This Just In… (from Aaron Sorkin)

I just watched The Newsroom on HBO. Aaron Sorkin in back on TV!

Probably fair to say that I was one of the dozen people who watched Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip with any regularity. Most people will recall Sorkin’s The West Wing with greater clarity.

Here’s the scoop. Jeff Daniels is a far better news anchor here than William Hurt was on Broadcast News, but the anchor is again struggling with a smartest-one-in-the-room brunette who is suddenly his Executive Producer. Once again, the anchor is a guy with issues, but in Sorkin’s hands, those issues drive the storyline. Daniels’ Will McAvoy has serious doubts about the news, his role in it, and whether journalism will ever matter more than ratings. Fortunately, there’s a moral compass, albeit one who drinks a lot. Sam Waterston is quickly mastering the craggy, seen-it-all puppeteer by way of Ben Bradlee.

Episode one contains the usual Sorkin hijinx: a bit of slapstick from the good-looking young man who doesn’t speak up until he saves the day (think Sam Seaborn, but see Jim Harper, above), the aforementioned brunette (MacKenzie McHale, who served embedded time) who takes control and out-maneuvers her mean spirited anchor (for whom she continues to carry the torch), insecure occupational glue (as the old newsroom crew is dismissed and the new one takes charge before job interviews are complete), backstories that just begin to reveal themselves, “let’s watch that again with closed captioning on” fast-talking during the key scenes, the busy workplace where important and loopy things happen simultaneously, the earnest speeches (one about Man of La Mancha) that deflate moments after their most dramatic deliveries, the open story lines that make me want to watch the next episode.

It’s all here. It’s good television. It moves, it winds, it surprises, it’s fun to watch, and it’s smart. And there’s sex, no violence.

It’s early yet, and Sorkin is still finding his footing. But it’s a real Sorkin show, and, well, it’s been a long time since The West Wing.

Now, if Stephen Sondheim would write a brilliant new musical for Broadway, everything will be back to normal.

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