Aaron Sorkin’s latest show about a (fictional) news channel, featuring a smug but endearing news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and his overly competent news crew, has returned for a second season. While I loved the first season, almost with the same obsessive idolatry I share for all of Sorkin’s creations, I must admit there were a few chinks in the armor.
The first season’s opening was a combination of black-and-white stills followed by fast-paced contemporary newsroom scenes. To me, both the music and images reeked of nostalgia and longing for the good old West Wing days. Except, this intro was not as fitting to the show as The West Wing’s was. While the quick pacing and the walk-and-talk are typical Sorkin elements that befit the intelligent and witty dialogue, the new shaky-cam filming akin to documentaries and mockumentaries felt out of place.
It was mostly this shaky-cam style that bothered me throughout the first season. While the dialogues as well as the movements are extremely rapid and perhaps at times as hard to follow for the cameraman, as they are for the viewer, I wished they wouldn’t show that.
But much like the ABC Network imposed laugh track for Sorkin’s 1998 show Sports Night (the behind-the-scenes of a struggling sports news show), this was soon resolved as the creator got his bearings. The uncontrollable shaky camera got more steady along the way. Returning to a slightly more stable filming, I was able to fully enjoy what it is that got me so hooked on Sorkin’s work to begin with; the authenticity to all his settings and scenes, the casting expertise which always provides the most suitable actors, the funny but true-to-life dialogue and the witty asides throughout.
The first episode of the second season showed a very different introduction. One more suitable to the style of the show, having its own unqiue qualities that need not remind Sorkin’s fans of his previous successes. The West Wing-like music remains, but the images are simple, current and beautifully filmed.
While a few episodes of the first season seemed a bit too sentimental or at times “Americanized”, I have full faith in The Newsroom’s second season. The first episode promised to continue questioning all issues related not only to American journalism, but to journalism in general. Integrity compromises and journalism’s moral crises are brought to the fore – prioritizing of profit, ratings, demographics, and popularity, are not only questioned but also condemned. Despite value judgments, Sorkin shows it’s not always easy or at all possible “to do the right thing”.
As an internet addict, I am always delighted to see references to social media and internet memes made correctly. I cringe at the bad research done by most TV writers when they make their characters refer to “twittering” or “tweeting on someone’s wall” or, God forbid, “checking their MySpace page”. So of course I was giggling a bit when Jeff Daniels started singing Rebecca Black’s Friday, and I couldn’t have been happier at the mention of SOPA. The research that has gone into the writing of this show is without doubt unprecedented, as much as Sorkin’s ability to create an unbelievable authenticity and on-set chemistry.
Variety’s TV columnist Brian Lowry discusses the show’s flaws, comparing the outbursts of harsh critique towards media and politics in The Newsroom as a sort of “force-feeding”. Lowry is convinced of hearing Sorkin’s own voice and opinions shine through in his characters’ lines. And while my skepticism towards that statement could have more to do with a loyalty and an all-forgiving love for Sorkin, I do believe it is dangerous to imply the author’s intent and liken him or his attributes to those of his fictional characters. Perhaps the implied author here is really just a large portion of the population. Admittedly, the words and opinions sound better in Sorkinese and are more grammatically correct and accurately formulated than most of us could manage. But this does not take away the truthfulness of their content, and their accordance with and applicability to daily life.
I’ve loved Sorkin’s writing since the age of 14 and I discovered during my West Wing addiction that my favorite movie at the time (A Few Good Men) was also his. It took me a while to discover Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and I was through the roof when I heard Sorkin was to write the screenplay for The Social Network. I have moved on to Sorkin’s plays and have only been able to get my hands on a copy of The Farnsworth Invention, but the same incomparable intelligence and care has gone into this as in all his other creations. His work is unparalleled and despite the typical first season beginner flaws, I am positive that The Newsroom’s second season will once again prove this to be true.
So don’t go anywhere, give the show some room to grow, and cherish the fact that we’ve all been given an extra Sorkin year. Here’s to many more!