HBO gets political in ‘The Newsroom’
The most recent mark made on a timeline where television revolving around journalists is scarce is one that deserves a shot at future syndication — a show that turns the camera on itself and brings the newsroom to its viewers.
The latest brainchild of award-winning writer and producer Aaron Sorkin is aptly titled The Newsroom, which aired its inaugural season on HBO from June 24 to Aug. 19. The new 60-minute series may seem atypical compared to some of his other creations, but Sorkin used similar methods to depict institutional inner-workings in “A Few Good Men,” “The West Wing” and “The Social Network” that he does to reveal those of the watchdog in “The Newsroom.”
First of all, the cast is killer. It doesn’t matter if you know Jeff Daniels from his goofy role opposite Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber,” or his appearance in Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo;” this is a different Jeff Daniels — one that astounds and appears unbearably human. Daniels plays the cynical and heartbroken nightly news anchor Will McAvoy, whose News Night newsroom is the focus of the series.
Others in McAvoy’s newsroom include British actress Emily Mortimer, who plays the quirky Mackenzie McHale, and Slumdog Millionaire protagonist Dev Patel, who plays brainy conspiracy theorist Neelamani “Neal” Sampat. Both of these characters are of considerable importance to McHavoy; the prior involving an unresolved romantic relationship and the latter as the writer of the star journalist’s blog.
Each episode revolves around a major news story of the recent past. Some of the first season’s most memorable events include the explosion of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the resulting Gulf Coast spill, the evolution of the Arab Spring uprising and Tokyo’s Fukushima nuclear crisis in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami.
In one of the first season’s finest episodes, the band of news junkies is given word of and covers an event that turned out to be the assassination of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. Special Forces on May 1, 2011. The event was depicted with both historical and emotional context, attempting to convey what reporters and Americans felt as the news broke of seeming retribution more than ten years after Bin Laden’s alleged attack on the World Trade Center buildings in downtown Manhattan.
But with all of its bright lights and fancy footwork, the series is not without its flaws. Hindsight is 20/20, and the conflict and energy audience members see while watching the show may not be adequately portrayed as the rare breed it really is. However, the series does a great job of painting a colorful portrait of journalistic triumphs as well as the skillfully-handled fumbles reporters sometimes make. But Sorkin rarely shows his viewers the boring meetings, slow news days and dead-end leads that are bound to pervade any news agency.
That said, the news environment that Sorkin has created is not the stereotypically cynical one, but a vibrant and inspiring institution filled with awkward office romance, evolving careers, and ultimately, McAvoy’s self-invented “mission to civilize.”
Print journalists — writers who craft content for media like newspapers and magazines — are at constant odds with broadcast journalists, who write and create radio programing or televised newscasts. But the conflict posed between the two major parties of the Fourth Estate seems to have cooled “The Newsroom”, an excellent series in an era crowded with less savory media.
“The Newsroom” will not only give any newspaper man or woman a sense of respect for the rival medium that he or she might never have had, but will fill any audience member with great pride for the craft itself.