The Newsroom – what to say about a programme that had so much promise but blew it? In many ways this is really crazy because they have a great cast who, in the main part, turn in some great performances. Indeed Jeff Daniels does a wonderful Jeb Bartlett and there in lies the problem with The Newsroom. It is not The West Wing.
Aarron Sorkin, creator of the West Wing, (He also wrought some of the best episodes and set the tone for manic speeches by the actors whilst walking round and around in circles on the set) tries again with The Newsroom but the problem is that whilst the West Wing was depicting people doing important jobs the same couldn’t be said for the Newsroom. They are just TV journalists chasing ratings yet we are supposed to care about how they will report the news. We are also supposed to see them as fulfilling a higher moral purpose. Perhaps it is my British cynicism but really, journalists? Yes they do report the news and try to hold the rich and powerful to account but after the phone taping scandal, a get out of jail ploy in the Newsroom (to say more would be a spoiler), to see them as later day defenders of democracy is a bit rich.
The final series/season involves a thinly disguised Edward Snowdon storyline which drives a coach and horse through the whole dramatic conceit of the programme and also introduces a West Wing standby – the fictional Equatorial Republic of Kundu. The conceit of The Newsroom is that this is set in the real world, Boston Bombing, Deep Water Horizon et al, so as soon as they use Kundu this collapse, especially as it connected to West Wing, a fictional series in a parallel universe. We even have scenes that could have been lifted straight out the West Wing, in fact I now spend a lot of my time identifying which scenes and which speeches – I’m that sad.
So if you want to see some great acting, yes there really is some here, in a setting where it makes no sense, especially the final series, then Newsroom is the programme for you. However, if you a West Wing nut, like me, then it is going to drive you to distraction. Will I continue to watch – of course I will – but I will reserve the right to tut knowingly like some really disappointed parent. “Arron” I will say in my head whilst shaking it from side to side. “Arron Arron Arron”