MaHB Television: Speaking Sorkinese
Esquire Malaysia + Esquire Singapore, September 2013
The Newsroom is worth checking out, if only to form your own opinion of it.
By Sophia Goh
The Newsroom is back on HBO with its second season, and in the lead-up to its premiere, you could almost hear the critics sharpening their knives in anticipation.
As mastermind Aaron Sorkin – creator of Sports Night, The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; Academy Award-winning screenwriter for The Social Network – discovered, there are downsides to being a Hollywood writer who not only gets a feature interview in The Hollywood Reporter (THR), but also poses for the cover alongside the stars of his show.
Among savvy TV viewers, it has become cool to namedrop Sorkin, cooler still to like him, but perhaps coolest of all to bash him. That could partly explain why when The Newsroom made its debut, so many attacked it with such gusto.
Sorkin is perfectly aware of the effect the show had. As he told THR, “There are a great many people who weren’t just disappointed with The Newsroom but also really maddened by it. It was impossible to avoid hearing that. I hope some of the people who were turned off by the show last year take a second look and maybe are a little bit happier, but you’re playing a dangerous game if you write to try to change people’s minds.”
Set against the backdrop of US current affairs and the cable news industry, The Newsroom revolves around the idealistic News Night team at the fictional Atlantis Cable News (ACN) network as they pursue their mission to “do the news well”. The nine-episode-long second season takes place over a five-day period leading up to the 2012 US presidential election, but also touches on major events from 2011 and 2012.
Besides Jeff Daniels, who plays anchor and managing editor Will McAvoy, there’s Emily Mortimer as executive producer MacKenzie ‘Mac’ McHale, John Gallagher Jr as producer James ‘Jim’ Harper, Alison Pill as associate producer Margaret ‘Maggie’ Jordan, Dev Patel as blogger Neelamani ‘Neal’ Sampat, Olivia Munn as financial expert Sloan Sabbith, and Sam Waterston as ACN news division president Charlie Skinner.
It’s a talented ensemble cast, playing compelling enough characters that you find yourself caring about individually. Add to that a liberal (in more ways than one) dose of Sorkin, and you get a pretty good drama, even if you don’t agree with everything that’s being said.
That’s the tricky bit. As a TV series that “covers” current affairs, it’s impossible for The Newsroom not to put its own spin on issues. Personal opinions and political leanings inevitably shine through, which is perhaps another reason why the show is so polarising.
Instead of harping on how pretentious or self-indulgent you think Sorkin comes across sometimes, or how much you dislike his politics, watch it for his take on the news, and simply enjoy The Newsroom for what it’s supposed to be – entertainment. If, along the way, you care strongly enough about an issue to get all worked up about it… Well, maybe that’s not a bad thing too.