The Newsroom Season 1, Episode 1 Discussion
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Vinny Ginardi: While I haven’t seen everything that Aaron Sorkin has done (for example I have only seen one or two episodes of The West Wing), I have thoroughly enjoyed everything he’s done that I have seen. When I saw that Sorkin had a new show coming to HBO (the best or second best supplier of television) about the newsroom of a television studio, I couldn’t hold in my excitement.
And for me, the first episode didn’t disappoint.
The opening scene captivated me as we immediately got an interesting look at our central character, news anchor Will McAvoy. Jeff Daniels’ portryal of McAvoy was what drew me most into the show, as he dominated every scene he was in (which is most of them) and maybe this series can allowed him to be viewed as something other than Harry from Dumb and Dumber (which isn’t the worst thing in the world).
The episode as a whole had me completely involved. The dialogue and story reflected the fast paced environment of a newsroom and we were introduced to an eclectic group of characters. Hey, it’s just one episode but I am eagerly awaiting the next.
Michael Aurigemma: I cannot disagree with a word you were saying and Jeff Daniels will be the perfect guy to lead this show. I think this is a show that will need a main character to take control and really draw the audience in and he did an amazing job in that first episode.
I loved the script for the show and afet working in the media world behind the scenes I thought it was also pretty realistic. It definitely captured how much really goes on behind the scenes to make a show like that come together. That is really what this show will have to do is make sure that it is showing how it all comes together and that may be tough to do at times, but they nailed it in the first episode.
It may be too early to say that HBO has found gold with another show as there are definitely some obstacles it will have to overcome that I am sure we will get into throughout this discussion.
Also it absolutely seemed like HBO was really pushing this show as it was on six different HBO channels last night. It was on everyone except for HBO family. Maybe they sense that this could be their next biggest show just like we do.
Greg Kaplan: By no means am I an Aaron Sorkin expert, but Newsroom was another fine example of what he does best. A while back, I watched one of Sorkin’s first shows he ever worked for called Sports Night (I highly recommend it), and Newsroom is pretty much the next step, except instead of running a sports network with more comedy driving it, Newsroom supplies a deeper message, but the same quick dialogue and sprinkle of humor.
Long story short, I really enjoyed it. I know it got a lot of flak from critics and people were quick to bury the show, but I came into it with zero expectations and had a fun time with what I was watching. There are a few obvious story lines that will be followed, like Maggie playing the middle between her current boyfriend and ex-EP Don and the new, hot shot senior producer Jim.
I agree with both Vinny and Mike about their thoughts of McAvoy, portrayed by Jeff Daniels. Is it a little weird to see the Dumb and Dumber star in a role completely different from one of my favorite movies? Absolutely. But, so far, he’s nailed it. And I’m excited for next week’s episode.
Michael Cresci: Sorkin, Sorkin, Sorkin, Sorkin…oh yeah, Sorkin. This show can only be described by saying Aaron Sorkin’s name over and over again because it is so clearly a product of his unique mind. The Newsroom is like The West Wing’s younger brother who got into journalism instead of politics. The trademark dialogue, walk and talks and array of musical references is bolstered at every turn but Sorkin’s not so subtle monologues which serve more as his pulpit than moments of true characterization. That can definitely rub people the wrong way but I’m all about Sorkin’s style so this show really worked for me. After all he’s the man responsible for this scene.
The show’s pilot hinges on our investment in the main character, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels). Daniels nails the performance walking the fine line between believably bitter and terse and consummate newscaster/believable human. His performance is magnetic and manages to cover up some of Sorkin’s more on the nose moments where he’s bashing you with his ideologies. It also helps that I often agree with his ideologies. In the end this episode accomplished what all pilots are trying to accomplish. It made me want to see what direction the show goes into, so in that way, it was a winner.
VG: That’s exactly what I wanted discuss, Cresci. What direction will this show take us? Thinking back to last night’s episode, outside of the opening scene, almost the entire hour plus took place in the newsroom. Obviously that is the title and main focus of the show, but will every episode be presented in that way (the news staff working on a breaking story)? If so, I could see the show losing some audience after a few episodes due to the show becoming too repetitive. But I will trust Sorkin that there is a larger narrative at play (most likely dealing with the return to news informing and sparking debate, which was mentioned on multiple occasions or on the changing characteristics of McAvoy) that will present itself more clearly in the coming episodes.
What did you guys think of the points that McAvoy made about people only reading the opinions that validate their own opinions? It’s the sad truth, but I agree that people would rather hear about reasons why they are right than be presented with reasons that they may be wrong.
GK: Well, Vinny, who really wants to be told they’re wrong? Its only natural for an individual to side with someone that shares an opinion of their own. That’s the main reason why news networks like MSNBC and FOX News even exist in the first place. Sorkin has a tendency to be a little preachy in his writing, but one thing he doesn’t try to hide from is controversy. He’s going to say whatever he wants, and he really doesn’t care what you think along the way.
I’ve mentioned Sports Night before as an example of what to expect from Newsroom, and I only bring it up again because of Vinny’s worry about how the show will pan out. Sports Night was a sports news show every episode that not only dealt with the problems of putting together a once-spectacular program that was losing ratings (sound familiar?), but the drama and emotions that involve breaking news or the relationship between the newsroom itself. I have plenty of faith in Sorkin to not only keep us interested in the show Will McAvoy puts on every night on air and behind the scenes, but to keep all of the characters involved in the story lines as well.
Really, I think you guys should go back and watch Sports Night, there’s no way for me to say this otherwise. The development of the shows are eerily similar. Each have an executive producer that likes things done her way or the highway, an elderly, wise, yet challenging studio boss, difficult and challenging anchors with emotional involvement into the show and their producer and a budding relationship in the newsroom that you root for even if there are obstacles. Again, while there are obvious differences from the shows besides that one is sports and one is news, the structure is surprisingly similar.
MA: Greg, I think you made an excellent point when saying that Sorkin can try to be too preachy in his script. I can easily see that being an element that turns me away from this show. I do worry about it revolving too much in the same setting as well, but if they develop the characters enough then I still think it will be a successful show.
It is encouraging to hear how Sorkin has experience with a show similar to this in Sports Night. I will take your word that it was a really interesting show and I am hoping he could take that experience and really bring this show to another level.
In my opinion this is a show that hinges so much on the characters as some of the content may get repetitive and boring at times, but it is off to a fantastic start in that sense and hopefully continues that trend.
MC: I suspect the show will stay in the newsroom. There’s a lot to explore there starting with the history between Will and his new/old EP, Mackenzie. They clearly have a lot of story ahead of them as does Allison Pill’s eager but clumsy assistant character. The West Wing, which in some ways informs my viewing of this show, rarely strayed outside of the professional setting and part of the fun was seeing moments of the characters’ personal lives leak through. It lead to slow buildup where the people were defined through their work but humanized by the well written hints at life outside that work.
I hope Sorkin doesn’t settle for making The West Wing: News Edition and ends up exploring the role of the media in our society in a way that is meaningful and not just derivative of his previous work. The presence of a clear central character is a nice start to that as it definitely distinguishes the two shows. Still, going forward my hope is that I’ll feel less and less inclined to make comparisons to Sorkin’s Presidential magnum opus.