Hey TV.com, Should I Watch The Newsroom?

By Tim Surette

Jun 21, 2012

HBO wants to change the cable-news world and your thinking with its new drama The Newsroom, one of the most anticipated shows of the summer. I've seen the first four episodes, and I'll be your guide to help determine whether it's worth your time to tune in or not.

When do the long speeches and whip-smart back-and-forths start?

The Newsroom airs its first broadcast Sunday, June 24 at 10pm on HBO.

Which actors will be delivering these long speeches and whip-smart back-and-forths?

Jeff Daniels (yes, the guy who did this) stars as fed-up news anchor Will McAvoy, who launches a new cable-news show that sticks it to everyone (but mostly Republicans). British actress Emily Mortimer (Match Point) plays the new executive producer Mackenzie; Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) plays promoted intern Maggie; Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) is resident nerd Neal; stage vet John Gallagher, Jr. plays producer Jim; and Sam Waterston (Law & Order) plays the network's president. It's a kick-ass cast, for sure. Oh, and I guess I should mention Olivia Munn is in this, too.

Who is the wizard behind these long speeches and whip-smart back-and-forth?

Duh, who else could it be? Aaron Sorkin, the master of chit-chat and the man behind The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Social Network. And his trademark grandstanding is all over this show. If you're familiar with Sorkin's work, you'll know what to expect, but take that expectation and multiply it by about ten. Sorkin created the show and wrote all four episodes I saw.

What are these long speeches and whip-smart back-and-forths all about?

The Newsroom follows McAvoy's transformation from a pushover cable-news anchor who's more interested in human interest stories and iPhone coverage to the kind of hard-nosed newsman that truth-seekers like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite he used to be. After he blows up during a public talk, new behind-the-scenes are brought in to kick McAvoy's ass back into gear. And one of those ass-kickers just so happens to be his ex-flame. There's another aspect of the show that follows the interpersonal and mostly romantic entanglements of the workplace.

What kind of audience will appreciate these long speeches and whip-smart back-and-forths?

If you consider yourself a "red-stater," STAY AWAY AT ALL COSTS or you will throw empty beer cans at your TV all night long. Despite claiming to be at "the center" where the facts are, The Newsroom does go southpaw more often than not, taking shots at the Tea Party and Fox News more than it does MSNBC. Essentially, this is an HBO show for HBO subscribers: It's aimed at intelligent idealists who like a mix of big political buzz rinsed with soapy relationship bubbles.

What are the good things about these long speeches and whip-smart back-and-forths?

The frenetic pace of the newsroom is pretty awesome, and it looks like the show will be set consistently a year ago in order to tackle real-world news that's still fresh in our minds. Assuming this is a semi-real representation of how these places operate, seeing how the newsroom turns its gears is pretty fascinating. The cast is superb (Daniels is great), and Waterston's Charlie Skinner may be the best new character of the summer.

What are the bad things about these long speeches and whip-smart back-and-forths?

Everyone in Sorkin's world is the same. Super smart, super sassy, and super opinionated. This will work for some viewers, but for many it will grate like nails on a chalkboard. Where HBO's Girls was criticized for being full of characters who are overly white, The Newsroom should be criticized for being full of characters who are overly witty. Real life, this is not. Conversations between characters can be organized into two categories: preachy, long-winded mouthpieces for Sorkin's take on how you should live your life, and clumsy grade-school relationship banter. Those two types of chatting split reflect The Newsroom's dual shows, the interpersonal side and the mission-to-save-America side, and they're simultaneously at odds with each other and unable to stand on their own. The show also gives off the idea that it's too smart for you by making plenty of academic and esoteric references, when really, it just talks more than you and AT you. A lot of these problems are less prominent in the fourth episode (which bodes well for the rest of the season), but that episode also happens to be the least interesting and ridiculous of the quartet. And I never want to hear "I'm on a mission to civilize" again.

Should I watch these long speeches and whip-smart back-and-forths?

