It starts with a forum in a college with a right winger, a left winger, and Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) who is dubbed the “Jay Leno of news anchors” because he’s friendly and doesn’t get on people’s nerves. College students are asking questions to both sides and Will spits out answers “I’ve voted for parties on both sides” and will only commit to being “a Jets fan.” Ha ha. But when a co-ed asks a simple question posed to most 5th graders, “what makes America the greatest country,” Will goes nuts. He totally loses it on the air. America isn’t great. America is screwed up. America is being beat by all these other countries in all these different areas.
And I was hooked.
Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, Moneyball, The Social Network) is behind the newest HBO series The Newsroom. Will McAvoy comes back to work finding his staff diminished to the Indian IT guy (Dev Patel) and the intern who accidentally got bumped to assistant (Allison Pill) because Will can’t remember anyone’s name or face. The big boss (Sam Watterson) has a brilliant plan to bring in an old colleague of Will’s, Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) fresh from Iran as producer.
While people are getting sorted and egos are being threatened, a yellow alert comes through that there has been a fire at an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. This is when you cock your head to the side and think “wait, like the BP oil spill” and that’s when the show lets you know that it’s 2010.
Clearly this is a news story. No spoiler alerts to be had, unless you have been under a rock for the past couple of years, and if so you wouldn’t be concerned with the latest HBO series. And although I know how the story unfolds I couldn’t look away from the screen.
The premier ran about an hour and twenty minutes and by the end of it, I was upset it was over. It felt like a movie I had been sucked into. About a story I already knew! This is the guy who made the story of Facebook interesting though, so I had no real worries about it. And Jeff Daniels, who I used to associate with Dumb & Dumber and Pleasantville, is brilliant as an asshole. He’s smart. He’s a smart ass. I loved him in The Answer Man, where he played a similar character, but for whatever reason I care about Will McAvoy. I would watch his news program. I WISH there were real news programs like this. Emily Mortimer is pretty good as well. I always think she has avian bone disease (30 Rock anyone?), so it was odd that they made her some gritty reporter who had done time on the streets of Iran or Iraq or Pakistan or whatever. Mackenzie has hope the show will work. There’s an odd tension between Will and Mackenzie, but they play off each other fine enough for me.
The real gems for me were Sam Watterson (duh) and John Gallagher Jr. JGJ (I’m not sure if he goes by that or not) plays Jim Harper (unfortunately NOT like Jim Halpert), one of Mackenzie’s producers. He’s an intergral part in the day’s events. He’s nervous and a little unsure of himself but I loved him. Like they’re starting him off this way to be goodness later. I’m sure of it. I think. I hope. As with any office setting job, there are some love interests. It might be necessary to remind ourselves these are humans producing the news. But I hope they don’t focus too much on the lovey dovey.
I’m used to my HBO shows having ridiculous amounts of nudity. Amazing death scenes. Blood. Gore. War. And also more nudity. And I love it. I’ve dedicated my Sunday nights to not answering the phone because Six Feet Under was on and I’d be damned to miss what the Fishers were up to. I used phrases from Sex and the City like I actually owned Jimmy Choos. I know a Lannister pays their debts. I call that guy Titus Pullo in every movie he’s in. Jim McNulty is the best detective ever written. I wanted to visit the 1920’s Jersey Boardwalk. Or the 2000’s Jersey Boardwalk to see where Tony Soprano dumped the bodies. Even just recently I fell in love with Hannah Horvath and her Girls. HBO produces gold, Jerry! Almost everything they have done is brilliant. When they pass out Emmys and you’re like “WTF is The Newsroom,” just remember I told you after the first episode to watch it. Calm down during the previews for next week’s True Blood and be prepared for a different type of thrill. You will not regret it.
HBO’s The Newsroom airs Sunday nights at 10PM. Watch last week’s premiere free at HBO.com after registering your email address.