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Aaron Sorkin’s series ‘The Newsroom’ is a must for viewers interested in current events, politics and fast-paced TV

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July 18, 2013 11:37
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Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom

Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom . (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom is back for its second season, airing on YES Oh on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. and on YES VOD.

Any Aaron Sorkin series, and especially one about a cable news team, is great fun for anyone who cares about news, politics and fast- paced television.

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The Sopranos may have proved in 1999 that you could put great drama on cable TV, but Sorkin’s The West Wing was a big step forward for network television that same year. It showed you could make a topical political show with witty writing that made great demands on the viewers – in regular old primetime, previously the ghetto of overblown nighttime soaps and formulaic sitcoms.

If you aren’t familiar with Sorkin’s work, perhaps the one fact you need to know is that his shows feature a lot of dialogue, delivered at breakneck speed.

Sorkin himself has fueled his frenetic work schedule with drugs and once checked into rehab for an addiction to crack and cocaine.

His scripts are at least 30 percent longer than the average screenplay that is performed within the same timeframe. His characters are smart people, and very verbal.

There are quips, jokes, banter, puns and references to everything from the Constitution to old rock songs. His dialogue has a distinct rhythm and sound, and some of his repeated catchphrases have been dubbed “Sorkinisms.“ Look it up on YouTube; you’ll find many montages.



The other fact is that he is a diehard liberal but also a news junkie who cares about the issues, and that is what drives The Newsroom. It’s the story of a cable TV news anchor, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), a depressed man who has stopped caring about the stories he reports on. He is brought back to life by the reappearance in his life of Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), his former girlfriend who is hired as his news broadcast’s executive producer by the head of the news division, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), an avuncular drunk who wants to shake things up. Will starts going after the Tea Party candidates and doing hard investigations into subjects that networks usually ignore, which ruffles the feathers of the owner of the corporation that the news division is part of, Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda, in a fine return to form).

There is a whole collection of younger characters – producers, assistant producers and interns – whose romantic misadventures viewers and critics found either charming or sappy. Sorkin was accused in the press of writing stereotypically hysterical women characters who would never have allowed their emotions to run wild in the newsroom. However, as an occasionally stereotypically hysterical woman myself, who used to work at the New York Post newsroom in the 1980s and 1990s, I don’t find this behavior unrealistic. News work is relentlessly pressured – as well as extraordinarily fun – and flameouts, breakdowns, freakouts, meltdowns, tantrums and all manner of socially unacceptable behavior are quite common.

The second season of The Newsroom starts out with a tough defense lawyer (Marcia Gay Harden) interviewing Will and the gang over a story involving the military, described as “something that builds careers and ends presidencies” that they ran and that turned out to be false. It’s 14 months after the end of the last season, and some new characters have arrived, notably Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater, who played the brother on The New Adventures of Old Christine ). He’s taking over for Jim (John Gallagher, Jr.), who is getting over his romantic disappointment over his crush on Maggie (Allison Pill) by covering the Mitt Romney campaign (one of the show’s conceits is that it is set in the recent past, which gives the writers the luxury of 20/20 hindsight).

Maggie has a ghastly new punk haircut and has experienced trauma during a story she worked on in Africa. Dev Patel, who starred in the film Slumdog Millionaire , is back as Neal, who runs the show’s website. In the opening episode, he has just stumbled on to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Does Season 2 look as if it’s shaping up to be flawless? No. Is it must-see TV for anyone who cares about politics, news and journalism? To use a Sorkinism: “Ya think?” Meaning, Hell, yes!

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