Will Britain get lost in the world of ‘The Newsroom’?

Drama, tension and wit. Three of the most important factors that make for a gripping TV drama script. Three things that keep an audience engaged for the entirety of a series.

Drama, tension and wit. Three of the most important factors that make for a gripping TV drama script. Three things that keep an audience engaged for the entirety of a series. Three skills that screenwriter and producer Aaron Sorkin seems to be in constant possession of. 

Having scripted David Fincher’s commercially and critically successful 2010 film The Social Network and having constructed the fast paced world of the US political drama The West Wing, few will doubt Sorkin’s ability to attract a mass audience to a screen. And his latest project looks likely to immerse TV audiences.

Teaming up with HBO, the network that created such amazing series as The Soprano’s, Band of Brothers and The Wire, Sorkin plunges his audience into the world of a faltering newsroom. After having a breakdown during a Q and A with College students (where he declares that ‘America is not the greatest country in the world’), troubled news anchor Will McAvoy’s (Jeff Daniels) prime time show ‘Newsnight’ is in danger of crumbling.

The popular current affairs show is left (basically) staff-less and with an anchor mid-breakdown, not something any Brit would wish upon Paxman’s and the show’s beloved BBC namesake. Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) is hired not to save the sinking ship, but ‘to build a new one’ as the stubborn McAvoy is forced to give up his popularity with the masses for hard-hitting, honest journalism. 

Not only do I admire the messages Sorkin is trying to send (the honourable side of journalism and ‘America isn’t the greatest’), I think they are put together in an entertaining and fascinating way. Having read plenty of reviews in the British press critiquing the show for its lack of realism, I find myself questioning the reviewer more than the show. Yes it isn’t entirely realistic how they put their news programme together, it is TV. Get over it.

Instead what The Newsroom does well is use the excellent cast to create high calibre drama. Despite beginning his career in comedy (who can forget his role as Harry in Dumb and Dumber), Jeff Daniels still excels as the grumpy news anchor McAvoy. Despite shouting his way across much of the opening episode, we still get the feeling that he is a character that has more to him than his current low. The relationship between McAvoy and McHale is one that is sure to progress throughout the series, as the details of their past relationship are sure to be teased out week-by-week. Mortimer’s performance as the battle-hardened producer is convincing enough for me, as she barks orders at the strong Daniels and runs the newsroom with military precision.

The accompanying cast may not be the most unique, but are set to make interesting viewing over the coming weeks. There is the instantly dislikable former Newsnight Executive Producer Don (Thomas Sadoski), his girlfriend the seemingly feeble stereotypical ‘nice girl’ Maggie (Allison Pill) and the nerdy star of the future Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr) who look to make up a classic love triangle. Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel joins the cast as blogger Neal, but made very little impact during the first show (other than giving the opportunity for McAvoy the opportunity to critique new journalism!)

Despite the panning from some of the British press, I think that this series has the potential to be as gripping and hard-hitting as Sorkin’s previous hits. With style and a character ensemble that has the potential to match The West Wing and a script that isn’t far off the excellency of The Social Network, it isn’t difficult to believe that this latest depiction from Sorkin and HBO can force critics to look beyond their worries and get lost in the world of The Newsroom.