The Newsroom: Season 3
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to actually live in the America envisioned by Alan Sorkin. We would have a military or an idealistic young JAG officer can successfully take on deleterious tradition. We would have a presidency with a man in the oval office at a PhD in economics and won the Nobel Prize in the field. We also would have a news network that refused to give into the modern trend of news as entertainment. It would be concerned with rooting out the truth major issues in presenting the facts to the audience. What makes all these ideas all the more appealing is that Mr. Sorkin is improving to be one of the best writers in entertainment today. His dialogue is fast-paced and challenges the viewer to keep up. He refuses to dumb down his characters. This might require a few of the viewers to consult an online dictionary but that’s entirely acceptable. The HBO original series ‘The Newsroom’ has completed its third and final season freeing this exceptionally perceptive writer to focus his attention on a biopic of Steve Jobs. It does appear to have the predilection of coming up to a reasonable time and a series. In ‘West Wing’, it might’ve been possible to continue with the newly elected president but instead the series wisely ended with the conclusion of the Bartlett administration. The earlier series, ‘Sports Night’, the series concluded after two seasons when the television network of the show within a show was sold. It takes a degree of wisdom not often found on television, know how to ask the popular show at its peak rather than waiting for to become an insult to the avid fans. In typical Sorkin fashion this show ended on a very natural place in this overall story.
It would not be realistic for a show about television news to attempt to remain completely within its own isolated universe. ‘The Newsroom’, address this in a very succinct fashion by including major events in real life and blending them but headline specific to the context of the show. This becomes crucial to the opening of this last season as anchorman, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), and his news team, tactilely real-life tragedy, the Boston Marathon bombing. Also included is the scandal involving Edward Snowden and potentially catastrophic leaks in the NSA. The trademark of Mr. Sorkin is to infuse a sense of realism in his characters. At times they may get flustered and choose the wrong routing during a heated debate but that is, after all, how human beings are; flawed. He also appears to enjoy further humanizing his characters by having them deal with issues in both their personal and professional lives. From the very first episode of the series it was established that McAvoy’s producer, MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), was his ex-girlfriend had returned honorably from the field as an embedded reporter. The relationship has always been contentious but from the perspective of the audience it was obvious that they both continue to have genuine feelings for each other. As of the end of season two Will and Mac are getting married. This serves to further complicate as well as intensify the central themes of this season as it ties up the overall arc of the series.
Relationship subtext has always been a strong part of this series. A stereo typical romantic triangle existed between the news show’s executive producer, Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) ,the associate producer assigned as rules personal assistant, Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill) and Jim Harper (John Gallagher, Jr.). Don had been the show’s executive producer before being replaced by Mac. Maggie is a recently promoted associate producer generally serves as Will’s personal assistant. Jim came over to the ACN network with Mac to fill the spot of senior producer. In this season Don has moved on establishing a relationship with Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn). This helped to stabilize her character was attractively ‘camera ready ‘and exceptionally intelligent, but socially clumsy. With an anticipated twist that pairings favored by the audience don’t always work out, Jim does not wind up with Maggie, rather enters into a relationship with Hallie (Grace Gummer), a reporter that was embedded with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
As Bill and the dedicated members of his newsroom battle to return integrity to television news they do so under a sword of Damocles. The parent company that owns ACN has been in negotiations to sell division which would potentially lead to its liquidation. This gives the idealistic people involved in what Will referred to as ‘Newsroom 2.0’, the distinct feeling of attempting to build a fine house on a foundation of sand. Many of the people who were involved were young and relatively new to their profession. They followed Will as a man who could lead them back to a time with such great journalists as Huntley, Brinkley Cronkite and Murrow dominated the evening news. Anyone who is working to similar circumstances knows it often takes an extra effort to remain dedicated to a job that may evaporate with little or no warning. For any of us who remember those great men known only to ourselves black-and-white images with deep, reassuring voices, watching many of the news programs available today is akin to growing up because the steak only to find that all that is available of fast food burgers. With the move to 24 hour news cycles and dedicated cable networks, there’s a greater need for continual content than ever. Even the most serious programming available is frequently nestled in the show specifically designed to entertain rather than investigate.
This series has generated a degree of controversy. While the dialogue is almost universally praised the show was frequently cited as being too cynical and perhaps more preachy than necessary. Many appear to feel that the show was too cerebral for its own good. Albeit, the general consensus did improve regarding the final season although a considerable number of comments continued to cite the same objections. I’ve been a fan and strong support of the show since very start and I’ve always found some of the shows strongest qualities are precisely the most routinely cited negatives. Each of the episodes admittedly lacked a certain cinematic player to the use of light and camera angles. Many viewers have become accustomed to a film like quality to television shows. This is particularly true of the major networks involved such as HBO, Showtime and Cinemax. If this series had followed suit and embrace the glossier look, it would be a betrayal to the fundamental premise of the series. Would be wrong to take a show obviously about diminishing sizzle over substance in the news and presented it in such a fashion that the episodes themselves are highly polished. Here, the entertainment is derived from the validity of the argument being made. Serious news is entertainment is so pervasive that it has become the norm. People have been led to believe that celebrity gossip should be considered as news, and occasionally even cited as investigative journalism. I cannot imagine turning on CBS evening news in the early 60s and watching Walter Cronkite relate stories concerning celebrity hookups and wardrobe malfunctions. Even if the drastic changes in societal sensibilities are accounted for, what amounts to gossip was relegated to specific columns in newspapers and glossy magazines. It was never part of the mainstream news. For those who felt that the show was too dependent on sermonizing soliloquies they should consider that such measures were warranted considering how entrenched entertainment has become the news programs. The series will be missed at least by a dedicated core of loyalists, the least we can be satisfied that Alan Sorkin had a point to make regarding the dumbing down of news, he made it and has moved on to other projects.