Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down

The Newsroom

16 July 2012 by Nicholas in TV

The Newsroom is Aaron Sorkin’s new TV series set in the world of cable news. It echoes the West Wing, although I have to admit that I prefer it so far. As someone who bought the first two series of West Wing on DVD on a recommendation, watched them all and then never watched them or any subsequent episodes ever again, this may not be the strongest recommendation possible.

The Newsroom starts promisingly: in the first episode Will McAvoy is attending a debate between a Republican and liberal Democrat (in the American sense) at a college and fielding questions from the crowd and the debate moderator. McAvoy is a successful TV news anchor, and charming, but doesn’t commit himself to a political stance or to saying anything controversial.

He is hounded for an answer to a trite question by the moderator and, seeing a familiar face in the crowd, his mask slips and he actually says what he means. It’s a stirring moment, the monologue is brilliant, and you can feel the hush descend on the crowd. Unfortunately it is the climax of the episode and the rest doesn’t come close to those heights.

The remainder of the episode deals with the fall out from McAvoy’s outburst: his changing staff on his show, his perceived new direction and how his audience react to it. It also descends into sentimentality and seems a little too cosy and unchallenging. It’s well done for what it is, but it isn’t great and it has that same sort of familiarity and contrivance that spoilt the West Wing for me.

The second episode is far less good. It mainly hinges on an unsuccessful news broadcast and how poor news gets delivered and why. There isn’t really anything in the way of a great moment, no snappy dialogue and the point it makes it chooses to beat us over the head with.

The third episode is where I decide I will stick around for the long run. Again, it makes a point and rather labours it. But it actually has some great moments along the way and sets up some great conflicts: Will being kept in the dark by his boss, his boss arguing with the board, Will setting the company he works for against the incoming Congress and the company he works for plotting to find a way to discredit him. It sets up a lot of underlying plots for the upcoming episodes and hopefully will amount to something as the series progresses rather than being ignored.