Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Newsroom

"The Newsroom" on HBO was created by Aaron Sorkin, the creator of "The West Wing."  I loved The West Wing:, so I should love this new show too.  Thing is, after two episodes, I'm not so sure I do.  It has a lot going for it, but I just don't feel like it is engaging me.

Jeff Daniels plays Will McAvoy, a cable news anchor.  I find Will to be an attractive character.  I like his looks, and I like that he is very smart and in command.  I like that no one messes with Will--he'll cut you to ribbons if you do.  And I like that every once in a while we get a glimpse of his softer side.  Perhaps that is the attraction.  If I knew him in person, I'd feel challenged to get past the crunchy exterior to the marshmallow interior.  I 'd want to test my wit against his.

The rest of the cast is young and peppy and attractive--too young and peppy and attractive.  None of the characters feels real to me.  I feel like they all (except for Will) came straight out of a wax museum and somebody wound them up and set them loose in the newsroom like a bunch of berserker Roombas.. (I know wax figures can't get wound up, so if my metaphor is going to work, you will have to imagine that maybe they have an animatranic robot under the wax skin.)

The character I like best in Margaret Jordan played by Allison Pill.  At the beginning of Episode One, she is the plucky intern, and all that pluck gets her promoted to associate producer in the first few minutes of the episode.  Even though I'm closer to Jeff Daniels in age than to Allison Pill, I idenify with this young woman. I guess she reminds me, just a little, of my younger self becasuse she is a young woman trying to get ahead in the business world, making mistakes, and having a rather confused love life.

The show has its moments.  I loved it when Will McAvoy went on a rant when asked why the U.S. is the best country in the world.  In quick succession, he rattled off the ranking of the United States on a whole host of issues where the U.S. ranks well behind many other nations. I liked that he said it because someone needs to say it, but it was a little out of character because he is supposed to be a Republican.

I like the "behind the scenes" look at a newsroom especialy in the first episode.  The newsroom was reacting to the first reports about the BP spill in the gulf, and I felt that I was getting to see how a cable news show handles a breaking news story.  However, in the second episode, the "behind the scenes" stuff just felt less realistic.  It felt contrived.  A prominent guest cancels at the last minute and is replaced by three "weidos".  Perhaps that happens once in a while, even on a top-rated show, but it was too over the top to feel real.

The relationships don't feel real either. Or even interesting.  McKenzie McHale (played by Emily Mortimer) is the producer of the news show.  And, don't you just know it, she and Will were romantically involved in the past and it ended badly.  McKenzie is still in love with Will, but he can't forgive her for cheating on him.  This storyline will probably be batted about like a hot potato for the rest of the season.  However, here is where the smart repartee trips up the story--it doesn't feel real, and hence I don't care about the relationship.

The show has already been renewed for a second season.  I'll probably continue to watch for a while.  However, it will most likely to be the first to go when new shows or returning shows (like Breaking Bad) start airing and compete for my time.