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HBO's NewsRoom (Sorkin) Season 1


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#1 of 69 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted June 21 2012 - 11:42 AM

I will admit, I had looked forward to this, but every review I'm reading (NYT, Washington Post, Slate, etc.) seems to imply this goes really over teh top and that the fourth episode is apparently nearly unbearable.   Blarg.   I had high hopes it's a good cast.   I'll stick with it for a bit, but I fear we're going to get another 60 Sunset and not a "West Wing"


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#2 of 69 OFFLINE   Josh Dial

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Posted June 21 2012 - 03:25 PM

I happen to think Studio 60 was amazing, and indeed too smart for the average viewer.


Obviously, if the show is crap, I won't watch, but for me, Sorkin has earned more than enough credit for me to ignore any "critic's" review.


It can't be any worse than, say, The Walking Dead, which should have been cancelled during season 2, in order to keep certain actors on Mad Men.



#3 of 69 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted June 22 2012 - 01:45 AM

I happen to think Studio 60 was amazing, and indeed too smart for the average viewer.

Definitely. TV would be a much better place if more shows are as 'bad' as Studio 60.

#4 of 69 OFFLINE   Joe_H

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Posted June 23 2012 - 11:31 AM

I think they got a little too deep into the romance stuff at one point when they were trying to better appeal to a broader audience, but I really liked Studio 60 as well. I'll be giving this a chance as well, no matter what the critics say.

#5 of 69 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted June 23 2012 - 11:55 AM

Originally Posted by Joe_H 

I think they got a little too deep into the romance stuff at one point when they were trying to better appeal to a broader audience, but I really liked Studio 60 as well. I'll be giving this a chance as well, no matter what the critics say.


Studio 60 was something with a decent concept, but it became far too political, and for a behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show the sketches were universally terrible.  By the end, if I remember right, we had a two episode arch where the state department was visiting an actor to have him help negotiate for the release of his brother in Afghanistan.. it just.. yeah, it wasn't my cup of tea.

That said, Sorkin gets a pass from me for a while.. loved "The West Wing" for the most part (I thought Season 7 faltered a fair bit with over the top action), I enjoyed Sports Night.. so, fingers crossed.  Just bothered that every review I've read is VERY downbeat... though most seam to point to the 4th episode.. I'm assuming that's all they've seen.   So, it might have some ups and downs and go up significantly or maybe I'll see it differently.   Even if I'm lobbing bombs in criticism, it's a show that out of the gate makes me want to give the season a test just to see.. just for the dialogue if nothing else.


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#6 of 69 OFFLINE   Josh Dial

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Posted June 23 2012 - 01:14 PM

Originally Posted by mattCR 


Studio 60 was something with a decent concept, but it became far too political


I just assume that people tune in to Sorkin's work anticipating the political content.



#7 of 69 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted June 23 2012 - 03:02 PM

I just assume that people tune in to Sorkin's work anticipating the political content.

With "Sports Night" and "Studio 60", it was peripheral enough that you could ignore it and enjoy the rest of what's being offered. Even with "The West Wing", if you disagreed with the political you could still appreciate the dramatic portrayal of the mechanics of how an administration operation. This is a show about a Keith Olbermann or a Sean Hannity type; I find it hard to believe that his on-air missives won't simply be a mouthpiece for Sorkin's political opinions. It may be that the dramatics of an operating news operation about the broadcast-within-a-broadcast are compelling enough to get past that, but since I hate the Olbermann/Hannity-types I'm already approaching it with caution. There are certain television writers with a unique voice that nobody can replicate. Amy Sherman-Palladino, who's showrunning "Bunheads" right now, is one example. Joss Whedon is another. Norman Lear would be an older example. Sorkin is undoubtedly in that class, and people who love his voice will be on board for whatever he brings forth. I've just never been enamored enough to commit unreservedly.

#8 of 69 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted June 23 2012 - 03:30 PM

Sorkin's characters are a mouthpiece for his political content.. that has always been true.   But when it's well constructed, the drama or comedy works to make his political point without beating you over the head with it..   SportsNight was great about that, a solid dramedy that really advanced a plot week by week, snappy dialog, witty..


