Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to expect from Aaron Sorkin. His writing talents have reached far into the Oval Office (The West Wing) but he’s also had programmes cancelled after early success (Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). While his consistency may still be up in the air, his love of behind-the-scenes encounters is quite clear. The Newsroom feels like an experiment Sorkin wanted to try out as The West Wing drew to a close. The relationship between the media and politics was something he tinkered with when he forced CJ to hold all those awkward press conferences in The White House. Here, he’s exploring it in full force.
The Newsroom starts in typical Sorkin style, with news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) engaging in a heated panel debate with college students about ‘why America is the greatest country in the world’. While some spout empty rhetoric about justice and freedom, Daniels pauses, before reeling off woeful international statistics (America leads the world in number of incarcerated citizens per capita). This is the drive behind McAvoy’s decision to make a truly great news programme, one which doesn’t belittle its audience or feign partisanship for insider info. Enter the first news story of the series: the 2010 BP oil spill.
This has all the makings of another breathless Sorkin success. Emily Mortimer and Sam Waterston settle into well casted roles as fast-talking producer types, struggling to tame the ego and high-handed talents of Daniels’ McAvoy. This isn’t a perfect pilot however. There are wincing moments of jingoism (in a manner of “America isn’t great, but it can be!”) which echo The West Wing’s theme tune, but it does give the programme a frantic liveliness. And these hiccups are generally pardonable, as Sorkin looks set to deal with news events that occurred in real-life. Hopefully, this programme will be a conquering reflection of current liberal agencies in America. Time will tell.