The Newsroom Season 1 Episode 1 Review: ‘We Just Decided To’
With Charlie Sheens ‘Anger Management’ on the horizon, we turn our eyes to a new, less cocaine based, thriller. Aaron Sorkin arrives again with a brand new show but does his political agenda dilute the drama surrounding the newsroom? We give you the full review to see our views on the first episode and whether it’s worth watching in the future.
Warning: Spoilers Follow!
This needs to be stated early on: stay away from ‘The Newsroom’ if you have little to no interest in American politics or politics in general. The first ten minutes of the show focus purely on the rights and wrongs of both the Democrats and the Republicans in America and it is difficult not to see the ever present spectre of Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing and screenplay writer for The Social Network, throughout. If I still have your interest than the first episode contains a huge amount of wit, satire and intellectual commentary to keep you thoroughly entertained.
The show stars Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, a news anchor who attends a presidential style conference where he is asked why America is the greatest country in the world. Even as a Brit, the argument used here is balanced and unashamedly honest, a nice refreshing touch considering political dramas set in America tend to fly the Stars and Stripes regardless of reasoning. McAvoy’s tirade leads him to take a forced holiday and, on his return, he finds that the whole of his new staff have left due to his lack of personal skills and the belief that his newsroom is now a sinking ship after his deeply unpopular bashing of America. The first minute of the season preview gives you an idea of what you are dealing with:
The first episode covers both McAvoy’s attempt to find his feet again as well as the uncovering of the BP Oil disaster in Louisiana with the shows timeline starting from April 2010. This is handled incredibly well and does not follow into the ‘House’ trap of either personal relations or the patient taking over the episode; the balance between the two is very finally tuned, with the transition being played at a good tempo so as not to get lost in the newsroom jargon and the constant throwing around of names.
Despite coming across as a bit of an arse, Jeff Daniels character is cynical enough to connect with the average Joe when it comes to politics. The rest of the cast also complement each other as well with Emily Mortimer (Will McAvoy’s old flame in the show) and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) holding the flag for the British in American drama. The humor between the staff works well and feels natural particularly when the ‘Republican prick’ of McAvoy shouts ‘Punjab’ across the newsroom to gain the attention of Dev Patel’s character; thankfully it never leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
The only problem that I had with the show overall is Sorkin’s well known use of monologues. On the whole they work quite well but some border on sanctimonious and it is sometimes difficult to not see some of the characters as a rudimentary mouthpiece for some of his political views. Quixotic was thrown into a conversation (feel free to check wikipedia for the meaning of that- I did!) when it simply wasn’t necessary. Hopefully as the season continues character development will allow the speeches and monologues’ that Sorkins screenplays are known for to become part of character development rather than simple puppetery.
All in all the first episode shows a huge amount of potential to become as good as The West Wing. With this, Veep, and the arrival of a new In The Thick of It on the UK’s rainy shores, viewers of political shows are spoilt for choice; politics has never been quite as witty and well written.