There’s something special going on over at HBO. I mean it, there’s something truly special. A weekly series that is fast-paced, full of wonderful characters and interactions, and a nerve racking holdover on a week-to-week basis. No, I’m not talking about their massively successful (on a worldwide scale) series, Game of Thrones, I’m talking about The Newsroom.
I’ve made it quite clear since the inception of Free4Geeks.com and the Free 4 All Podcast that I am a massive Aaron Sorkin fan. I’ve made no attempts to hide that, and never will. But I am serious when I say that the Sorkin-written and produced series, which centers around the day to day operations of a global news giant named Atlantic Cable News, has a chance to challenge all of his prior works and sit atop them as clearly superior.
The initial season aired last summer quickly became my favorite show on television. With it’s blistering pace, thesaurus-requiring dialogue and that signature Sorkin mix of charm, witticism, heart and a twinge (some would argue more) of superiority, The Newsroom was everything I’ve come to expect from the man who wrote hits like The West Wing and The Social Network.
Now, as we head into the shows sophomore season, The Newsroom is taking on more than ever, juggling a grand amount of characters and differing stories while strictly holding to the structure of being set months behind it’s air date, allowing for the stories covered by the ACN staff to not just seem familiar, but be real news that audiences will be able to recall with clarity.
When last we left Will McAvoy and the crew of Atlantic Cable News, they were enjoying a fresh infusion of power. Having found a clever way to free themselves of their impending termination from the network at the hands of Jane Fonda’s Leona Lansing and her son Reese, it seemed as though we were in for a new feel for the second season. However, that was obviously not going to happen, and as it turns out you cannot go on the air of a national nightly news broadcast and say such inflammatory things about the US Government and escape unscathed.
That’s how we hit the ground running in the early stages of season two, and it’s been quite interesting to say the least. Just two episodes in and it’s quite clear that the moments of levity are going to be squeezed in between relentless drama on all fronts. Will, once again played by the now Emmy Nominated Jeff Daniels, is the one most directly feeling the after effects of his bold statement by being branded as anti-American and the entire staff is being treated as such by proxy.
The biggest sign of this new treatment in the first two episodes is clear. Aaron Sorkin has always been able to create wonderful and moving speeches for his characters during moments of clear reflection, and the handling of the 9/11 anniversary from 2011 should have been one of those moments. Instead just weeks before News Nights coverage of the anniversary, the president of ACN’s news division Charlie Skinner is forced to bench Will for the night due to multiple outcries from viewers as well as families and first responders from the day of the attacks.
As the days lead up to the anniversary I was sure Sorkin would have concocted some emotional speech that would see Charlie and Will agreeing that there is no way this big moment could go on the air without the face of News Night, and that I would still have the great and emotional moment I’ve been craving. Instead, however, that moment came quietly in the form of brief glimpses of the coverage being watched by Will as his replacements read the script he helped write. The emotion was there, however, in the form of Will seeing a few control room techs reliving Will’s first night on air, which happened to be that fateful night in 2001.
These are the kind of moments I live for when it comes to this show, and they’re never in short supply. However, it would be nearly impossible to cover them all in this review. Equally, it would be impossible for me to go over all of the stories and characters that are being juggled at the current moment, so I will just focus on two more.
Don Keefer has been one of the most enigmatic characters on the show to date. From the first episode on you could tell you were supposed to hate him, I guess I just never got that memo. Sure, he is a brash character, he’s ambitious and not willing to silence himself when he feels he is right, which happens to be every time he speaks. But as he grew throughout season one, you could see the winds changing. The show around him, the show he left to produce a lesser broadcast began to grow, and he along with it.
This year, it’s extremely clear that Don has matured both as an executive producer and as a man. What stands out clearest to me was his pursuit of the story about Troy Davis, an African American man who was convicted of murdering a police officer over 20 years ago, who was put to death by the state of Georgia in September 2011. While the outcome of the state of appeals was clear to the informed viewer, it was still emotional none-the-less to see the human side of Don come out in this story. We learn of his decade or pursuit of the truth, how the man had claimed throughout the years he was wrongly convicted, how members of the original jury had changed their stories and how it was even possible that there was lobbying and tampering involved in his clemency trial.
Rather than let it go, Don continued to fight not being able to report upon his sources involving the possibility of illegal lobbying without confirmation, and on the verge of making a career-ending mistake, he backs down. However, the entire time it was almost hard to believe this was the same character who tried to scoff the BP oil spill out of the newsroom in the pilot episode. Great character development paired with a wonderful performance from Thomas Sadoski, just one example of what this show has done right with it’s characters so far.
The major complaint lobbied against this show so far has been that, due to the nature of it always being set nearly a year behind current times, the group at ACN has had the pleasure of always picking the right leads to follow, resulting in perfect coverage. That issue has also been addressed, with the Black Ops Genoa story, that is the central theme of all of season 2.
While it’s still in its infancy, the story is clearly developing into a major misstep by ACN and News Night, as it has them chasing a lead that a particularly aggressive guest gave them about a conspiracy to cover up the illegal use of deadly nerve gas on civilians, as authorized by the president of the United States. Through all of my research, it does indeed seem to confirm that first time I’ve seen Sorkin write in a fully fabricated story, which makes it a unique decision to have it be a complete blunder that leaves the entire network liable and possibly facing jail time.
However, it’s incredibly entertaining to see the full crew working together to follow these leads, starting with Mackenzie laughing off the idea of our soldiers using such deadly gas on civilians to being forced to chase the story as the evidence and witnesses continue to pile up in favor of it’s truth. Even though we already know where it’s going, the ride looks to be as intense as any story we’ve seen covered so far.
I could go on talking about this season for another 10 pages, and that’s just the first two episodes so far. The start to The Newsroom season two has been engrossing and engaging, thrilling and flat-out entertaining. Aaron Sorkin writes, in my opinion, some of the best characters on TV, and he has them juggling an impressive number of stories. After all of what I’ve said, I’ve made no mention of Jim covering the Romney campaign or his failed love story with Maggie, Maggie convincing Mackenzie to send her to tour Africa or even Neal covering what will be one of the largest social movements in the last decade in Occupy Wall Street.
Newsroom continues to be the best show on TV currently, and the only downside is that we only get 10 episodes a year, making the passing of each episode a bitter-sweet affair.