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TV review: The Newsroom starring Jeff Daniels
Jeff Daniels in The Newsroom. Image: Sky.HBO
Aaron Sorkin returns with another workplace TV drama; this time concerning a news anchorman whose public outburst prompts a change of attitude in his newsroom...
The riveting opening scene, where anchorman Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is provoked into giving an uncharacteristically zealous speech about the misconception that America's the "greatest nation on earth".
The pilot drags halfway through, with protracted scenes that should have been tightened or cut - especially considering the luxurious 70-minute running time.
The Newsroom isn't a stretch for West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin, but the Oscar-winner clearly has itches to scratch about TV news reporting.
"The Newsroom lacks a freshness of bite"
The problem with Sorkin is that his style and politics are so familiar with viewers, as a result, The Newsroom lacks a freshness of bite.
It's just another place for him to champion idealism through an assortment of half-recognisable characters that are constituent parts of previous Sorkin characters.
The Newsroom concerns anchorman Will McAvoy, referred to as the "Jay Leno of news" because his success is likewise built on blandness. However, after McAvoy's cajoled into giving a rousing speech about America's failures, a new phase in his career begins in earnest.
In comes ex-girlfriend MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) to run his newsroom, bringing a highbrow journalism ideology that speaks to McAvoy's reawakened sense of public duty.
The Newsroom is born
And so the renaissance of the newsroom begins, given an oily baptism when an oil rig explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, as McAvoy's team are fed scoops via MacKenzie's producer Jim Harper (John Gallagher, Jr).
That last sentence is where apprehension looms.
"there's much to enjoy"
Halfway through it becomes clear events are taking place in the past which gives Sorkin hindsight to ensure McAvoy's team report in an irreproachable way.
This may be easier than writing fictional scenarios, but I class it as cheating.
It's a way to admonish the handling of real breaking stories from an advantaged position. What a shame The Newsroom isn't courageous enough to shout bold statements about how current events are tackled. Instead, distance is employed to make a coolheaded judgement.
Beyond that, there's much to enjoy.
Sorkin doesn't write people in a lifelike manner, but his nimble dialogue is sweet on the ear. Jeff Daniels is also terrific as tetchy McAvoy, making his character a compelling workplace monster whose heart's in the right place.
"Sorkin doesn't write people in a lifelike manner"
Emily Mortimer, keeping her English accent, is his equal. The supporting characters are all promising - from nerdy blogger Neal (Dev Patel) to winsome producer Maggie (Alison Pill) and bow-tied Division President Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston).
Real people aren't as loquacious as they are in the Sorkinverse, but as a viewer I enjoy seeing humans operating at a higher capacity.
The Newsroom doesn't stretch Sorkin and it's comprised of familiar characters and speeches, but I was charmed by the dexterous script and performances.
The only concern I have is the storytelling perspective. I'd have been impressed if The Newsroom dealt with events parallel to reality, but that would admittedly be a colossal undertaking. The narrative's rear view perspective may prove an insurmountable error of judgement, but this is an enjoyable drama; brilliantly performed and gracefully written.
- Verdict: Although panned by critics in the US, The Newsroom is well-intentioned drama with strong performances
The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft
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