by Dan Gibson
I had mixed feelings about The Newsroom, which premieres this Sunday night on HBO. It's on HBO, so I feel like I have to give it a shot, but I also invested far too much of my life into Aaron Sorkin's last look into the world of television, the sanctimonious and not at all funny Studio 60, which is more notable these days for being the show people thought would be more successful than 30 Rock. However, the guy can do great work including The Social Network, Moneyball and how I remember Sports Night to be, so it seems like there's some promise.
While The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum uses her review of the first episode as a referendum of sorts on Sorkin's work as a whole, her brutal takedown sort of makes me think I should skip the show altogether:
“The Newsroom” sounded more promising, journalism being a natural habitat for blowhards. But so far the series lacks the squirmy vigor of “Studio 60,” particularly since Sorkin saps the drama with an odd structural choice. Rather than invent fictional crises, he’s set the show in “the recent past,” so that the plot is literally old news: the BP oil spill, the Tea Party, the Arizona immigration law. That sounds like an innovative concept, but it turns the characters into back-seat drivers, telling us how the news should have been delivered. (Instead of “Broadcast News,” it’s like a sanctimonious “Zelig.”) Naturally, McAvoy slices through crises by “speaking truth to stupid,” in McHale’s words. But he also seizes credit for “breaking stories”—like the political shenanigans of the Koch brothers—that were broken by actual journalists, all of them working in print or online. In the fourth episode, the show injects a real-life tragedy into the mix, pouring a pop ballad over the montage, just the way “E.R.” used to do whenever a busload of massacred toddlers came crashing through the door.