The Newsroom: Season One

10 May 2013 DVD

The Newsroom: Season One

For a guy who defined quality television drama more than a decade ago with The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin certainly seems to have let it go to his head. While Sorkin’s movie work remains subtle and smart – the one-two punch of The Social Network and Moneyball exposed just how thin most modern movie scripts are – his television work has been increasingly focused on how US society is going to hell thanks to a generation who have lost their way. Luckily we have strong white men around to guide us back to how things once were…right?

So, it’s a relief that early on in The Newsroom it appears Sorkin has developed enough self-awareness to poke a little fun at this kind of thing. Yes, the series begins with revered but bland news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) losing it on a university panel. When asked, “What makes America the greatest country in the world?” he blurts out all the ways America isn’t great, which is TV death. Then, when Will returns to work, he finds his old crew have largely jumped ship, leaving him with a new executive producer (Emily Mortimer) with whom he has a mysterious past, and who seems to be even more insanely idealistic. Maybe Will’s not going to save the day? And then there’s a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the burgeoning office romances and banter are pushed aside for serious news gathering.

This is the most Sorkin-like series Sorkin has ever done, featuring the same flawed but driven men and flawed and fragile women and tangled romances and passion for The Common Good he’s been doing since forever. The twist here is that The Newsroom is set in the recent past so we can see our loveable team of news professionals handle the big stories the way they should be handled. Some weeks this device works; other weeks it just feels like finger-wagging at the media. This is often a problem with Sorkin’s shows (it sunk his Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), but here it reaches a pitch that simply can’t be taken seriously. That said,  Sorkin is a master of snappy dialogue and there are numerous exhilarating scenes throughout this 10-episode series that remind you why he’s one of the writing greats. You just have to pretend that whenever someone gets on a soapbox (and they do) Sorkin is doing a spot-on parody of himself.


» The Newsroom: The Complete First Season is out on 22 May.

Anthony Morris