The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin's HBO summer sizzler, doesn't resemble any real-life newsroom in our universe. And that's why it's so much fun. Anyone expecting Sorkin's fictional Atlantis Cable News Network to be modeled after CNN, MSNBC or any network news operation is probably still waiting for Jed Bartlet, Sorkin's idyllic U.S. president on The West Wing, to throw his hat into the current race for the White House. It won't happen. Get over it.
The Newsroom, currently airing first-run episodes on Sunday evenings on HBO, has come under some intense crossfire from members of the fourth estate. ABC's Jake Tapper dubbed the show "The Snoozeroom" in The New Republic, writing that the broadcast was "sadly disappointing" and that Sorkin had a "well known penchant for projecting his political fantasies onto his protagonists." Dave Marash, another broadcaster who has bounced from CBS to ABC to Al Jazeera newsrooms, wrote "the news is not good" for The Newsroom and accused Sorkin of "mere exploitation."
But viewers expecting a neatly balanced Harvard debate concerning journalistic ethics are best advised to look elsewhere. Sorkin's primary goal, which he achieves in abundance, is to entertain. The Newsroom is a smart, snappy, character-driven drama for a discerning audience. Wimps and whiners need not apply.
Sorkin has filled his faux-newsroom with a superb cast, led by the too-rarely seen Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, anchor and managing editor of the fictional News Night. The first 10 minutes of the premiere episode of The Newsroom will secure Daniels his first Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series. Bet your house on it. His supporting cast includes Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Olivia Munn, Sam Waterston and, in a nice inside joke, Jane Fonda (remember Fonda was once the bride of CNN founder Ted Turner).
Sorkin, who has seen much success of late on the big screen with Moneyball and The Social Network, has returned to television to bite the hand that fed him so well. He amassed Emmy, Golden Globe and Peabody awards aplenty for The West Wing, Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Even his latest Broadway play, The Farnsworth Invention, considered the invention of television.
Sorkin is a singular talent and, maybe more than any other scribe, is the ideal person to skewer the small screen and its struggle to secure journalistic integrity.
"We don't do good television--we do the news," shouts McAvoy to a network hack.
The Newsroom is, perhaps, a bit too earnest, but it is television with a bit of an aftertaste. And if Sorkin isn't your cup of arsenic, I'm certain there's something on the other 430 channels to your liking. As for me, I'll continue watching the newsroom of my dreams.