Why I Watch: The Newsroom

I’m having a really hard time finding flaws with the new HBO series The Newsroom, created by the well-renowned Aaron Sorkin. With a solid ensemble cast and near exemplary writing, this freshman show has gotten my attention and will not soon lose it.

Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) acting as head anchor of “News Night”.

The series revolves around nationally-known news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and his team of broadcast journalists that bring relevant news to television viewers every night on the show, “News Night”. Emily Mortimer plays McAvoy’s executive producer, as well as former girlfriend, Mackenzie McHale. The two butt heads quite often but they clearly respect each other and together make a solid team. Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) is essentially the boss of News Night and, along with being involved in many decisions made on the news floor, contributes many of the better one-liners doled out in each episode. The News Night staff includes Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.), Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski), Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill), Neal Sampat (Dev Patel), and Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn), among many others.

From left to right: Jim (John Gallagher Jr.), Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer), Maggie (Alison Pill).

One of the things that immediately grabbed my attention was the technique Sorkin uses of setting up timeline a good two years behind current time. Since The Newsroom covers several “ripped from the headlines” stories, I found it quite interesting and smart that the show began at a point just far enough away that allowed for accurate portrayal of the news stories, but also gave we viewers the sense of connectedness we still feel with these stories. Granted, this technique will probably prove difficult at times, seeing as the show is on its fourth episode and is already dated in January 2011. However, I’ve seen enough of Sorkin’s work to trust that he knows where he’s going with the general timeline.

So far, each episode has dealt with one specific story that dominated the news during that period. The BP oil spill, the Arizona immigration law, the Tea Party movement, and the Arizona shooting that resulted in a wounded Gabriel Giffords, have all been topics of conversations in the recent episodes. I am interested to see where Sorkin and the show’s writers will take this technique, as well as how it will be received due to the inevitable political stances that must be taken in discussing such topics. I am sure the writers will attempt to stay as neutral as possible, since national news generally is as such, but nevertheless it seems like at some point a stance must be taken. It will be interesting to see how that aspect pans out.

Apart from the general mechanics, I am constantly floored by the wonderful and detailed character development that we’ve

“News Night” boss Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston)

come to expect from Sorkin’s writing. Within the pilot alone, the seven or eight main characters who were introduced all had some sort of significant shift in their development, and it did not stop there. The relationships between the characters are delightful to watch, and this is not really surprising with such a strong cast playing these roles.

One of my favorite things about The Newsroom is the incredibly rapid pace at which everything moves. I’ve worked in a news cycle and I know from experience that being in a newsroom is a chaotic, messy, fast-paced situation. The dialogue and general camera movement clearly exemplifies this and shows us just how quick the journalists need to move in order to get the story out.

Not only that, but each episode seems a little bit more uplifting and inspiring than the last. The show teaches us about integrity and honesty in the news, as well as the importance of reporting fairly and accurately. Not to mention, the music choices add significantly to the emotional ride we take in each episode. (Example: The last ten minutes of the most recent episode involved a tear-inducing race to get out the story of Congresswoman Gifford’s shooting set to Coldplay’s “Fix You” in the background.)

The Newsroom makes me want to care about what’s going on around me. It inspires me to educate myself on past information in order to understand the info of the present. And most importantly, it keeps old news stories relevant and draws on our memories of the events and how they affected us. While the news is constantly in flux, one thing is for sure: I know my Sundays are a little brighter with this show to look forward to.

Have you been watching The Newsroom? What do you think? Let us know!

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About Neda

Lover of food, feminism, and television. I walk the fine line between devoted fan and crazy person.

89 Responses to “Why I Watch: The Newsroom”

  1. I have been checking out many of your posts and it’s clever stuff. I will definitely bookmark your site.

  2. I watch very few shows regularly, but Newsroom makes me want to cozy up to the TV at least once a week and soak it all in. It’s informative, dramatic with a touch of humor, and has just the right balance of love triangles to keep as all entertained! Thanks Aaron Sorkin for creating great TV, and thank you Big Picture Window for appreciating it!

  3. As a UK resident watching this show I find it very interesting to see American Politics – I love the show and will continue to watch for a long while.

  4. You took the words right out of my mouth in regards to my thoughts on The Newsroom! Like you mentioned, the inclusion of news stories from the recent past allows a common ground for every audience member to connect on. It’s interesting to reminisce among friends and Dish coworkers about significant events like the Giffords shooting, since everyone can remember every detail, down to where they were and who they were with as these momentous stories unfolded. I’m excited to see what other new stories Sorkin revives for us, and that is why The Newsroom has crept its way up to the top of my DVR recording list! Unfortunately, I am the only one in my family that has taken a liking to the show. My children are just a bit too young to appreciate the societal commentary of each episode, so I don’t blame them. Luckily, we have the Hopper DVR in our home that can watch or record up to six things at once during primetime hours, so I don’t have to subject them to all that wordy dialog! As for me, I’m already anxious for it to be Sunday!

  5. I have to agree with most of what you have to say about The Newsroom. It is smart, funny, fast paced, informative, and just like the previous Sorkin helmed programs (Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) the dialogue is presented in a way that demands your attention or you may miss something.

    He makes you care about and root for the characters in the newsroom and immediately gives you a sense that they are a family in many ways. There is not just a feeling of comradely among them because of a shared mission but there are the old romantic entanglements along with the budding new ones that quickly arise due to commonalities and dichotomies in both personalities and attitudes.

