Bravo to creator Aaron Sorkin for writing a brilliant show capturing the excitement of what happens in a newsroom during a major story with the new HBO drama The Newsroom, premiering Sunday, June 24, at 10pm ET.
Jeff Daniels is perfect as Will McAvoy, a TV anchor everyone thought was a milquetoast, but who reveals a sharper edge. In the pilot, he and other journalists are at a college Q&A and he’s pressured to answer a question about why the United States is the greatest country. McAvoy answers with searing honesty that America is not, reminding students that 207 sovereign states have freedom. He clearly loves his country and the principles it’s founded upon.
“It used to be we waged war on poverty, not poor people,” he says. “We aspired to intelligence. We didn’t belittle it.”
The pilot is full of such plaintive lines. As McAvoy’s new executive producer and former lover Mackenzie MacHale, Emily Mortimer is also spot-on — she’s smart and compassionate.
Her senior producer, Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.), gets insanely lucky as far as sources go when the BP oil rig disaster occurs. And Alison Pill as Maggie Jordan, an earnest newbie whom Mackenzie instantly promotes and mentors, is tentative and idealistic, as she should be.
The series reveals the usual newsroom power struggles. Sam Waterston is a delight as Charlie Skinner, the seasoned, soused editor who, even after 50 years in news, relishes how important it is for journalists to question government, reveal truths and not just wave flags.
By the end of the pilot, viewers know characters’ personal problems, but what makes this great television is that the personal takes a backseat to the much bigger issues democracy faces.
Sorkin does all this in a tidy pilot that leaves us hankering for more.
Photo: © 2012 HBO