Monday, August 27, 2012

The Newsroom

Season 1
While hosting a Q&A session at Northwestern University Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), a contented cable news anchor, sees a fleeting vision and, in a momentarily lapse of judgement, lashes out at a student in a trade on American mediocrity. In his return to the air several weeks later, he is reteamed with his old producer and ex-flame (Emily Mortimer) who, alongside station chief (Sam Waterston) and her valiant crew, vows to bring an objective, insightful eye to current events, and restore dignity to our nightly news. "The Newsroom" is Aaron Sorkin's latest series which with the great benefit of 20/20 hindsight, allows him to sound off on the news events of the last year, from the BP oil spill to the killing of Osama bin Laden, to the tea parties, up until the media circus surrounding the Casey Anthony trial. As expected, the show is sharp and well-written, but it is not written well for its specific characters. Aside from Daniels who is adept in the leading role, many actors struggle with the hoops Sorkin has them attempt to jump through. Take Emily Mortimer, a lovely and talented actress in her own right, who often looks foolish and embarrassing attempting material that is clearly out of her comfort zone. Even an old pro like Waterston appears uncomfortable with lines he must have been shaking his head at during rehearsal. The young cast, while featuring several who are strong here (Olivia Munn and Thomas Sadoski especially), just isn't capable of delivering on their absurdly challenging roles (Alison Pill, John Gallagher Jr.) or are not given much to work with (Dev Patel). Also, the relationship storylines are grating, poorly handled, command much screen time, and generate very little interest. The greatest asset to the show and the chief reason to watch (although it is a largely relegated role) is Jane Fonda, who is quite excellent as the domineering station owner and serves as a reminder of the force of nature she really is. "The Newsroom" is smartly written and occasionally engaging, but it is impossible to glaze over the fact that this is agenda based television whose chief goal, as attained by Monday morning quarterbacking, is to steer popular opinion in this all important election year
** 1/2