5 Reasons You Should Be Watching The Newsroom



With the 65th Primetime Emmy awards just three weeks away, here at The Reel Word we just can’t get over some of this year’s snubs from the Television Academy. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest of those snubs was HBO’s The Newsroom. Although it picked up a well-earned Outstanding Actor nomination for its charismatic and challenging lead Jeff Daniels, there is definitely some much-needed love missing for this drama heavyweight.

For those of you who have been missing it, The Newsroom chronicles the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the fictional Atlantis Cable News (ACN) channel, and, in particular, the News Night team led by anchor Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels). Supported by his executive producer MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) and the rest of the News Night staff, McAvoy and his colleagues go to what seem like extraordinary lengths to present us with ‘the real news’ that is void of corporate or commercial obligations.

So why aren’t you watching it? Probably because the show is polarizing, meaning that both critics and fans alike have been critical of the show’s style and content (hence the reason for its Emmy snub). Despite being created and primarily written by TV royalty Aaron Sorkin, the love and viewership of The Newsroom has been mixed at best, much to this reviewer’s disappointment! So, if you haven’t already, here are five reasons you should check out The Newsroom in time for the third season, which is due to air on HBO later this year.


1. It’s the creation of Aaron Sorkin.

Say what you will about Aaron Sorkin, he is the master of great writing. As the man behind hits like A Few Good Men, The West Wing and The Social Network, if there is one thing Sorkin knows, it’s how to write good drama. Whether or not you agree with him, his dialogue is razor sharp and lightning fast; flying of the page with a grit and determination that not enough TV shows have these days. It is pure unadulterated genius, and it is shown in some of its finest form here. Refusing to pander to the lowest common denominator, his intellectual and thought-provoking writing style works best when heard uninterrupted from a passionate character who has others marvelling in their wake, and in a newsroom, those characters and speeches come thick and fast. This is no better demonstrated than in the opening minutes of the pilot, which will have you well and truly moved. If you watch no other part of The Newsroom (and it would be a terrible shame not to), watch those first ten minutes and hear the soaring disillusion that could rouse anyone. In fact, the season one premiere may have the best opening scene of all time, and it’s all thanks to Sorkin, who for all his alleged grandstanding, can write the hell out of a speech.


2. It features a great cast impressively lead by the underrated Jeff Daniels.

Will McAvoy is the role that Jeff Daniels was born to play, and he is at his career best while he does it. Equal parts arrogance and self-hatred, Daniels and Sorkin have created a compulsively watchable character that is as endearing as he is frustrating. Last year Daniels won the Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, and whilst it was a hotly contested prize, it was certainly earned, considering the verbal dexterity he handles Sorkin’s writing with. But, even as the star of the show, he is well aware that he is not its only vehicle. Daniels’ scenes with his executive producer MacKenzie McHale (played superbly by the similarly underrated Emily Mortimer) create a strong emotional core for the show to draw on. Mortimer of course, is just the beginning of the pool of talent in the cast, which expands to include well-known names like that of Dev Patel (of Skins and Slumdog Millionaire fame), Olivia Munn, Jane Fonda and Sam Waterston (Law and Order) as well as relative newcomers like John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill and Thomas Sadoski. To the show’s credit, they are all used well here and their stories are fleshed out and full-bodied, giving the show a depth and maturity beyond most cable network dramas.


3. It’s a fascinating and detailed behind-the-scenes look into how a real-life newsroom works.

With the advent of social media, online blogs and publications all influencing and affecting the way that news is reported, it is both captivating and relevant to watch the antics of a newsroom unfold before our very eyes. Watching the team trace a story from the time a source reports it right up until it is brought to the air by the anchor amidst a sea of control rooms, ear pieces, rapid-fire research and rewriting is as exhilarating as it is interactive for the audience. This meticulous attention to detail is in large part due to Sorkin’s observation of real-life news programs prior to writing and creating the series. It is an authenticity that has been backed by newsroom veterans such as former CBS anchor Dan Rather, who recently said: “The depiction of election night sets, control rooms, programming, directing and anchoring is very good — This one is at least as good as any and better than most; in my opinion it’s the best there has been.” This attention to detail combined with the dog-eared earnest of the News Night team give you a respect and insight into a newsroom that really is second to none.


4. It brings actual news stories to life.

Throughout the course of its two seasons, the news content of The Newsroom has been both topical and relevant, covering topics that strike a chord for both US and international viewers. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010, the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Anthony Weiner’s unfortunate Twitter pic, the Casey Anthony trial, NSA phone-hacking, the 2012 Republican primary, Occupy Wall Street, the capture of Osama Bin Laden and the 9/11 anniversary coverage, just to name a few, have all been the subject of Sorkin’s deft yet introspective and reflective touch. By covering real news stories and events, Sorkin achieves two things: he provides a fresh perspective on major news events for those viewers who are familiar with the stories and manages to both educate and entertain those viewers who are not. In doing so, The Newsroom brings with it a certain relevance and authenticity that other news-based dramas simply don’t have.


5. It’s nice to watch these idealistic people try and change the world.

There is something beautifully heartwarming and motivating in seeing the News Night team pride their principles over their (or should I say the network’s) profits. In fact, one of the most fascinating aspects of the show is the struggle between the morality of reporting what is true, as opposed to what will sell to an audience for ratings. As the team struggles with the challenge to stay relevant and on top of the game, the show focuses on delivering high integrity stories with credible journalism; a feat that is rare in the advertising and ratings driven business of news broadcasting today. With The West Wing, Sorkin sought to challenge our belief in political leaders, encouraging and almost driving audiences to believe in them again. Here in The Newsroom, he strives for a similar feat; painting an inspiring portrait of a bunch of brainy and hardworking journalists who hold a very real and very earnest belief in reporting ‘the news’. Their desire to keep us informed rather than entertained makes us wish that News Night and ACN were real, instead of a mere aspiration for cable news networks.

– J.H.