‘The Newsroom’ Series Premiere Review

Published 2 years ago by

the newsroom jeff daniels The Newsroom Series Premiere Review

After a noticeable three-year absence, Aaron Sorkin makes his long-awaited return to television with The Newsroom, a behind-the-scenes look at the fictional news network ACN, its onetime staple series “News Night,” and its host, the seemingly uncontroversial Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels).

Following an unexpected, emotionally-driven speech while appearing on a panel of political experts at Northwestern University, the career of McAvoy changes dramatically, as the subsequent weeks find his show in decline and much of his newsroom staff jumping the sinking ship.

Hopes were high that The Newsroom would become a “perfect storm” of sorts, taking the best elements of Sorkin’s past work to help create a new, original series on HBO. That being said, the series premiere of The Newsroom never felt as succinct as Sports Night, as earnest as The West Wing, or as honest as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Leading The Newsrooms’ eclectic cast of exceptional actors is Jeff Daniels, whose portrayal of the typically-sardonic Will McAvoy is, as expected, wonderful. Unsurprisingly, the same thing can be said about Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Allison Pill, Dev Patel, Thomas Sadoski and Sam Waterston. In the case of The Newsroom, it feels as if it’s the man, not “the machine,” wherein the problem lies.

Kicking of the premiere with a wonderfully-crafted monologue for Daniels, much of the premiere follows in suit. Coming in at just over 72 minutes, the almost feature-length premiere felt, at times, like more of a collection of wonderfully written monologues than the character-driven series we’ve come to expect from the man that helped revolutionize single-camera series.

the newsroom jeff daniels sam waterson The Newsroom Series Premiere Review

The Newsroom’s placement on HBO allows Sorkin to do many things he couldn’t on TV, but perhaps it’s through those very same network limitations and time constraints where his stories became perfectly tuned. Slated as a 60-min series, there were many times where scenes felt like they could have either been shortened, reworked, or completely left out.

Sorkin perhaps felt like he needed to include a lot in the premiere episode, but a tighter pace would have made for a more fluid viewing experience, allowing audiences time to become attached to the characters on their own terms. Though one of the smallest television casts that Sorkin has worked with, very few characters, along with their motivations, are clearly defined by the end of the premiere.

With an orchestral theme song that doesn’t feel quite right for the series, and a unique, sometimes chaotic, visual styling that separates (not elevates) The Newsrooms from Sorkin’s usual pedigree, watching the premiere can easily become a challenge; it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that some things are amiss with this series.

Even so, for fans of Aaron Sorkin, there’s much to be excited about. While many will certainly focus on the political aspect of the series, HBO’s The Newsroom is as much about politics as FX’s The League is about football. Instead, this series much more about one man’s attempt at being true to himself.

the newsroom jeff daniels 2 The Newsroom Series Premiere Review
McAvoy’s comments about America no longer being the greatest country in the world certainly caught the attention of everyone watching, but it was his further explorations (some forced), where the real story lies. Dropping references to New York Times media reporter Bill Carter and NBC’s famed late night staple Jay Leno, Sorkin is highlighting viewer’s trends toward more honest media – perhaps not always the highest-rated, but certainly more honest. For McAvoy, the struggle about coming to terms with his unconscious need (and want) to be more than just “the guy that doesn’t bother anyone” is one of The Newsroom’s few narrative anchors, though one that was only briefly touched upon. Fortunately, it’s an extremely hefty anchor. Certainly mirroring conversations that many longtime personalities must have had internally, McAvoy’s transition brings up some interesting questions.

As the familiar Sorkin storylines from the past begin to bleed their way into The Newsroom, audiences will be able to continue along an enjoyable journey that was started on Sports Night. However, for those looking for a truly more evolved series, one must look within those familiarities to find growth. At this point, it’s difficult to say how challenging that may be for audiences, but hopefully it becomes easier in subsequent episodes.

For all intents and purposes, HBO’s The Newsroom is anything and everything that one would expect to see from Sorkin’s return to television – though perhaps not what many had hoped. While there’s more than enough beautifully-written dialogue for fans to sit back and enjoy, it’s hard not to acknowledge a certain disconnect from the series and its characters that can be felt throughout the premiere.

the newsroom allison pill The Newsroom Series Premiere Review

Even though, at times, much heart can be felt onscreen, there’s not much more than Sorkin’s name currently driving curiosity and intrigue for subsequent episodes. Fortunately, for now, Sorkin’s name alone is enough.

Giving The Newsroom a few weeks to find itself, as well as to introduce the rest of the cast (Jane Fonda & Olivia Munn), isn’t much to ask from a series, writer, or network of this caliber. However, unlike in previous series, where Sorkin was able to tweak storylines to reflect the current status of the actual show, the first season of The Newsroom is already completed.

Like a train following an already set course, there’s no chance of correcting its path, even if it’s on the wrong one. At this point, the only thing you can do is to hope that you still end up at your destination. Thankfully, Aaron Sorkin is one of the few people to trust when it comes to navigating the world of television.

