Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO drama, The Newsroom, starts when Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), a respected cable news anchor who is notoriously mum on his own political beliefs, says publicly (are you ready for it?): America is not the greatest country in the world anymore, conservatives are idiots, and liberals are losers. The network decides to take advantage of McAvoy’s polarizing tirade and change his TV personality from, say, Brian Williams to Jon Stewart. He is going to be tough, assertive and he’s going to fix what’s wrong with news specifically, and what's wrong with America in general. Sorkin forgets to establish what exactly they are all crusading against. Glenn Beck? China? Advertisers? In any case, the news is going to be all badass now, so get ready.
Do you want to know something? Aaron Sorkin’s characters talk really fast. Ok, is that out of the way now? Let’s move on. Except we can’t, because all the actors seem so pleased with themselves for having been cast by Aaron Sorkin that they have forgotten to act like real humans and have started acting self-consciously “Sorkin”. Emily Mortimer is the absolute worst offender, moving from emotion to emotion so frenetically that she may actually be on some kind of amphetamine. She plays McAvoy’s new executive producer who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend. Cue romantic tension!
The first episode of “Newsroom 2.0” coincides with the day of the explosion on the oil rig off the gulf of Mexico, which we now know resulted in the “Deepwater Horizon” environmental disaster. What happens next is truly remarkable: The brand new senior producer gets the edge on the story because he has a college roommate that works at BP and a sister who works at Halliburton. Got that? (Presumably, if the next episode is about the Japanese Tsunami, the producer’s dog will tell him he feels vibrations in the earth, and his ex-girlfriend will be a Japanese tuna fisherwoman who sees the wave coming). This absurdly good fortune results in The Newsroom's newsroom having the exclusive story and McAvoy’s new American-knight persona solidified when he gets to eviscerate a Halliburton employee on-air.
The Newsroom doesn’t have a bad premise. Daniels is riveting to watch and very believable as a Kronkite-type talking head. If Sorkin gave him a gap in the script to feel a human emotion, I think he could be extremely likable. The problem is that The Newsroom is so sickeningly self-congratulatory that it’s like watching someone score on an open goal. Idealism in journalism is well and good, but so is humility, and The Newsroom could use a generous dose of it.
Season 1 Trailer