After a year off the dais, can Jeff Daniels return to the Emmy stage as leading news anchor Will McAvoy on HBO's "The Newsroom"? Daniels won Best Drama Actor two years ago for the inaugural season, but took a backseat last year to Bryan Cranston, who prevailed for "Breaking Bad's" closing season. This year, Daniels has submitted the series finale episode, "What Kind of Day Has It Been," to Emmy judges.
SYNOPSIS: Structured so that the first and final seasons of "The Newsroom" feel like bookends in a trilogy, the series finale sees our newsies in the present day at Charlie Skinner's (Sam Waterston) funeral while also taking a glimpse back only three years ago when they were all less realized versions of themselves. For Will, this is particularly moving because he just found out he'll soon be a father and in order to be a good one he'll have to start caring about more than just himself. It's the juxtaposition of the two McAvoys — the cold, self-centered one from three years ago and the attentive, calm one of Season 3 — that anchor both the episode and the series as a whole. It would be a full circle for Daniels to win again.
Can Daniels pull off a bookend Emmy victory? Let's weigh the pros and cons:
As mentioned above, Daniels gets to show us two characters here. Front and center is the growth that he's accomplished with the abrasive Will McAvoy in such a short amount of time.
Aaron Sorkin's writing is known for its speed and verbosity, but here he gives Daniels the game of having McAvoy avoid speaking at the funeral, offering multiple scenes where he speaks silently — the patient blink of an eye or the crazy-eye smile he gives upon learning he's becoming a father.
While always sarcastic and funny, Daniels gets to also play up the emotional side of McAvoy. Framed in the context of Skinner's funeral we get to see how McAvoy has also become a father to the "News Night" staff.
Let's be honest, two Emmy wins in a three-season show would be an incredible statistic.
"The Newsroom" isn't the only show in its final season. "Mad Men" — you know, the show everyone watches yet somehow doesn't have a single acting award — also closed out this year and Jon Hamm is Daniels' main competition.
Oh yeah, and there's a scene where Daniels plays guitar and sings. For me, while not unpleasant to listen to, this diminishes the effect of the nuanced and quiet acting he's able to pull off in other scenes.
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Photo: The Newsroom, Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Jane Fonda in 'What Kind of Day Has it Been?', Season 3, Episode 6, Dec 2014. Credit: HBO/Courtesy Everett Collection/REX