The Newsroom– Thoughts on the Complete First Season

In the old days we did the news this well. You know how? We just decided to.

So I guess I’ve had a sudden inkling for shows with a political influence, first with Political Animals (see my review of the first episode here) and now with The Newsroom. Mind you this isn’t a show about politicians per say but given the role of a cable news station, it’s almost impossible NOT to mix politics and the news.
Let me first just say I LOVE this show. Now from what I have read, the reviews have been pretty mixed; with some critics panning it as an unrealistic and idealistic take on the news whereas others sing its praises. The first critique is something that always bothers me. Do we watch Grey’s Anatomy and think all hospitals are full of over sexualized Doctors? Or that all widowed mothers are drug dealers after watching Weeds? These shows are produced for entertainment, if I wanted a realistic view into a certain workplace I would watch a documentary… Might I add that many of the critics that bash The Newsroom are in news broadcasting themselves….or have been shown in an unfavourable light in the show? Hmmmm could there perhaps be some bias in their opinions?

The Newsroom is a drama series on HBO primarily written by the series creator Aaron Sorkin. Now this series is in typical Sorkin style, so if you aren’t a fan of his previous work there is a chance you won’t like this offering. The series revolves around the fictional news network Atlanta Cable News (ACN) and their attempt to change the way the news is presented. After a very public tirade, Will McAvoy (a news anchor played by Jeff Daniels) returns to work to find a new executive producer, his ex-girlfriend MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) who criticizes the way he had previously been anchoring the news. She tells Will (who is currently leading in the ratings), that instead of reporting the actual facts he is just trying not to step on anyone’s toes. The changes they have made to the fictional station are brilliant. Will acts as both an educator and as judicator, both educating the public on real news issues while holding politicians and big-wigs to the words that they’ve promised.

Since the show is set at approximately 11 months in the past, Sorkin is able to use real life events which brings both authenticity to the stories (using real clips and quotes from previous broadcasts) and allows the audience to come in with some familiarity. Mind you a handful of these events are much more memorable to those who live in the USA. I’ve found myself scratching my head quite a few times trying to either figure out the event or recall how it had been reported.

I’ve heard many critics of the show argue that Will, who is an admittant Republican, focuses too much on the mistakes that members of the Republican party has made. And that he does not represent the views of a Republican news station or of many Republican voters. This is something that I personally love about the show, as a Canadian I am pretty apolitical when it comes to issues in the USA however because Will is a Republican, he is almost ‘bringing the politicians to court‘ since their views have become more and more radical throughout the years. On an international scale the Republican party is stereotyped as a group of stubborn Southerners who refuse to acknowledge any change whatsoever (and that is the polite way of putting it!). Many people (particularly those that don’t live in the south) tend to hide their Republican views since the party is generally looked upon in such an unfavourable light. Will is trying to show the public how far the Republican party has swayed from their initial stances and beliefs, no longer fighting for the rights of the American people in the name of the constitution but for sub-important niche issues.

I would highly recommend anyone watch this series. It’s on HBO so there’s only about 10 episodes, and the writing is so brilliant that I walk away from each episode still thinking about the events. That is a sign of good, smart storytelling.

Here is a clip from the first episode of The Newsroom (this is Will’s tirade), because personally I don’t think the promos have done the show justice