As if taking a note from The Newsrooms’ original title, we hope for more as this series develops.

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The Newsroom airs Sundays @10pm on HBO

Follow Anthony on Twitter @anthonyocasio

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  1. When it comes to people talking very fast and occasionally dropping a cracking one liner, Sorkin is the man. But a lot of this felt forced. When a scene flows naturally you flow with it. When it lingers around for too long and adds an extra line that just wasn’t necessary (“WAIT!… (for what seems like an hour)… I have a blog?”), it feels like Sorkin is trying too hard to be, well, Sorkin. Also, enough preaching. We get it. You find flaws in America. But you pine for an America that frankly never existed. Make it about characters this and not your own personal opinions. You can always go into politics for that, Aaron.

    But yeah, I’ll stick with it because I find Sorkin’s work to be a guilty indulgence that makes me laugh (“I’m thinking… yup, that speech did nothing for me.”), the cast are all great, Emily Mortimer is a whole other level of cute.

  2. enjoyed the first 15-20 mins or so of Newsroom, the soliloquy about America was great and Jeff Daniels scrambling over his producer was great, in particular Sam Waterston line of “I’M A MARINE, DON, I WILL BEAT THE s*** OUT OF YOU!” the middle portion was just alright for me but it was more because the beginning was strong for me but i miss these kinds of shows, especially the bits in which someone gets heated and tells someone exactly how they feel and they do it with passion a lot of the shows now lack the dialogue and heart of Sorkin’s Newsroom…

  3. I thought the 1st 20-25 minutes were classic Sorkin and I was happy as a clam to be watching Sorkin TV again.
    But IMO the remaining 50 minutes were pretty messy. Scenes always went a beat or two to long and needed to be trimmed. I believe if they kept the episode inside of 55-60 minutes it would have been better for it.
    But who am I kidding????
    This is Aaron Sorkin. If I had a genie in a bottle one of my wishes would be to have him feeding me lines while I was having an argument or debate. :)
    So I’ll continue watching as long as it’s on the air.

  4. it was pretty good imo, i dont think anything felt forced, but it was a little bit campy….every character got on their soap box at one point or another. Besides that i really liked it. It held my attention very well for a long running series premire even without the promise of violence or nudity! lol I agree with anthony though about that intro and the theme music with it….it def did not feel right for the show. Besides that, looks like i have something to watch sunday night for a couple of weeks until breaking bad starts..ill make my mind up then if its worth watching.

  5. thoroughly enjoyed the first show, just hope it stays sharply Sorkin and doesn’t go down the current trend toward soap opera plots. Absolute favorite line: “I’m too old to be afraid of dumb people”! Pretty well sums up my current political stance on all subjects.

  6. I thought it was f****** amazing. One of the best premieres I’ve seen, that’s for sure. Don’t really agree with those criticisms, everything felt more than solid for me.

    • Personally I loved it. I hope this show remains a long time. I didn’t relly know Sorkins work till this and to be honest don’t much care. I wish it was on everynight, it’s a show I’ve become familiar with and make sure I take the time to watch no matter how busy life gets

  7. I have to agree with Patrik, with all crap of tv it was nice to watch Sorkin come back with a truly intelligent TV show. The first 10 mins was truly one of the best monologues I’ve heard on tv, in a long while. I also would have to disagree with a lot of the criticisms of the show. This is a Tv show and not a movie, they have a whole series in which to develop their characters and it felt very organic in how it played out. When you meet someone for the first time you don’t know everything about them and them dealing with the oil rig disaster was almost playing out in real time as Daniels and Mortimer are hashing out their issues. The chaotic feel seemed to stem from the unfolding information being pulled and gathered about the issues from the disaster. Sam Waterston’s character was brilliant and his dialog was perfect, I truly look forward to watching this show grow and I never once felt a disconnect from the characters. Since West Wing went off the air have I waited for a truly intelligent show to grab onto and it looks like this could be it.

  8. I loved every second. I’m not too familiar with Sorkin, I didn’t know he did West Wing (not that I was old enough to watch let alone understand) and I had never heard of Sports Night, which I will check out. I am now eagerly waiting for the next episode. Also that guy Daniels interviewed on the phone sounded a bit like Jessy Eisenberg, wonder if Sorkin called in a favor?

    • That was Jessie for sure.

      What makes a television show smart? Because the characters all have degrees and they use big words throughout the show? There’s plenty of smart shows on television people. I think (and lots of people share this opinion) that this is some of the best television ever. There’s a plethora of great television out there and several of them are down right brilliant.

      I disagree with this review. I thought it was a pretty good opener. We don’t know much about the characters back story’s. But sorkin did give us a great sense of who they are, personality wise. It was a solid B-. Was it
      great, and am I a devoted fan till its off air? No. But I will watch it again next week. Hell yes.

      The music did seem a little off to me too.

