"The Newsroom" debuted on HBO Sunday to so-so reviews. While some critics, such as Matt Roush (TV Guide), were relatively enthusiastic about Aaron Sorkin's drama about a cable news channel, others, like Maureen Ryan (Huffington Post) were dismissive. Indeed, the show scored only 54 from review aggretator MetaCritic.
Our forum posters have been busy debating the merits of the show as well. Below, just some of their insights. Join in the discussion here.
The walk-and-talks and rapid-fire conversations and grandiose monologues could be any random combination of characters from "Sports Night" or "West Wing" or "Studio 60." Sorkin is Sorkin, I guess. That being said, it's fantastic entertainment to watch talented actors bite into good material. I actually thought Sam Waterston was the MVP here. Feels like Daniels was still trying to find the right tone. It's nice to see him actually make an effort, though. He's been sleepwalking for years.
That whole half-hour or whatever depicting the live broadcast was riveting, gotta say. I can see a fair amount of tech Emmy nods and cursory Emmy nominations based on Sorkin's celebrity glow and the HBO factor. But I'm not sure if Emmy voters overall will feel like they've already seen this show.
Certainly was not a flawless pilot, but there were some fantastic moments throughout the episode. Dialogue was excellent, but that is always to be expected when it comes to the work of Aaron Sorkin. However, don't let the witty rhetoric fool you. A lot of it was some very irrelevant rambling that was probably unnecessary in the scheme of things. On the surface the opening was a great hook, but to tell you the truth I found it be rather sappy and very American - sorry I'm not an American and I find the whole debate of 'the US being the best country in the world' to be somewhat nauseating.
The casting is good and there are no characters that are annoying me yet, so that's always a plus. I do feel that the whole 'former colleagues' former romance unexpectedly coming to the fore again' to be a bit repetitive, so I hope this doesn't become too much of a focal point of the series. The office politics of forming a team for the news show was good, but the show really started to kick into gear when they started working on some news stories (in this case, the Louisiana oil spill).
Will be interesting to see whether the show will improve in the areas that the critics are picking on, or whether it will plod along with little improvement. All in all, a bit disappointed with the quality of this pilot episode. And just on a side note, why was it soooo long? 72 min running time was quite a lot to get through.
There were a couple of things going on in the pilot that I'd hope for a course correction on, but I doubt those elements will change anytime soon with the season already filmed or nearly finished filming at this point. The good slightly outweighs the bad I think, and I'm anticipating more in the future from this strong cast. Jeff Daniels was pretty electric all through the episode. If this series goes the distance, he already has a tape submission. Daniels should be on a couple of Oscar nominations at this point in his career that he sadly doesn't enjoy. Loved Will's opening rant to "sorority girl" at the college lecture. It's just like Wes Mendell's rant at the start of "Studio 60," or looking at it cynically, it's more of Sorkin being Sorkin (but who else can he be really, especially since this approach has gotten him this far).
The ensemble is top notch. I enjoyed pretty much every word that Sam Waterston uttered here. His character should be a riot in the coming episodes. The young cast is a who's who of Tony nominees/winners: Thomas Sadoski, Alison Pill (so amazing on "In Treatment," though this show won't allow her to get anywhere near that level of greatness), and John Gallagher, Jr. Their budding love triangle could become tiresome if not handled well. I'm not sold about Emily Mortimer yet. I like the idea of McKenzie's character, but the execution/writing was weird at times. That spiel of hers on democracy was pretty ridiculous, as was quoting Cervantes and doling out relationship advice to Pill's character whom she's never met before. I don't think some of those scenes would have made the final edit in a normal 50+ minute episode. Her focus should have been solely on Daniels's character at this early stage, developing whatever antagonistic tension they need to develop to sell this relationship and make us see the Will she sees (or saw way back when) before he became the "Jay Leno of news anchors." Right now, that's not coming through too well.
This aspect will probably continue the ongoing narrative of Sorkin's weaknesses in writing for women. There's no C.J. Cregg-level female floating around in this office (maybe there's a glimmer of hope for Jane Fonda?), and that's disappointing.
I'd also agree that basing this series in a real-time (or real-time past) context is a mistake. One of "The West Wing"'s triumphs during the Sorkin years was being able to pepper the series with fictional plotlines that mirrored real life without going there entirely. Then they could control the scope, timing, details, soapboxing, etc. on their own timetable, whether it was the fallout from an oil tanker explosion, a mad cow scare, an opposition party bill, an assassination attempt, or going to war with a fictional Middle Eastern country. Here, they have to stick to the facts like with the BP oil spill in Louisiana, and it does have a sanctimonious ring to things that this newscast can do reporting in one hour what it would take their real counterparts weeks and months to do effectively.
And then to bemoan the competition for not being up to par with them? Hindsight is indeed 20/20, but this kind of suspension of disbelief is excessive. The "News Night" broadcast was thrilling to watch though, so at least the mechanics of a live cable newscast they got right. I'm sticking with the show, b/c there could be greatness in here somewhere, and I'd like to keep up for when/if that happens. Gorgeous main title design too. Watch out for it at next year's Emmys.
Certainly wasn't as bad as "Hell on Wheels" or "Smash." I can't stand those shows. Here, we have a great cast reading excellent dialogue. You people have watched too much TV (and take it far too seriously...) and are so soured on the whole format that you wouldn't be satisfied even if he did manage to switch it up. That said, I've been more intrigued by his adaptations as of late. He was once a great original writer ("A Few Good Men," "The American President," "The West Wing"), but with his work in "Charlie Wilson's War," "TSN" and "Moneyball," he has mastered the art of the adaptation.
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