This just in: The Newsroom premiers in the UK on Sky Atlantic tonight at 10pm. After watching the pilot, and, following its less than enthusiastic reception in the USA, here are my thoughts:
Aaron Sorkins latest TV show irritates and pleases in equal measures. It is unashamedly American, and starts with a fantastic rant by lead (and surrogate Sorkin) Jeff Daniels at a room of college students. His angry words relate to America no longer being the best country in the world, but that it could be, and that an informed country is a better country. Sorkin is asking the audience to buy into his central thesis that news is the answer to America’s current problems. This is his excuse for the self-important and pompous nature of the characters who walk (and talk) around with faux gravitas for the rest of the show.
You wouldn’t need to know in advance that this is an Aaron Sorkin production, it is him through and through. Fast dialogue, walking and talking, and intelligent and snappy sound bites. I really want to know if Mr Sorkin can write for a stupid character; I can’t think of any in his shows, and if America (or indeed, any country) really did have this ratio of smart people to stupid, maybe it really would be the best country in the world.
With The Newsroom I think he may have an uphill battle getting us to like these characters. Throughout the episode, the fact that the public don’t respect or trust the news is repeatedly referenced, thus making their plight something we find hard to swallow. Speaking of hard to swallow, some of the flagrant flag waving is so sickly sweet, it makes you want to hurl red white and blue. Throughout his writing, Sorkin comes across as an intelligent, thoughtful human being, which makes it surprising when this show makes clear that he seems to genuinely think that the USA is the best country in the world, as if such a thing could ever exist.
Basing each show around a real news event is a novel concept, but it’s convenient that one of the lead characters was able to get two sources for separate companies within seconds of the event occurring and then report the full scale of the story in hours rather than the days it took to unfold in real life, where you have to contend with like, real problems.
I’m an unabashed fan of Sorkin’s work, but am starting to worry that he is getting sucked into showing us how smart his characters are, or how smart he is. Some of the dialogue in this feels unnatural (even by his stylised standards!) and, having some involvement in broadcast News myself, feel that Anchorman is closer to the truth than Newsroom.
Having written all of the above, I will still watch the rest of the series, as it is well made, well acted and leagues above most other dramas on TV at the moment. Sorkin believes that America isn’t the greatest country in the world, but that it could be. I think The Newsroom is definitely not the greatest drama on TV, but that it can be better.
As an aside the iPhone will auto correct Sorkin to Dorkins. Try it.