It is rare that a TV show gets pilloried so robustly by most of the mainstream TV critics yet still sees substantial audience growth and recommissioning after just its pilot but HBO’s Newsroom shown over here as The Newsroom on Sky Atlantic did just that.
The season finale was this week and whilst not being as genuinely amazing as the pilot episode it rounded off a couple of plot lines whilst cleverly opening up a couple more for next year. The Newsroom grabbed my attention from the start and I’m not one that gets dragged into these American shows on Sky Atlantic. In fact this is the first one that I have given time to in my extremely busy TV schedule of reality TV shows and live sport. God that is depressing but strangely accurate.
Set in the newsroom of a cable news channel I was always going to give it a chance. I mean hello frustrated journalist here! Jeff Daniels is wonderful as Will McAvoy and brings a gravitas but also a charm and likeability factor. His world gets turned upside down when at Northwestern he is asked ‘Why is America the greatest country in the world?’ and he goes off on one because he thinks he sees his ex in the audience. It turns out that he did see his ex and soon to be new Executive Producer up there and it was without doubt one of the best (in my opinion) opening scenes of any show that I have watched. If you haven’t seen and would like to well YouTube is your friend…
The show has a bizarre series of sub-plots regarding love triangles (heck maybe even squares) including Will and his ex and her ex with whom she had cheated on with whilst with Will. Also Will’s former EP is dating another member of the newsroom but she falls in love with another member of the team who is then set up with her flatmate by her partner. Yes confusing but it makes sense if you have ever seen the show. The love plots do have some interest but aren’t a prevalent feature.
However the real dynamic that I feel brings the whole thing together is Sam Waterson’s character of Charlie Skinner. Skinner is the head of news and is a guy who wants to do the news the right way. He’s a smart man and brings a real quality to the show. Many of written that Aaron Sorkin has struggled writing roles for women and that does hold light once you look at this show. Of the three major female roles all are flawed to some degree but all are believable. The rise of Sloane Sabbath from nervous business guru to confident woman was believable. Maggie is believable in her love of Don but whilst deep down falling for Jim and as for Emily Mortimer’s portrayal of Mac the EP who deep down wants to get back with Will but also produce a great news show – all believable if flawed.
It opened to 2.1million viewers and the season finale cleared 3million. Not bad for a short ten episode run and showed substantial growth despite clear hatred from the media Just google ‘The Newsroom review’ and you’ll see a lot of positive bloggers and a lot of very negative newspaper TV critics. An interesting mix.
However the final episode of the run tied off all the unanswered questions neatly in a box – except for the two love storylines – which are open and we all know in TV land that Will and Mac will get back together one day and Jim and Maggie will get it on. Whether it happens soon or whether we have to wait in another matter altogether but it will happen. Well it had better…. Will, Mac and Charlie successfully blackmail their boss thus enabling Will to keep his job.
The scene at the hospital where Charlie and then Will realise that the only source knowing that he was high the night Osama Bin Laden was killed was him (from a phone call he’d made to Mac telling her that he was high but still loved her) but she never received it as her phone was hacked and the message deleted as a wonderful scene. Twice in the ten episode run we had that scene where suddenly the momentum kicked in and everything got going (also in episode one where Will threw out the run-down to lead with the BP oil spillage). If you haven’t seen the show but want to get an idea of what I mean think of Rocky II where Adrian wakes up from her coma and tells Rocky to win. Yes it was like that.
The attacks on the Tea Party by Will were finely delivered and the ending where we saw the girl who had first asked the question ‘why is America the greatest country in the world?’ applying for an internship because Will had motivated her was a very nice nod to the audience. Hopefully she’ll actually be a character in the second season but all in all despite clear plot flaws and not terrific writing of the female characters the show holds good. I won’t pine for it over the winter but when it returns next summer I’ll be more than ready to see what happens next and I have high hopes that the show could run for several years at a very high level.
PS: I think it may inspire me to rant about Jim/Maggie and Will/Mac and the whole true love thing. Seriously I know your are fictional characters but why can’t you be more open about your feelings but that is a question (for question read blog) for another day…
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