From Aaron Sorkin, Emmy and Oscar winning acclaimed television and film writer of “The West Wing“, “The Social Network“, and “Moneyball” comes his latest work, “The Newsroom“. The show on HBO is a drama set in as one might assume a newsroom. Starring amongst others Jeff Daniels (Will McAvoy), Emily Mortimer (Mackenzie MacHale), Alison Pill (Maggie Jordan), John Gallagher Jr (Jim Harper), the cast comes together in the fast paced drama providing a glimpse into the the daily dealings of AWN’s 8PM to 9PM news show from both sides of the camera.
Jeff Daniels stars as Will McAvoy, a headline news anchor famously known as the Leno of news appreciated for his tendency to not be a “bothersome reporter”. During the introductory scene of the pilot, McAvoy is lured into abandoning his charming on-screen persona, and his world built begins to crumble slowly soon after. We meet him again 3 weeks later after a tailspin vacation, where his news floor is no longer the one he once held domain over. McAvoy must now deal with those changes.
Pilots are meant to do three things.
First, a pilot is meant to introduce the premise, or idea behind the show. This show is about a veteran news anchor attempting to reassert himself in the profession which wants to spit him out, but the one person to give him a chance forces him to deal with his emotional baggage preventing him from that resolution. It’s an interesting premise, and one that is likely to be dynamic as more episodes unfold and the story becomes more clear.
Second, the pilot is meant to introduce its characters, or at the very least, layout potential arches that may be on the near horizon. There are many characters introduced in the pilot. Some are more important than others naturally. The show’s strength, being an Aaron Sorkin drama, lies in its ability to develop characters to a point where their personalities can naturally exude banter where otherwise they may not. This was one of the reasons “The West Wing” was so popular, and why “The Social Network” worked as well as it did. “The Newsroom” works towards developing Daniels’ and Mortimer’s characters well. Will McAvoy is the best written character in the earlier arts of the show, however Emily Mortimer begins to steal scenes left right and centre soon after.
To balance Daniels’ strong portrayal as Will McAvoy, we are introduced to Mackenzie MacHale, played by Emily Mortimer, who may best be known for her role in “Lars and the Real Girl” alongside Ryan Gosling. Together, their combined moxie adds energy to the show, reminiscent of other character’s in Sorkin written pieces, namely, Josh Lyman (played by the admirable Bradley Whitford) in “The West Wing” and Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg for which he received an Academy Award nomination for outstanding performance as an actor in a lead role) in “The Social Network”. Its this fact that the pilot feels as successful as it does. By meeting strength with strength, MacHale and McAvoy can sustain their force over future episodes, rather than have their dialogue fall flat like it did in early seasons of “The West Wing” or in “The Social Network” where Zuckerberg didn’t really have somebody as strong to challenge him, and though entertaining to watch, felt unfair.
The third purpose of a pilot is to get the viewer to the point where they want to see what happens next. The pilot accomplishes its purpose for this writer. I am eagerly looking forward to the next episode because it seems like it will revitalize public opinion on news media much as “The West Wing” did for American politics. I hope the themes covered in future episodes prove to be just as resilient to time as “The West Wing” was and continues to be.
If you’re looking to start a show, join McAvoy, MacHale, and myself on this journey, an ongoing conversation on what will hopefully be a fine show for many years to come.