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Aaron Sorkin's 'The Newsroom' gets off to a shaky start

Aaron Sorkin's new series has the expected great dialogue, but needs more than that.

By Anthony OcasioScreen Rant / June 25, 2012

'The Newsroom' cast, including Jeff Daniels, is uniformly stellar.

John P. Johnson/HBO/AP

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After a noticeable three-year absence, Aaron Sorkin makes his long-awaited return to television with The Newsroom, a behind-the-scenes look at the fictional news network ACN, its onetime staple series “News Night,” and its host, the seemingly uncontroversial Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels).

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Following an unexpected, emotionally-driven speech while appearing on a panel of political experts at Northwestern University, the career of McAvoy changes dramatically, as the subsequent weeks find his show in decline and much of his newsroom staff jumping the sinking ship.

Hopes were high that The Newsroom would become a “perfect storm” of sorts, taking the best elements of Sorkin’s past work to help create a new, original series on HBO. That being said, the series premiere of The Newsroom never felt as succinct as Sports Night, as earnest as The West Wing, or as honest as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Leading The Newsrooms’ eclectic cast of exceptional actors is Jeff Daniels, whose portrayal of the typically-sardonic Will McAvoy is, as expected, wonderful. Unsurprisingly, the same thing can be said about Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Allison Pill, Dev Patel, Thomas Sadoski and Sam Waterston. In the case of The Newsroom, it feels as if it’s the man, not “the machine,” wherein the problem lies.

Kicking of the premiere with a wonderfully-crafted monologue for Daniels, much of the premiere follows in suit. Coming in at just over 72 minutes, the almost feature-length premiere felt, at times, like more of a collection of wonderfully written monologues than the character-driven series we’ve come to expect from the man that helped revolutionize single-camera series.

The Newsroom’s placement on HBO allows Sorkin to do many things he couldn’t on TV, but perhaps it’s through those very same network limitations and time constraints where his stories became perfectly tuned. Slated as a 60-min series, there were many times where scenes felt like they could have either been shortened, reworked, or completely left out.

Sorkin perhaps felt like he needed to include a lot in the premiere episode, but a tighter pace would have made for a more fluid viewing experience, allowing audiences time to become attached to the characters on their own terms. Though one of the smallest television casts that Sorkin has worked with, very few characters, along with their motivations, are clearly defined by the end of the premiere.

With an orchestral theme song that doesn’t feel quite right for the series, and a unique, sometimes chaotic, visual styling that separates (not elevates) The Newsrooms from Sorkin’s usual pedigree, watching the premiere can easily become a challenge; it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that some things are amiss with this series.

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