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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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?)
on 24 December 2013
Those of us who love Sorkin's writing, from The American President, through The West Wing and Studio 60, are aware of his political views and writing style. As one, unkind, critic said, it's as if he makes easy targets to mow down with his liberal agenda.
But that's to miss the point or, in this case, points; the first being that this is Sorkin writing at his best. Right from the first scene of the pilot, where Jeff Daniels answers the question from a shy young student, "Why is America the greatest country in the world?", we're off to the races. Just like the first main scene of Studio 60, where the host lambastes the state of US television, or the "You don't want to know the truth - you can't handle the truth" scene from A Few Good Men, we're soon into memorable rhetoric and superbly cadenced writing.
If that weren't enough, the ensemble cast is immaculate, right from the nominal 'star' Jeff Daniels, to the guest spots, everything sits just right. Emily Mortimer plays the Jordan MacDere character from Studio 60 and is superb.
If you don't know Sorkin's work then this is a great place to start - it will have you riveted from the opening scene - and you'll have the sheer joy of getting to know some of the classiest television ever made; The West Wing and Studio 60.
I gave it 5 stars - I wish I could give it more. Please give it a go... it really is as good as 'they' say it is.
on 28 April 2015
I viewed the first episode accidentally.I became an addict immediately.With very good reason,I believe.
I found it hard to believe that this is an american T.V. series.Because not a single one of the usual "trash"ingredients is there.Starting from the script.
It is intelligent and well written beyond belief.It deals with important issues,not with insignificant crap.It deals with news.Real news.Not info about the most well dressed actress ,who's marrying who,or a car chase on the highway.But situations that affect the people's lives.And the 'heroes'servr this purpose only.To tell it to the viewers as it is.Not as it would serve the purposes of their bosses,or as it would please their viewers.But as it is.There are no "paper characters"in the series.Just real,three dimensional ones,pictured vividly and in depth.The direction,the acting,the whole set up, is way above par.I still find it hard to believe that american T.V. produced a show so different than the endless stream of meaningless trivia sprinkled with canned laughter.that floods our T.V. screens ,year after year.Barring the outstanding series 'The Good wife" I can hardly think of another american show that is such apleasure to watch.
May it last long and prosper !