The Newsroom is pure Aaron Sorkin. The fingerprints of his creative vision are obvious and numerous throughout HBO's newest original series. And damned if that isn't a sight to behold.
Sorkin has a unique and very specific voice, one that television has missed. This isn't to detract from his successes with Moneyball and The Social Network, or at the beginning of his career with The American President and A Few Good Men. But Sorkin on the small screen is something different. Sports Night, The West Wing and even the lesser-regarded Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip gave us the chance to savor his rapid-fire dialogue, cultural literacy and love of a good monologue. And so it is with The Newsroom, which is classic Sorkin - another love letter to language and the human spirit. Exactly the kind of thing we need as the sky seems to be falling in.
The Newsroom returns to that concept Sorkin is so enchanted with: "behind the scenes" of something, or as he once described it, the two minutes before and two minutes after something. This time, it's cable news, hence the title. Cantankerous anchorman Will McAvoy (a delightfully unapologetic Jeff Daniels) is popular on-camera because he doesn't bother anyone, but off-camera has no clue how much he's alienated those around him. This is a leading man you'll love and hate - possibly both at the same time. It's a juicy role and Daniels knocks it out of the park.
After a disastrous public appearance in which Will says what no one wants to hear but everyone needs to, his boss Charlie Skinner (the always reliable Sam Waterston) hires him a new executive producer: his ex-flame MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer). Daniels and Mortimer have the beginnings of chemistry and it will be interesting to see how their characters' relationship develops, as the very last scene of tonight's premiere hints that it will.
The rest of the staff is a mixed bag, their characters not as well defined, although if you're a longtime Sorkin watcher, you'll see echoes of previous characters in some of them. For example, there's Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill), fresh-faced and eager, who finds herself promoted from intern to associate producer in the pilot. She's not unlike Sports Night's fresh-faced and eager associate producer, Natalie Hurley. And if you're looking for a romance a la Josh and Donna from The West Wing, there are obvious hints that Maggie and new guy Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) are eventually headed that way. It's no secret that Sorkin reuses things like character names and episode titles; we'll have to see how many familiar callbacks The Newsroom holds for die-hard fans.
But for those of us who have followed the entirety of Sorkin's television resume, that's what makes The Newsroom just that much sweeter. It's the cracking kind of piece that he's now famous for, and it's a return to form. Studio 60, while not a failure, wasn't his best work. It lacked the certain spark that sets a Sorkin project apart from any other. The Newsroom has that special something. It looks and sounds completely unique. It has Sorkin's unabashed idealism, whether you love it or hate it. It's smart, sassy, swift and superbly entertaining.
If you're one of Sorkin's many fans, tune in and prepare to be excited about all over again. If by some chance you've never watched his work before, do yourself a favor and start tonight, and prepare to have your TV horizons broadened. The Newsroom is television for people who love television: something not to be passively watched, but instead to be listened closely to, talked about, and maybe even talked at. This is classic Aaron Sorkin, and it's good to have him back.
The Newsroom premieres tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on HBO.
For more on The Newsroom, visit the official website. For more from Brittany Frederick, visit my Starpulse writer page and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).
(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.