    I have watched the first five episodes (all of them multiple times) and apart from the first half of the forth episode (I’ll Try to Fix You) everything has been absolutely top notch. I found the fact that super genius, lawyer/speech writer/reporter/news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) did not know what a takedown piece was when talking to Nina Sharp’s (Hope Davies) gossip columnist character a little hard to believe. He seemed to a little naïve about how celebrity and gossip works especially in New York. Apart from that, the episode was amazing.

    As with his other programs Sorkin does not have characters even try to hide their relationships with each other, casual or intimate. Arguments are done in the open and they are loud. This either makes the other characters noticeably uncomfortable or they just join in on the banter that goes back and forth between intertwined couples.
    By setting the show in the recent past and using real news stories Sorkin has the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and can write the episode with the message “This is how the story should have been covered. In interviews Aaron Sorkin has said he has the benefit of hindsight and he wants to see the characters both together and apart, succeed and fail at times.

    The one thing that has been injected into this show that his previous ones have been missing is a main character that is not completely likable. Don Keefer played by Thomas Sadoski for the first three episodes is not at all a likable character. In the first three episodes he is a complete douche nozzle. He leaves Will’s show then mopes around when he realizes that he has to produce a show that is like most news shows, less steak and more sizzle, in order to get better ratings. Don is immediately jealous of Jim Harper (Jon Gallagher Jr.) not just because of what Jim is doing for Will but also for Jim’s immediate connection with Don’s girlfriend Maggie (Allison Pill). His character gets to show his human side near the end of I’ll Try to Fix You when he tells the network president that a hospital pronounces a person dead and not the news. His character starts to show his better side in the next episode (Amen). The one thing that Don character never seems to get is Sorkin’s many pop culture references peppered in the dialogue.

    Just as The West Wing was an idealized portrayal of a US President and his staff so is The Newsroom. Everyone is smart, loyal, moral and ethical. They care for their work family as they care for real family.

    Now to address some of the dissenting views of this review and of the show itsself.

    • Slamdams, yes the Jim/Maggie/Don triangle is similar to the Jim/Pam/Roy relationship from The Office but Maggie’s is empowered and is not just settling. This will allow for much more complexity. All of the relationships casual or intimate seem sincere on the show. In all of Sorkin’s shows on television he never tries to hide his opinions about anything. It’s his show and therefore it’s his soapbox. Other writers have done this often. If you ever watched an episode of Boston Legal all you had to do was listen to Alan Shore (James Spader) for a short time and you knew David E. Kelly was doing an anti Bush message in just about every show.

    • Jane, I don’t know what type of programs you watch so I can’t tell you why you can’t get into this one. I find this program impossible not to get into, and that was from the first time I saw the first trailer for it.

    • Connie, the truth is not delusion but if you are surprised that the show leans to the left then you have obviously never watched an Aaron Sorkin television program.

    • Caitlin, YES that is exactly what the show is doing. It is saying this is how the news should or would have been done if it was not a slave to ratings just like any other show on television. The old firewall between the news and entertainment programming is gone.

    • Ttolor, Daniels’ character’s tirade and then his subsequent apology (for not doing a better job bringing people the news properly) in the third episode is not meant to be heroic it meant to be the truth as his character or as Aaron Sorkin sees it.

    • Broadsideblog, this is the Sorkinverse, in that place the smartest guy in the room (Will) gets to civilize and as I mentioned above Sorkin tends not to hide relationships in his shows, they are a spectator sport for everyone to join in on.

    • Stevemerola, Emily Mortimer is perfect for this part. She can be the ultimate professional and completely off balance from scene to scene. If you look at her previous work she tends to give her characters a lot of range to work in.

    • Steven, speechified is what Aaron Sorkin is famous for and he does it very well. If you have worked in a newsroom and there is a technical problem then you need to call the show’s technical advisor and not blame the writer.

    • Ryan, actually the timeline makes perfect sense. When you were watching the show it had moved from April of 2010 till January of 2011, thus the “last April” comment. The first big story covered in The Newsroom is the Deepwater Horizon spill in April, 2010. Will does his “America is not the greatest country in the world but it used to be speech” at Northwestern University on April 8, 2010.

    • Kristen Hicks, yes Maggie gets a huge mulligan from Will and not Don. As I mentioned above, this is the Sorkenverse where workplace relationships are out in the open and everyone participates in them. They are not covering different news stories than the other networks. They are just covering them differently and in their opinion better and more professionally than the other networks. Their emphasis is on getting the best and most pertinent facts of a story out in the best way possible and not the fastest or most entertaining way possible.

    Hope everyone enjoys the show.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Review: The Newsroom – Series 1 « The Musings of Scott Dewey - September 16, 2012

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  2. What The Newsroom makes me remember « Hieronymous the Anonymous - August 30, 2012

    [...] Why I Watch: The Newsroom (abigpicturewindow.wordpress.com) [...]

  3. Will I Ever Be Freshly Pressed? « Lynn Schneider Books - July 23, 2012

    [...] Why I Watch The Newsroom. I have been told this is a very good series. I intend to watch it, so I was interested to read the review, which was good. From the comments, most think the show is excellent or were encouraged to watch by virtue of reading this post. It was a good review. [...]

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