Aaron Sorkin’s THE NEWSROOM: Olbermann/Lou Grant Mashup?

“THE NEWSROOM” will do for broadcast news what “THE WEST WING” did for true believers in good government. Bravo, to Mr. Sorkin for what looks like possibly another HBO hit. Let’s consider what we’ve got here starting with the best thing going for this show. We all loved what Sorkin did with behind-the-scenes White House drama. What we need to know is will this new show really fly. What’s the hook? Well, it’s not totally about idealism in journalism. What finally got me was seeing some sparks fly between the two lead characters, Jeff Daniels, as Will McAvoy, a grumpy and volatile news anchor, and Emily Mortimer, as MacKenzie McHale, his demanding (and rightly so) girlfriend. Just view this clip. It’s fabulous to see MacKenzie trap Will into making an intimate admission with the threat of hijacking his broadcast.

Honestly, I don’t know if the entire show, week after week, can live up to that little moment but here’s hoping it can. In reality, if a girlfriend pulled a stunt like that, it doesn’t seem likely a relationship would actually survive it. I’m also annoyed that the these two have Mc-names. McAvoy and McHale? It takes you out of the realism and reminds you of ’70s TV shows, “McMillan & Wife” and “McCloud.” Was the intention to yank us out of the moment and remind us it’s all artifice? I think not.

You know, at first, I thought this show was going to be something like a retread of “Broadcast News” and “Network,” and it probably is more than Sorkin cares to admit. Perhaps artifice does rule supreme and would that be a bad thing? Well, God knows, I don’t need to see Sam Waterston add to the countless hand wringing scenes in televsion drama over the decades. And I’m not that interested to see  Jane Fonda as a latter day Nancy Marchand in the role of Mrs. Pynchon on “Lou Grant.”

Then there’s the whole Keith Olbermann thing. Mr. Olbermann made a wisecrack that “The Newsroom” is the second time his life has been used for a TV show, the first being Sorkin’s “Sports Night.” Sorkin is irritated by that and stated, rather caustically, that “Newsroom” has nothing to do with Olbermann, “a man who I’ve spent about five minutes with in my entire life.” Huh? There really would be no shame in basing MacGyver, I mean McAvoy, with Olbermann. In fact, the more merging of fact and fiction, the better, it would seem. Frankly, a show loosely based on a bunch of other stuff, old TV shows, our own idea of what the world is like or should be, with a dash of Keith Olbermann, sounds like a winning recipe for success.

UPDATE: I have seen the pilot, which is available for anyone to see for free on YouTube or the HBO site. It does provide some good moments of entertainment but it comes at the price of it just messing with you. In the end, it seems like a big tease since the premise is flawed. We don’t live in a world that pays attention to the evening news like we once did in the era of Walter Cronkite but Sorkin believes we should.

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Filed under Aaron Sorkin, HBO, Television

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