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The Social Network Newsroom at Studio 60 in the West Wing

June 25, 2012

If I may take the liberty to judge a show by its pilot, The Newsroom may promise to be the best of all Aaron Sorkin endeavors. It has that same feeling of noble rebellion as the first episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but with no 30 Rock to distract and confuse viewers into comparing apple-shaped oranges with orange-colored apples. Like Studio 60 (and to a certain extent, The West Wing), The Newsroom makes us want to believe along with its characters that the worthwhile and the good will triumph over the children of the focus groups, opinion polls, and marketing gurus. And it sets out boldly to prove it.

This is because Sorkin sees art as pathos-heavy argument and argues well. Before the opening credits even began to flit across my screen, I was completely on board with Will McAvoy’s (Jeff Daniels) pronouncement of the show’s thesis statement; and this despite his less-than-likable personality. Sorkin is somehow able to walk that fishing-line tightrope between art that reveals and art that browbeats. He’s so persuasive that I shudder to think what would happen were he ever to cross in to the preacher’s territory. (Although he did so from time to time in The West Wing, thankfully, such preaching always fell flat. Unless our poet turns into a better sophist, I don’t think we have anything to worry about.)

Inspiring themes aside, here are a few random observations:

  • Opening credits. As in, they actually exist, fully and in some totality. I kind of miss that about TV nowadays.
  • The score is The West Wing meets The Social Network, with a little bit of your average news show, because, you know, they have to..
  • So is the show.
  • Jeff Daniel’s opening sequence. Anyone forced to sit between two talking heads as they throw party lines at each other and call it proper argument earns my immediate sympathy. Well played, Sorkin.
  • Theatre references abound: Man of La Mancha and The Merchent of Venice, among others.
  • Broadway people abound: Reasons to Be Pretty co-stars Thomas Sadoski & Alison Pill, Tony Award-winner John Gallagher Jr. (Spring Awakening), and lead Jeff Daniels himself made me laugh my ass off in the brilliant God of Carnage back in 2009.
  • The Newsroom establishes its tone with the opening sequence and masters it by the time we’re halfway through the second.
  • Thomas Sadoski–here as Don, the former Executive Producer of News Night–absolutely floored me in Reasons to Be Pretty on Broadway and has already shown himself to be excellent in the pilot. I’m glad to see him in the opening credits as he hopefully won’t stay a former anything for long.
  • I still don’t know why I recognize and immediately love Emily Mortimer as EP Mackenzie MacHale, but I do. I really really do. That and she and McAvoy seem to have an intriguing past which stays neatly in the subtext most of the time.
  • What’s with all the Mc’s and Mac’s?
  • “You’re terrified of losing your audience, you’d do anything to keep them. You’re one pitch-meeting away from doing the news in 3D!”
  • News Night‘s Associate Producer Maggie Jordan has the potential to be massively annoying. Let’s hope she really turns out to be Mackenzie “before [she] grew into [herself] and got hotter with age.” Otherwise I might groan every time she shows up on my screen.
  • Is the ACN network-head played by Sam Waterston a Scotch-swilling dig at Mad Men? If so: Hee. If not, it’s still amusing to me.
  • Jim Harper, Senior Producer of News Night, is what we could have had on Sports Night if only Jeremy and Natalie weren’t one personality split into two and awkwardly forced to date one another. Turns out the combo way more realistic, likable, and interesting.

I’m actually going to have trouble waiting patiently for next week. E tu?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. cleithart permalink
    June 25, 2012 4:04 PM

    My one Sorkin experience was Moneyball, which was fun. There were several times during the movie, though, when I thought to myself, “This dialogue seems kinda forced. Very movie-y.” Admittedly, most of them were Jonah Hill’s lines.

    • June 25, 2012 7:35 PM

      Sorkin has a definite style, that’s for sure. And he has a tendency to have at least one character wax eloquently about one of his pet passions. I know what you mean about movie-y dialogue though. Usually he gets away with it because his characters are the sorts of people who are constantly formulating speeches in their heads (politicos & politicians, writers, artists, and now news writers/anchors), but he couldn’t quite get away with it in Moneyball. The guy’s not perfect, to be sure, but the pros usually outweigh the cons.

  2. June 25, 2012 6:44 PM

    Hmmmm. I’ve been teasing Amanda about this show for a while, because it sounds like all of Sorkin’s favorite things in one shiny gesamtkunstwerk (bless you!). But I’ll probably end up watching it anyway.

  3. June 25, 2012 6:45 PM

    EXCEPT it’s on HBO. =/

    • June 25, 2012 7:03 PM

      Ha! Perhaps it’s because I love Sorkin doing what Sorkin does best that I like The Newsroom for shiny gesamtkunstwerk that it is. Even better is that it’s on HBO, so it’s not as subject to the whims of the masses, only the smaller group of paying people, so that it might be able to do what Studio 60 couldn’t and stay on the air longer.

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