SPORTS NIGHT + THE WEST WING + EDWARD R. MURROW
Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO show centers around a team that produces a fictional weekly primetime news program called News Night.
Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is the anchor who success revolves around not being too opinionated and focus on just reporting the news. After an outburst at a public Q&A, Will returns to find that almost his entire team has jumped ship to join a brand new program at the network.
Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), the president of ACN networks, hires MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) behind Will’s back and she arrives with her trusty producer, Jim Harper (John Gallagher, Jr.).
Rounding out the team is Associate Producer Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill) and News Scanner Neal Sampat (Dev Patel).
Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) is the former executive producer who leaves News Night for the new program. Currently, he’s dating Maggie but Jim begins to develop feelings for her. Don and Jim butt heads from the get-go.
Man, I love Aaron Sorkin. He manages to create something witty and relevant and still, with that sarcastic undertone, I feel a sense of pride in America. I think what Edward Hopper did for modern American art, Aaron Sorkin does the same for television.
This is Sorkin’s 3rd series about a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional television program and the reason why I point that out is because shows of this nature tend not to do well in ratings. I’m not sure why people aren’t interested in watching shows like this because when I tell people what I do all they seem to want to do is talk about my job. Even this premiere episode didn’t shatter any records, it just lay in the middle of the road with 2.7 million for the night. It also lost half of the audience from True Blood’s lead-in which performed at 4.7 million viewers that night. But that’s how it is.
The show mainly revolves around Will McAvoy. He’s the anchor that might seem nice on-screen but off-screen he’s cranky to his staff. I like that the first glimpse that we see of his character is of him losing his cool at a public appearance at a college. When that chick asks him, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world,” he tries to answer with humor until the moderator pushes his button and Will sees (or does he?) MacKenzie in the audience with a sign.
Can you blame him for his outburst? And seriously, what kind of question is that? What are they teaching kids these days? Has the Bush administration taught you not to question authority?
I don’t blame his staff for leaving Will for another program. Maggie starts out as his assistant and he can’t bother to remember her name. And yet she stays behind out of loyalty. However, Will isn’t happy with the type of newsman that he’s become either. He’d like to strive to be like Edward R. Murrow but he’s just worried about his ratings.
On the other hand, MacKenzie brings out that idealism in him. They were involved romantically in the past and I’m not sure what kind of effect that’s going to weigh on the series. It’s obvious that Will cares about her but his hurt from their breakup outweighs his affection for her. She’s the one who convinces Will to bring back editorial style news reporting where anchors and reporters have an opinion and a say in current events.
I have to admit that while that style of reporting may have worked in the past, I’m not an advocate of it. In this day in age, with the internet and how quickly information flies, I like to hear my news straight. I feel that if you are educated and you are given the fact,s you can form your own opinions about what’s right and what’s not. With Twitter and Facebook, people are often quick to make snap judgements that I have my fill of them. However, I’ll go with where this series is trying to take me.
I like that the first episode covered a real news story from 2010, the tremendous BP oil spill that was an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Neal receives the alert as he’s scanning the outlets and Jim gets a hunch that this could be a huge breaking story.
What Don writes off as just a blip on the news radar ends up becoming a huge news story to his dismay.
There are things that the show does that really shows how much research the producers and actors did in preparation for it.
Of course, they play up the drama because it is, after all, a television show but really when news breaks there’s no time to think. You just act. That requires finding sources to comment, checking and rechecking facts and monitoring to see how the story continues to develop. I’m unsure if they’ll continue to cover real events but it was exciting. Just know that not every night is a breaking news night. On slow days, you have your fluff feature pieces at the ready to fill the time and I’m eager to see how that will affect the dynamic of the characters.
I do love that Thomas Newman is composing the music for the series as that triumphant Americana music kinda hits me right here (*points to heart). It’s not that the show is just using the music to manipulate your feelings but there is the sense that these characters want to do their job not just for the sake of a paycheck but they want to do it because they’re passionate about it. It’s often hard for some news people to have personal lives outside of what they do. Also, the cinéma vérité camera style works to get the sense of the hectic world.
While I think I would have made the same choice as most of Will’s abandon ship staff, that doesn’t mean I like Don. He’s a guy who’s practically at the top of the totem pole dating someone at the bottom. Is it because he likes to have control?
Personally I’d want the Don-Maggie-Jim triangle to play more prominently in this season than Will and MacKenzie’s love life. I’d want them to keep that door open but I think Will and MacKenzie just need to focus on how they’re going to work with each other.
Olivia Munn plays Sloan Sabbath, the network’s financial analyst, but she hasn’t made her appearance in the show yet so the jury is still out on her. Also, Jane Fonda is scheduled to play a recurring character, Leona Lansing, CEO of Atlantis World Media, the parent company of ACN. So far, I think the first episode is a great start to the series and I’m eager to find out what happens to these characters. I’m all in for this season.