HBO's 'The Newsroom' Is Wordy But Worthy
Diehard Aaron Sorkin fans will be pleased: New drama gets better with every week
Aaron Sorkin likes to talk. The prolific producer and writer enjoys speaking so much, he created an opportunity to do so at HBO’s recent screening of his new drama “The Newsroom” in Hollywood.
All Michael Lombardo, the network's programming president, had to do was mention Sorkin's name and then he appeared at the podium ready to thank his cast and crew, even though Lombardo wasn’t done and didn’t expect him. But Lombardo graciously stepped aside and let his ridiculously tanned superstar say his piece.
Of course Sorkin, 51, was eloquent -- the man is an Oscar winner -- but he talked too much. And then it hit me: This is what is wrong with "The Newsroom."
There is far too much talking. Yes, I know complaining about the loquaciousness of a Sorkin project is as futile as bemoaning the number of explosions in a Michael Bay flick, but still, someone has to tell this brilliant man that less is more.
That said, I didn't hate "The Newsroom," which follows a quixotic TV anchorman (Jeff Daniels) and his ambitious staff. I just didn’t love it as much as I wanted to. Sure, it's annoying that the characters are better spoken than anyone in the real world could ever be but again, I was a fan of "Sports Night," "The West Wing" and even "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," so I knew what to expect.
That's the other problem. "The Newsroom" is full of predictable Sorkin tricks and suffers from it. And by tricks I mean at least one love triangle, a romantically grandiose monologue (Daniels delivers one in the pilot), people who are so focused and stressed they fall all over themselves and each other, and a leading man that is basically a thinly veiled version of Sorkin. Rumor has it that Daniels' character, Will McAvoy, was based on currently unemployed anchorman Keith Olbermann but in truth, he’s more of a blend between Daniels, Olbermann and Sorkin.
So, what's my final verdict? I give it a B minus. I didn't abhor it the way a great number of critics did and it didn't bore me. Shrug. It's entertaining.
The actors are tremendous and Sam Waterston delivers a performance nothing short of remarkable. He plays Will’s boss and he steals every scene he can. Waterston, who will always be Jack McCoy from "Law & Order" for me, proves he versatile and is reason enough to watch. He also has great chemistry with Daniels and their scenes together are some of the best.
Even though the characters could benefit from less caffeine, moments of silence and a change of scenery outside of the newsroom -- this is what happens when you follow the gatherers and not the hunters -- they are super intelligent and become worth knowing by the second episode.
It's sort of like a scene from the debut installment when Will goes on a sweeping tirade about how America can be great again. Prior to his rant, his ex-girlfriend, Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), holds up two handwritten signs. One says "It's not," in reference to the country's greatness, and the other says "But it can be."
The funny thing is those signs sum up "The Newsroom" perfectly. But hey, if you’re a Sorkin lovin', left leaning, politics and news junkie who prefers verbose and witty dialogue and complicated work romances, then ignore what us critics think. This show is for you.
"The Newsroom" premieres Sunday, June 24, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.