As much as the previous paragraph says "stay away," I heartily recommend you check out The Newsroom on your own. There are definitely moments that will make you roll your eyes so far back into your head that you'll be able to see behind you, but the series boasts a strong cast and some very, very good moments (the opening scene in the pilot is particularly noteworthy). It's just a matter if it's worth trudging through the rest of the show to get to the good stuff. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. To me the show is a letdown, but it's a letdown that has something–I can't quite put my finger on it–that makes me want to continue to watch.

Do you have a trailer full of these long speeches and whip-smart back-and-forths?

Right here!

What should I have on hand at my The Newsroom viewing party?

Very expensive Scotch, a very expensive cheese plate, and possibly a dictionary.

The Newsroom debuts Sunday, June 24 at 10pm on HBO.

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  • YankTuran Aug 16, 2012

    I would recommend ignoring some of the comments, mostly red staters who feel offended out facts thrown at them. Its a good show, I loved studio 60 on sunset strip i must say its still one of my favorites but maybe it was a show before its time. I do believe the newsroom wont share the same fate. Its a good show to watch

  • telepatetisk Jun 25, 2012

    I really like the fact that not all American television programs think I'm stupid and need to be constantly entertained, don't get me wrong, I like being entertained, but I also like to be mooved and educated.

    This show will be great, if it lives up to the pilot.

  • NWBill Jun 25, 2012

    Great - another show about condescending know-it-alls who have the morals of a field of turnips, making long-winded speeches about issues that they haven't LIVED through, or have any DESIRE to live through; don't truly UNDERSTAND nor feel a desire TO understand; and yet have this strange feeling that their Ivy League pseudo-educations gives them a natural right to pontificate on and take "higher ground" positions with, that are based on nothing more than facts that are less substantial than the solidity of molecules in interstellar space.

    In other words ... "The West Wing 2.0"

  • telvisnostic Jun 25, 2012

    I'll watch for Sam Waterston alone.

  • kbelliveau Jun 25, 2012

    This show looks incredible, all the way from the casting choices to the look and feel of the trailer. The Newsroom is the type of show I generally like. Good review Tim, very in depth about what is good and what is bad. I am still eagerly anticipating this show. Tonight is the night and I can't wait to watch the pilot.

  • Hungry_Homer111 Jun 24, 2012

    I've been watching The West Wing on DVD for the first time, and am up to the 6th season. I will admit, I'm not all that into politics, so I'm probably not exactly the kind of person it was written for. That being said, I've come to the conclusion that I'd probably like it more if it had shorter seasons, like shows on HBO or cable networks. The show, as it is, can truly be something special. If I were to make a list of my 100 favorite episodes of all time, there are a good number of The West Wing episodes which I'd put in there. The writing can be very sharp, and the chose some truly wonderful actors who could really sell it (most notably Martin Sheen). However, the greatness of The West Wing often lies within episodes which deal with larger story arcs and strong character development. And, unfortunately, with the seasons being as long as they are, most of the seasons have several episodes which seem to try to stretch out the story, doing away with a lot of its strengths, and often leaving me bored. Granted, as I said, I'm not exactly into politics, and people who are may enjoy those episodes a lot more than I do, but I would much rather have seen the seasons get shortened, so that the majority of episodes could focus on the bigger story arcs and strong character development that I love so much. So, with all that being said, having a new show by Aaron Sorkin on HBO makes me very excited. Looks like I'll have another summer show to look forward to.

  • fandomgirl Jun 23, 2012

    I'll admit that even if this review was scathing, I'd probably still watch Newsroom. HBO just has a way with trailers. Also, I just love Jeff Daniels and I love poking fun at left wing/right wing news. I'm sure the combination of the two will be pretty amusing.

  • patsully Jun 23, 2012

    Aaron Sorkin is too good when he's on to not give this show a shot for a while. The only fear is that the cable news setting will play to his worst instincts.

  • saxyroro Jun 23, 2012

    I got Sports Night goosebumps watching the first ep. Someone call Josh Malina.

  • Carolinapereira Jun 22, 2012

    i'll be checking this out. great cast.

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