Binge Watch Alert is a virtually spoiler-free look back at shows you may have missed that are currently available on a major streaming service. Today we look at The Newsroom. This show ran for three seasons on HBO and is now available on HBO GO.
Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) was one of the leading news anchors in the business. Then this happened:
What followed was a media backlash that threatened to kill the rating for his flagship show “News Night” on Atlantis Cable News (ACN). The President of ACN, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), sees this as an opportunity to change the way cable news is done. He hires Will’s ex-girlfriend/ex-producer Makenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) to the executive produce the show and brings in a whole new crew. Their goal is to put facts first and bring the public the news they deserve. Thus begins The Newsroom.
A central theme of the show is that you are entitled to your opinions, but you are not entitled to manipulate facts. The nightly reports often mirror an episode of the Daily Show, rolling footage of hypocrisy and double talk. It also points out the dangers of extremism and unchecked, unpunished deception. McAvoy is a registered Republican who feels like the values he holds are becoming more and more scarce within his own party. In attacking the new Tea Party, he opens himself up to many attacks from the right and becomes a target for criticism. His efforts to change the circumstances, he offers to host a debate that will ask real questions and encourage candidates to give real answers rather than talking points. This effort is met with stern opposition by the powers that be.
In his answer to a question about America’s greatness he laments:
“It’s not the greatest country in the world, professor, that’s my answer…We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy.
We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.”
Within those remarks lie the heart of The Newsroom.
The show was created by award-winning writer Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin won Emmy’s for his work on The West Wing, was nominated for an Academy Award for Moneyball, and won the Oscar for The Social Network. The Newsroom was Sorkin’s return to television, his first series since Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. His track record
The Newsroom began June 24th of 2012 and attempted to take real life news events and show how a news department would cover them. For example, the first show explores how the news alert about a fire in the Gulf of Mexico evolves into what we now know as the BP oil spill. The brilliance of the show is seen in the way the interpersonal storylines are woven into these major world happenings. Other stories that we see in the series are the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the 2012 elections.
The cast of the Newsroom is wonderfully suited for Sorkin’s writing. Daniels kills it as the popular newsman teeter-tottering between grabbing ratings and putting out a quality product. Waterson and Mortimer work masterfully together serving as McAvoy’s conscience, constantly holding him to a higher standard. Jane Fonda‘s portrayal of ACN owner Leona Lansing is scene stealing and often mesmerizing. Relative newcomers Allison Pill, John Gallagher Jr. and Thomas Sadoski brilliantly play news producers who share a passion for the news. Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) is great as Neil Sampat, the show’s electronic media expert who always pitches outrageous stories. Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse) is spot on as Sloan Sabbith, a Ph.D. economist who forgoes Wall Street fortune to educate viewers on economic trends.
The show had three season’s that took several twists and turns. Many of the characters showed growth and maturity as they further embraced the mission of News Night. The first season focused mainly on the inception of the new format termed “News Night 2.0”. Season 2 introduced us to a rumored story the likes of which could change the way we view our government. Season 3 shows ACN in financial hardship as Leona’s in-laws make a push for a hostile takeover.
The Newsroom is Sorkin being Sorkin: Long and powerful monologues, rapid-fire dialogue, and a plethora of “walk and talk” sequences. If you love him, you will love this show. If you hate him, you will most likely choose to skip it. If you really don’t know, I suggest a viewing of Season 1, episode 1. If you are not hooked by the twenty-minute mark, you will never be hooked.
As a binge watch The Newsroom is about as easy as it gets. The three seasons were a respective 10, 9, and 6 episodes long. Total running time is just under 24 hours. A 13-day plan for two episodes a day would seem reasonable. As always, I cannot guarantee that once you start you’ll be able to stop. You might even finish the entire series in less than a week. The Newsroom is just that good.