  9. Generally I don’t watch a lot of drama tv because most of it now days seems to have to center around some soap type love story. Granted there’s a little hint of something like that here, but just a hint….so far. However; This drama really hit on a lot of good high notes for me and I was really caught up in it. Then again like Waterson I too want to be able to turn on a news channle to find an actual news channel so I can get some news…..If only this was a true story huh? Maybe if it becomes real popular somebody at one of what we used to refer to as News Channels will decide to actually give this news concept a spin once again….

    Otherwise I really was thouroughly entertained and really hope this show makes it big. I noticed the time on the DVR was an hour and twenty minutes…..I sure hope they keep doing that with this show. There’s getting to be more and more shows where an hour just isn’t enough time to get everything done in one episode. I keep finding myself getting angry over shows that suddenly stop when they seem to be at the height of the episode. I hope they start making more shows hearly an hour and a half long….

  10. I finally had the opportunity to watch the pilot episode and quite enjoyed it. As a longtime fan of both Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer, it was a treat to see them taking on new roles that allow them to not only be front-and-center but also witty and engaging. Were there flaws? Sure, but I never expect the first episode of a series to be perfect. Some great shows have had very weak pilots. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed seeing Sam Waterston on-screen nor had I ever noticed how well Allison Pill can channel that sort of feisty precociousness that Kristen Bell has done so well. The real treat, for me, was to watch the unknowns of the cast. I felt the characters Don, Jim and Neal not only established themselves as individuals but also played well off one another. I’m looking forward to seeing the direction this show takes and like that it’s tracking actual events. Some have mentioned the posturing and speeches but I think that lent well to the idea of what the show is all about. It didn’t have the flow of Mamet’s work but Sorkin is still in fine form–even if it’s a form we weren’t expecting.

    As for the theme music, it reminded me of a montage of former news programs. It didn’t seem so out of place when viewed strictly with the credits or when compared to the music that closes the episode as Emily Mortimer’s character wanders away from her curious reveal.

  11. After Social Network and Moneyball I thought Sorkin’s writing on here would be lights out. Maybe the Westwing can only happen once, like Micheal Jordan. I think Studio 60 is better than this and Studio 60 was a huge disappointment to me. After watching Sports Night, West Wing and Studio 60 it seems Sorkin keeps using the same devices and characters over and over again with his TV stuff. The pilot for the West Wing starts of with Josh’s job on the line for going off on a similar rant on a panel much like Daniel’s character on The Newsroom. Studio 60 starts out the same way, with what was suppose to be a tribute to Network, a producer going off on a incredibly well rehearsed rant about how comedy is too stupid now. 0_o My big, big problem with Studio 60 and The Newsroom as opposed to the West Wing, is the writing is way too serious for 60 and Newsroom. Everything is so epic. Does anyone take a variety show and television news show this serious outside of the people doing it? With the West Wing the subject matched the seriousness of the writing because literally the fate of the free world hung in the balance, and people take professional politics much more serious than journalism and comedy. Sorkin could make a show about a Southern Baptist church and it be less preachy than this. Seriously, he’s like the white Tyler Perry folks. This episode where Daniel’s character is in a argument with his ex girl/ new producer in his office, she got so preachy I felt embarrassed for her and Sorkin.

  12. Someone above said it’s nice to watch a “truly intelligent program” for a change. I have to agree. The character and plotline smoothness will no doubt improve as the show gel’s with time, but the snappy dialogue and quips reminded me of West Wing, and this is a needed and long awaited change over the usual drivel on TV.

    Nice to watch a show not geared to a 4th grader for a change.

  13. Can’t understand why such great storylines get bogged down with all the subplot love garbage…women on the show being so marginalized

  14. I just watched the episode on the anchors dating, the Obama trip to India, and it will be my last!! What a load of koollaid liberal hogwash disguised as entertainment. The writers must have been hired from Air America the failed liberal shot at conservatism antithesis. I would like HBO to know they are way off track with this one.

    • Ron is bang on. What a load of lefty drivel!
      1) Obama doesn’t want to ban guns. Ha
      2) A woman with a concealed carry permit will have the gun taken away from her by the criminal. Lefty stats not based on reality that shows concealed carry states are safer than gun ban happy places.
      3) carry holders wave their guns (loaded or not) in other people’s faces. Only idiots and lefties would do that.
      4) Jane Fonda is a republican. Bwahahahahaha! Commie b!tch.

      Other than that, it’s a neat show. *For entertainment purposes only.

  15. Best thing I have seen in a long time – even if I have to watch some of it twice it is thrilling. Some incredible moments in it like the great West Wing moments. Such a great addition to TV. Love Jeff Daniiels and the fact that in person he lives in Michigan and has a normal life. So sad when it is over.!!!

  16. Absolutely the best show in ages about politics. Love it! Addicted! Need more ASAP. Highly recommend this show. Posting on facebook constantly. Have told everyone I met about it! Finally a show with passioon and facts!

  17. I could only take about 15 minutes of the show…it was so bad and poorly produced with not much content either.