‘The Newsroom’ – Why Aaron Sorkin Is His Own Worst Enemy

Posted: July 24, 2012 in Television

There are certain people in this world who are genuinely too intelligent for their own good.  Aaron Sorkin, unfortunately, is one of those people.  You may recognize Sorkin’s with such writing as the Oscar nominated titles The Social Network and Moneyball, amongst others.  Sorkin also wrote the Emmy winning television show The West Wing and is behind the current HBO news drama, The Newsroom.  It’s a show about a fictional cable news network (think CNN) and the happenings that go on behind the scenes – from the famous news anchor to the producers to the news desk correspondent.

Trust me when I tell you, when The Newsroom is on there is nothing better on television…nothing.  However, when the show is “off” it’s downright unwatchable.  Sorkin can’t seem to make up his mind on what he wants this show to be.  Does he want the show to be a character study and examine what really goes on behind the curtains of a major cable television news network?  Or does he want the show to be a fantastical representation of what we, the viewer, imagine it would be like at one of the world’s most popular news outlets, mixed in with office romances, scandals, and the ilk.

He’s just too inconsistent with the message he’s sending.

Take episode 4 “I’ll Try To Fix You” for example, the episode centered around New Years Eve and how the main character, anchor Will McAvoy (played amazingly by Jeff Daniels), can’t seem to get out of his own way when it comes to dating and finding a love interest.  The last 15 minutes of the episode is television at its finest as everything that has happened in the episode up to that point takes a back seat as news hits that Republican Representative Gabby Giffords was shot in the head while at a speaking engagement.  Sorkin amped the writing up to 1000 and all the actors responded accordingly with what I’m calling one of the most gripping pieces of fictional television I’ve ever seen.  It was that good.  However, the episode embodied the very thing I’m referencing to with Sorkin’s inconsistency.  “I’ll Try To Fix You” didn’t know what it wanted to be.  Luckily for us Sorkin chose to do his best writing at the end of the episode leaving the viewer with a taste in their mouth wanting more.

What I’d love to see is more of a focus on Will McAvoy and less of a focus on the different love triangles and feuds that happen within Will’s team of news producers and entourage.  It’s fodder that just gets in the way of what I think is the true purpose of the show.  I realize that Sorkin had enormous success with the same type of show in The West Wing, but this is HBO, let’s turn the dial up a little shall we?  At times the best character on the show, McAvoy, gets pushed back behind Olivia Munn’s character…read that one again.  Olivia Munn?  I would love Sorkin to make Daniel’s the star of the show and have everything flow through him, he steals just about every scene he’s in playing a condescending know-it-all news anchor who no one likes.  He’s nearly flawless, yet we have to sit through entire episodes where Alison Pill’s pug face hogs screen time, meanwhile her character doesn’t seem to know she’s in love with her co-worker but gets angry about it anyways.  Don’t get me wrong, the show is beautifully acted by nearly everyone involved, however none of these supporting characters bring it like Daniels does with McAvoy.

Classic tale of Sorkin thinking he’s the smartest guy in the room.  Episodes such as the show’s pilot and the fourth episode are why I’m still engaged in this show, however I won’t be sticking around for season 2 if things keep going as is. I hate to love The Newsroom simply because it’s so damned inconsistent, here’s hoping I don’t learn to love to hate the show.

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