Welcome to Senior Slide Streaming (With Sadie), where I tell you what I spend my weekends watching. First up is the first season of a show that (if you’ve been around me within the past two weeks, you already know) I’ve been obsessing over as of late: The Newsroom, a drama series that aired on HBO from 2012-2014.
The Gist and the Cast: The creator and main writer of the show is The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, who had been working on a series set behind-the-scenes at a fictional news network since 2009. The show’s 10-episode first season premiered on HBO on June 24, 2012.
Season 1 of The Newsroom is set between March 2010 and August 2011. After an outburst at a question-and-answer session at Northwestern University, Atlantis Cable News (ACN) anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) returns to the offices of his show News Night only to discover most of his staff is leaving and that the new executive producer, Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) –with whom Will has a history– wants to return News Night to its glory days of “real” broadcast journalism. The large ensemble cast also includes Alison Pill, John Gallagher, Jr., Dev Patel, Thomas Sadoski, Olivia Munn, and Sam Waterston.
The Technical Side: The true technicals are all in good shape here. The direction is not overly flashy, allowing the viewer to really pay attention to what’s happening on screen, and the immediacy of the editing helps the show be an absorbing experience. Aaron Sorkin is a very polarizing writer– it takes a very specific kind of performer (or reader) to handle his exposition-heavy, character-driven dialogue. The writing may be fantastic, and it is, but it flops without a cast that is not game for it. However, the entire cast give it their all and all do a wonderful job. Special mention, though, must go to star Jeff Daniels. The perennial indie-film, comedy, and stage darling proves his chops as both a small-screen and dramatic actor as Will McAvoy, a role for which he was nominated for three Primetime Emmys (and won one, for the pilot episode “We Just Decided To,” in 2013.)
The Opening Scene: Watch here. (warning: coarse language) The first eight minutes of the series, which show the ill-fated Q&A at Northwestern, are plainly brilliant. The scene sets a perfect tone for the series and serve as the character introduction to Will McAvoy, and Jeff Daniels handles it flawlessly. In eight short minutes, we know exactly what kind of man Will is and how he stands in comparison to his environment, critics, and coworkers, and we can’t wait to see how he will clash with those around him once he returns to New York.
The Best Scene: Watch here. (warning: coarse language) The final scene of episode 4, “I’ll Try To Fix You,” stands head-and-shoulders above any other individual scene of the series. With the show’s first season taking place between spring 2010 and summer 2011, all of the news stories covered are from that time period, and nowhere does it work better than this scene. The News Night team learns of the attempted assassination of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, breaks into ongoing programming, and weighs the risk of reporting on a lone unconfirmed report that Giffords is dead. The dialogue cuts in and out over Coldplay’s “Fix You,” and the pitch-perfect editing and acting in the sequence emphasizes both the horrific story and the human emotions of the characters reporting on it.
The Best Episode(s): Episode 7, “5/1,” and episodes 8-9, a two-parter called “The Blackout.” The former separates the characters on the day Osama bin Laden is killed and has them race against the clock to return to the newsroom to report on it. The latter has the team, trying to get ACN rights to air a Republican primary debate, going against their morals to report on the Anthony Weiner sex scandal and the Casey Anthony trial to boost ratings. These are three episodes where the characters and their many subplots and story lines coalesce to form one perfect, effective whole, while still maintaining an interesting A-plot and news station dynamic.
What I Think: This. Show. Is. Brilliant. I cannot even put into words how good this season is. The series takes an interesting idea, brilliant cast, fantastic writing, and high emotional stakes and wraps them up into a near-perfect 10 episodes. Please, do yourself a favor and watch it.
All three seasons of The Newsroom are available to stream on HBOGo/HBONow and Amazon Prime.
(Copyright 2016 Sadie Britton)