Ever since the era of 24×7 news channels started, the way television news is done worldwide has received a lot of criticism from purists. A complete channel dedicated to news functions like a business and to run a successful business, one has to make it profitable. This divide of ‘real news’ vs ‘news that gets ratings’ is the central plot of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama The Newsroom.
HBO’s The Newsroom started airing in 2012 and lasted for three seasons. Aaron Sorkin is known for creating one of the best shows in television history The West Wing but sometimes, the burden of one’s past successes weighs down their future projects, and I feel that somehow, The Newsroom bore the brunt of The West Wing.
While Sorkin has delivered other shows (Sports Night) and movies (The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs), it was evident that The Newsroom was constantly trying to recreate the charm of The West Wing, but it didn’t always succeed.
What is The Newsroom about?
The Newsroom is set at a fictional news channel ACN where Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is the star anchor. His daily primetime show has dwindled in quality but is now trying to take the noble route once again with executive producer MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer).
The struggle here is – What constitutes as news? And while it could have come out as an idealistic show, it usually comes across as the show where people are resistant to change and are thus constantly whining about their circumstances.
The best bits of The Newsroom
The Newsroom started as an idealistic show and gave Sorkin a chance to tell the news the right way. Over the course of three seasons, Sorkin got a chance to show how he would have covered major news events in recent American history. The Newsroom worked best when it had multiple balls in the air, and that could be seen in many episodes of the first season.
The assassination on Osama Bin Laden, the merging of tabloid culture with news, the NSA track were some of the key storylines of the season and delivered some of the best episodes of the series.
The characters that stand out here are certainly Jane Fonda’s Leona lansing, Sam Waterston’s Charlie Skinner and Olivia Munn’s Sloan Sabbith.
In the third season, the storyline following Dev Patel’s Neal Sampat tried to bring back the show and could have done well if the second season hadn’t been such a dampener.
The worst bits of The Newsroom
The Newsroom started losing its charm during the second season when they took up the story arc of a government project that implied that the US government had committed war crimes on foreign soil. While the story started as intriguing, it felt like Sorkin loved his fictional characters so much that he couldn’t really blame any of them for the shortcomings in the story.
Since the result of the story did not affect anyone, it made the complete arc quite futile by the end. Another story arc that got tiring after a while was the Maggie-Don-Jim-Sloan-Lisa love story. The show had such messy love stories that it appeared they were written as an afterthought.
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Since Sorkin is most known for The West Wing, The Newsroom drew comparisons to the political drama. Many of the characters felt like they were modelled on their West Wing counterparts, Leo McGarry-Charlie Skinner, Josh Lyman-Don Keefer, Jim Harper-Sam Seaborn, Jed Bartlet-Will McAvoy among others. The comparisons were so obvious after a while that if any The West Wing viewer saw this show, it felt like a tired version of the White House drama.
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