We’re now up to the second episode of The Newsroom and, after all my excitement, it’s time to get a quick sense for how I feel the start is at this early stage of the show.
So far – we’re out the gate strong.
As a long time Sorkin fan the presence of his trademark quick-fire, rapid pace dialogue is definitely a plus and so far the first two episodes have evidence of this in spades. The dialogue is nothing short of superb. It is intelligent and witty stuff and the cast (mostly – more on that in a second) are delivering it exceptionally well.
I am loving a number of the cast. Jeff Daniels is blowing my mind. He was looking strong in the trailer, but he’s not an actor I’ve paid a great deal of attention to in the past (if you asked me to name his films I would have immediately referred to Dumb & Dumber, Speed and Pleasantville), so he really brought an ‘A’ game I hadn’t seen before. I liked some of his witty banter and the opening monologue of the show is outstandingly delivered (albeit a bit high drama). I was a little concerned at the close of the first episode that he was on the border of being irredeemably unlikeable but his interactions with Sam Waterson’s Charlie Skinner and a couple of scenes in episode two have warmed me to him so much more. I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops.
John Gallagher Jr has also stood out and had some great scenes where I was hanging off his every word. He was largely unknown to me before this but I now commit to digging into his IMDb filmography because his performance in the first couple of episodes has really engaged and impressed me. I’m certainly sensing his voice is very much going to be the voice of the show; the intelligent moral centre of the piece somewhat akin to early Sam Seabourne. He’s shown some real chemistry with a number of his co-stars too; we’ve seen him riff exceptionally well with Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, and Emily Mortimer.
Speaking of Emily Mortimer; as predicted I am not warming to Emily Mortimer at all. It’s unfortunate, but I cannot stand her voice at all; it’s so monotone and lacks any dynamic at all. It’s harsh and a little unfair to judge her by this, she has in fact had some good scenes with Jeff Daniels and Olivia Munn in these early eps, but I can’t get past her voice. It’s a personal thing, I don’t know what to tell you. Also, having watched all of Sorkin’s other work, it is hard not to compare Mortimer’s performance to Alison Janney‘s (West Wing) or Amanda Peet’s (Studio 60) and she doesn’t compare well in my opinion. Indeed as I was watching I couldn’t help think Janney’s would have been great as Mackensie MacHale.
Speaking of previous Sorkin collaborators; where is Thomas Schlamme? He could really take this to the stratosphere. So far the show has shown great promise with the writing and performances but I’m not certain the directing has the right grasp of the Sorkin-speak. It’s not that the directing is bad necessarily, Greg Mottola is a good pedigree and I’ve mostly enjoyed his previous work (Superbad immediately springs to mind), I just feel it’s not doing the work justice. For example; there have been a couple of classic Sorkin walk n’ talk scenes, Schlamme’s specialty, that haven’t leapt out of the screen and sizzled the way it should have done. I can possibly imagine that the Directors so far have perhaps chosen to try and separate themselves from the previous work and stamp it with their own flavour, but It’s one of the signatures of Sorkin’s work and the audience likes them. Walk n’ talks should be a long tracking shot, with a certain type of rhythm, not shot from multiple angles and made to feel more static. Bring back Schlamme and get rid of the hipster directors, he’s a man who knows how to do a walk n’ talk justice.
I’ve been reading a few reviews and a bit commentary online. One frequent criticism of the show is that it takes a preachy, sanctimonious tone and is superior with it. It’s a somewhat fair criticism really as the show certainly takes its position and stands firm with it, utterly confident that it’s position is the right one, but I take a “So what?” position on these reviews. In the first instance; I agree with much of Sorkin’s politics of humanity. Secondly; even if I didn’t share the politics (I’ve watched plenty of shows and listened to plenty of bands where I didn’t) I’m still inclined to engage with their debate and enjoy well written, well performed material, which The Newsroom is. I don’t see as there’s any problem with a show taking a position on something anyway; although it is ironic that one of the show’s key themes is about the impartiality of the news while obviously taking firm positions on the issues it discusses.
So, a promising start with a few gripes that may or may not settle down as the show progresses and the kinks are ironed out. I’m certainly pleased to hear yesterday that it’s been renewed for Season 2 already as it is showing great promise.
Do you agree? What are your thoughts? Comment below…
- HBO Renews Aaron Sorkin’s #TheNewsroom and #TrueBlood (muhsadam.wordpress.com)
- Sorkin’s Newsroom: Who, What, When, Where, Why (blogs.suntimes.com)