the bitter end as if they were his family, a la Jed Bartlet.
* You have not one but three versions of the Josh/Donna relationship occurring concurrently. And two of them feel like very contrived situations. If you like being endlessly spun a yarn, then you're in the clear.
* The Josh Lyman foot-in-mouth moments are duplicated here aplenty.
There are many other examples I could list, but you get the idea. If anything, "The Newsroom" exposes Sorkin as a bit of a (brilliant) one-trick pony. This is the same formula, with the same heart, humour and passion as its older brother. A Sork-com, if you will.
Politically, if you're right-leaning you'll probably disapprove of the left-ish tendencies on offer. On the other hand, if you're left-leaning (and I am), you may get tired with being preached to, *incessently*. TWW occassionally got on its high horse, but "The Newsroom" suffers this problem on a much larger scale. This is a shame because the fundamentals of what was being said are perfectly valid. But I've never felt so spoon-fed, and this is quite ironic given the whole point of the show is to depict a news broadcast that doesn't dress up current affairs in over-the-top language shoved down your throat. Sorkin tries to address separating TWW from this by constantly dropping in "I'm a Republican" quotes from Will McAvoy (the main character), as if saying those words makes it true. In true Arnold Vinick style, McAvoy is Sorkin's dream Republican, which is a Democrat who is just a bit more fiscally sensible.
All of this makes "The Newsroom" sound really very bad. Maybe I should redress this issue. It is a long way from bad. I certainly got enough out of it to watch all 10 episodes (and I'll probably pick up season 2 when it is broadcast). The writing is quite sharp, the actors do an excellent job with the material they're given, and I applaud the spirit of the show, if perhaps not the result. I think if I had never watched TWW previously, I wouldn't have one of the greatest TV shows to beat "The Newsroom" over the head with. This is a poor man's version, and there's no escaping that. On the other hand, if you have never seen either you'll probably love the show in the same way I loved TWW when I first saw that.
Overall, a watchable if slightly disappointing show.
Obliged to take time off after an on-screen tirade, "Newsnight" anchorman Will McAvoy returns to find the programme revamped, executive producer now Mackenzie McHale, with whom he has a troubled history. Sparks will fly. Any chance of peaceful co-existence, or will one have to go?
Creator Aaron Sorkin always has something of value to say, and says it at length - his characters highly articulate, his casts with more than usual to learn. Here he campaigns for responsible newscasting - far removed from current trends. Chasing after ratings means so much is now trivialized with emphasis on rumours, speculation, human interest stories and an obsession with "celebrities". Also being specifically (and devastatingly) targeted are America's far right politicians - worst perpetrators named and lies documented.
Ten episodes, mainly around sixty minutes. They are set in 2010/11, which means actual news stories are featured. This is where the show is at its strongest. Heated differences (of which there are many) are cast aside when a major news story breaks - all rushing to contact reliable sources, check and doublecheck the information coming in, everything to be fashioned - with graphics - for hour long coverage which genuinely informs.
At such times, with adrenaline palpably flowing, the show is superb - especially when the newsroom set is so authentic. Some viewers may be less happy with the sundry romantic entanglements and occasional almost slapstick humour. Probably in a minority of one, I had problems with the portrayal of Mackenzie, unable to shake off the feeling here was an actress giving a performance. Others convince, especially Jeff Daniels as Will and Sam Waterston as his news division boss, their scenes together a particular pleasure.
Bonuses include commentaries, Sorkin's interesting "Inside the Episodes", "The Rundown" where creators and cast entertainingly look back on the season and select their favourite moments.
Overall there is much to admire and to think about. Sorkin, as in "The West Wing", credits most viewers with intelligence, capable of the extra effort needed if they are to keep up.
(The ultimate irony? Faced with the choice of an in-depth news bulletin and the type Sorkin so regrets, which is the one most of us are likely to choose?)
The problem Aaron Sorkin has is that anything he does will be compared to the great West Wing. There are many times when the Newsroom succeeds in attaining the same high level of biting satire, the same depth of empathy and compassion, drawing the viewer in to engage fully with the characters.
When the screenplay deals with political issues the writing is vital and vibrant. However, when dealing with personal issues the writing is sometimes lame and incredulous. The mixture of serious and slapstick is at times embarrassing. I prefer my humour to be subtle, so I found the 'stand up and shout at each other' humour exhibited by Will and MacKenzie incongruous to their supposed gravitas, or perhaps that is the point. The acting is of a high standard throughout the series and the characters sympathetically drawn. I will watch the second series hoping the writing attains the 'gold standard' achieved by the West Wing.
on 18 May 2015
Aaron Sorkin's masterpiece - so far anyway. Great script, great cast, including Emily Mortimer,Sam Waterston and John Gallagher Jr. Very, very talky. Very funny and, although many journalists will deny it, unnervingly accurate on the adrenalin rush in a newsroom when a huge story breaks.
Amazing storyline: Fictional US cable news channel fumbles, among other things, the chance to expose eavesdropping by the country's National Security Agency written and made a good two years before Ed Snowden (and The Guardian) blew the whistle on the NSA's (and GCHQ's) monitoring of our phone, email and web traffic. Good line: News anchor played by Jeff Daniels calls the Tea Party 'the American Taliban.
Rightly, vicious about right-wing media, without mentioning the F** word