I’m not entirely sure what to think of The Newsroom, which is a bad way for a reviewer to start a review, but in the spirit of Will McAvoy’s truthfulness, here it is. The Newsroom pilot ‘We Just Decided To’ showed the formation of a new(ish) team for a daily evening news broadcast, which is anchored by Will, a grouchy, opinionated and seemingly inept reporter, whose career is in the balance after he sort-of but not-quite verbally attacked a college student.
That initial outpouring was the strongest part of the pilot. It consisted mostly of facts and figures, yes, but it wasn’t dry or boring and it was an interesting way to set up the series. Sadly things were a bit hit and miss after that. At times The Newsroom bordered on being hilariously sharp and satirical, at other times it was dull, shouty and boring.
One huge failing of The Newsroom is that it seems to have been written with cliched characters in mind: there’s the slightly dorky try-hard (Maggie), who will inevitably be loved by the other office dork (Jim); the tension and revelation of a past relationship between the headstrong lead male and female (Will and Mackenzie); the one who knows things ‘just because’, information which is incredibly helpful to the team (Neal, who also gets to be the token main non-white character — in case this wasn’t obvious, Will calls him ‘Punjab’ in lieu of his actual name). And, cliche aside, whoever decided to name two of the main characters ‘McAvoy’ and ‘Mackenzie MacHale’ deserves a slap. Is this a test to see how many ‘Mac’s a show can handle before it becomes confusing?
Note, the above isn’t to say the casting was flawed. It was pretty much perfect, everyone using what they had been given to great effect. (Particular favourites of mine being the always wonderful Emily Mortimer and the scene-stealing John Gallagher Jr.) The weakest link for me was Jeff Daniels, who weighed down every scene he was in before his big ‘[vamp]‘ing scene came along and reminded us that he’s actually very good.
As is, it turns out, the character of Will McAvoy. I can’t help feeling, however, that the sudden reveal of a not just competent but truly great news anchor would have been more engaging if his initial tirade had taken place on-camera, on his show. There would be an issue of realism — why wasn’t he fired? — but the president of the network is supportive of him, and let’s face it, the ratings would have gone through the roof anyway. Our internet-centric society would have made sure of that.
Overall, a solid pilot, though perhaps not one I would have watched all the way through, if not for reviewing purposes. The second half of the episode showed promise, although I do wonder where this show has to go and what it has to give that other series haven’t given the audience before it. If you want an engrossing newsroom-based drama, I would suggest watching the BBCs The Hour instead. If you want Sorkin’s trademark dialogue and style back on your screen, be prepared to suffer through rehashed two year old news and oft-done relationships.
I really hope the second episode changes my opinion of The Newsroom because I’m not convinced this series will be great — but it could be.
What did you think of ‘We Just Decided To’, The Newsroom‘s pilot episode? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!