Not a film, but here goes anyway...
For reasons unimportant, last week I finally got premium cable (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, etc.) in my home. Last Thursday, while browsing in my new on-demand candy store, I noticed that all 10 episodes of The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin's new series, were available for free viewing...but only until today (Monday 24 Sept.). That meant my wife and I had to somehow squeeze in all 10 episodes over a four-day period, lest we (heaven forbid!) have to pay for them afterward. This is not our typical viewing pattern, so I was dubious about our chances. Well, we did it.
The Newsroom tells the story of a nightly cable news broadcast anchored by Will McAvoy (a fabulous Jeff Daniels). McAvoy is a burned-out newsman and a prickly, lonely man who has reduced himself to presenting the least offensive broadcast possible in an attempt to keep viewers. Speaking on a panel at a major university, he finally snaps and embarks on a multi-minute rant (classic Sorkin device) about the state of America that both earns him a forced vacation and rekindles his desire to do "real" news.
His boss (Sam Waterston, sporting a bowtie designed to identify him as both a liberal and an old-style newsman) hires a new Executive Producer (EP) for Will -- his ex-girlfriend McKenzie McHale, a British-sounding American played by Emily Mortimer. "Will and Mac" as they are known, have a volatile personal history but work well together. Other characters include Will's slightly cynical former EP, a pretty but socially clueless economics reporter (Olivia Munn) and several younger newsroom staffers with seemingly limitless ability to pull all-nighters. Everyone is thrown together in the large bullpen of a newsroom, preparing for the nightly broadcast.
Sound familiar? It should. It's basically the same format as Sorkin's previous television effort, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. What's also familiar are the usual Sorkin elements -- lots of rapid-fire dialogue, preachy characters who are amazingly informed on important issues of the day, light comedy as stress relief, clumsy romantic subplots, and liberal views delivered as if they were unbiased facts. Like The West Wing and Studio 60, background characters become figures of public adulation or scrutiny. In the real world, no one outside their particular circles cares much about mid-level White House staffers, sketch comedy writers or junior news producers, but in Sorkin's world they are well-known people among the general populace.
What is different about this show, both its best and worst asset, is that it is set in "the recent past" and incorporates real events and their news coverage into the episode plots. The BP Deepwater spill, Gabrielle Giffords' shooting, the rise of the Tea Party, the Egyptian uprising and the death of Osama bin Laden are among the events that serve as vehicles to drive the stories. This provides Sorkin with 20/20 hindsight as he shows how he believes those events should have been covered. Very convenient.
Reading until now, you might assume that I am not a fan, but I actually am. I doubt that Aaron Sorkin and I have many political views in common, but he really is a good writer of entertaining material. The thing is, you must suspend disbelief when watching this show, which is probably his most idealistic yet. If you can do that, and you can get over the reality that nothing Sorkin does in TV will be as good as The West Wing was, The Newsroom is worth your time.
Just spread it out a bit more than I did over the last three days!
Hilly...you old devil!