The Newsroom" delves into a fictional world of cable news. Aaron Sorkin's new television project just started its inaugural season and tries to lure fans with a behind-the-scenes look at how the modern-day news cycle works. The second episode of Season 1, entitled "News Night 2.0," focuses on dueling news stories and the personalities trying to get their way.HBO's "
The second episode reveals the time frame of the show. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico just happened in April 2010. Simultaneously, Arizona's controversial immigration bill passed and was signed. Will, deftly played by funny man Jeff Daniels, plays the anchor who wants to go with the oil spill. His producer, Mackenzie or "Mac" as she's known, wants to go with the immigration story. It doesn't help that Mac and Will are ex-lovers.
There are more relationship snafus in the fictional Atlantis World Media corporation. Other on-air personalities used to date, are dating, or simply have feelings for each other. Maggie and Don have been dating, but then get into a tizzy toward the end, and Jim decides he has stronger feelings for Maggie. All the while, the evening's broadcast goes downhill, and Will and Mac go through their own catharsis.
"The Newsroom" is a good bit of work from Sorkin that departs from his normal fare. Sorkin is known for dramas, such as "A Few Good Men" and "The West Wing." He's used to episodic television and knows how to make quality shows. "The Newsroom" is different in that it shows an entity that tries to be serious (the network) yet comes across as bumbling. In the modern news cycle, grabbing headlines and being the "first on the scene" is the key. The fictional "Atlantis World Media" fails miserably yet somehow hangs on because the people on the air are trying to either resurrect or jump-start their careers.
Sorkin's work isn't a departure when fans consider the personalities involved. The plot device is simple --stories literally ripped from breaking news provide the backdrop for how the show's characters interact. When faced with a huge environmental disaster or the human scope of Mexican immigration in the American southwest, Mac makes an emotional choice to go against her ex-boyfriend's decision with disastrous consequences. Yet the beauty of the characters shows that there are many things wrong within the newsroom staff that need to be worked out before the fictional network is successful.
HBO knows how to get top-notch talent. Daniels is perfect in his role of the fatherly type anchor who's been there for ages. He's simply trying to do his job and doesn't need the emotional hang-ups of the younger crew. Sam Waterston, of "Law and Order" fame, also does a fantastic job as Charlie Skinner, Mac's boss and president of the news division. Dev Patel is also a good choice.
The fallout of the epic fail of "News Night 2.0" will determine what happens the rest of the season. Will Mac go more with what Will wants? How far will Skinner go to keep his new executive producer if she continues to screw up? Is old-style television news dead? Those are the questions older fans will love while younger fans like the hip and with-it 20-somethings on a high-pressure news desk.
The inter-generational lines are drawn early in "The Newsroom." Younger talent clashes with older stand-bys. The show works when there is a conflict between how to do news today versus how it was done in the past. Sometimes the dialogue gets over-done, but overall "The Newsroom" is a satisfying glimpse into a modern media conglomerate.
Like any good drama, the setting can work anywhere. Instead of a newsroom, Sorkin could have set this piece at a beach, library, national park, meat processing factory, or a retail shop in the mall, and it would still be a good show. Given time, the characters will evolve and the cast will gel. Although not quite "The Office," Sorkin's newest incarnation tries to be a more serious show that has a ways to go to reach "legendary" status. Yet, Sorkin's name instantly gives weight to HBO's new drama, and viewers should at least tune in to see what happens next.