West Wing was the perfect show for Sorkin, it allowed him to week by week play out his political thoughts in a format where it naturally advanced the narrative; at the same time, the characters themselves rarely had a strong line of action, the plot itself carried all of them forward.


60 Sunset had a problem in that the central concept - a sketch comedy show - that portion of it didn't work (at least for me, and considering the ratings died, the same for others).


I've always put Sorkin in the category of say, David E Kelley.   Because of Ally, The Practice, Boston Legal, I will watch whatever he throws on the air.. I like his dialog, his episodes with a long monologue.. I like that format.   But it doesn't mean it works everytime.  A few years ago, there was talk that Sorkin was negotiating with HBO to do a show about the UN, and I thought: this has insane potential.   I'm not sure with a newsroom show.   As I said, I'll watch, and I feel his past record warrants it, but we'll see


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#9 of 69 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted June 24 2012 - 03:35 PM

Much better then I expected for a pilot.  I like the concept of them setting this in 2010 so that it's 2 years behind us.. this allows them to build reactions to news stories we have already established the outcome of in the "real world".   That's a smart bit of writing there.

The delivery is typical Sorkin, fast & furious and when it works it really clicks; I enjoyed several of the exchanges..


I found the setup in the college campus a bit.. well.. hokey, but that's OK (hecklers would have busted out, or frankly, with news full of ideologues, I don't know about the scare factor of a news anchor in the middle being pulled to be a commentator; you'd think his network would be pushing him)


I thought outside of a few moments that didn't work, the show as a whole clicked along at a fast pace and when it worked, it really worked.   We'll see.  Fingers crossed.


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#10 of 69 OFFLINE   Josh Dial

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Posted June 24 2012 - 05:52 PM

Loved it.


About 90% of it worked really well, which is generally about 50% more than most pilots.  The dialogue was quintessential Sorkin, and the direction/editing was top notch.  The introduction of the date was amazingly slick.  The politics were there, but not in the form most people thought: I can see the content highlighting the best and worst of American (and perhaps global) politics, but focusing less on the "sides."  I instantly liked the entire cast.


Sorkin borrowed a bit from, well, Sorkin, with a number of scenes, interactions, and character dynamics from his previous shows.  Already there's the boss/assistant dynamic, the "fighting the network" dynamic, the college presentation scene.  Eventually there will be people writing letters to their parents, someone touring through the network, and an on-air gaff with the team scrambling to fix it.  However, it all works, and even re-treads still seem fresh.


I can even see the "relationship stuff" working.  After all, human dynamics have always been front-and-centre with Sorkin's stuff, and it's typically worked (Josh/Donna on The West Wing, for example).


Part of me wonders if the "reviews" aren't a symptom of the very problem Sorkin seems to be tackling with the show...



#11 of 69 OFFLINE   Quentin

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Posted June 25 2012 - 05:38 AM

The reviews are almost all (all I've seen/read) based on the first FOUR episodes of the show. And, while they are mostly down on the show and negative in various ways they also almost all LIKED this pilot. Which doesn't surprise me. The pilot is quintessential Sorkin. I even recognize many of the character types and situations. The dialogue is there as well. The thing that worked best in this pilot is that, other than the opening diatribe by Daniels, the show is mostly apolitical. Frankly, Sorkin is BEST when he manages to not get TOO poltical/preachy and instead focuses on nobility, truth, etc. Yes, even the best episodes of West Wing were more about people making human decisions and facing human conflict with nobility and truth rather than political issues. It's also one of the reasons his last two films have been so universally praised. But, let's face it - it will be hard to make this show apolitical...and according to the reviews, the next few episodes get more political and more clownish. We'll see. I will say that despite the highs of this episode (the dialogue, the relationships, the pace), the use of REAL news from two years ago gave this show a feeling of falsehood/mockery that I could not get over. Because Sorkin (and we, the audience) get to work with a safety net of complete hindsight, the drama feels false. Our new producer has (purely by the magic of luck...errrr, hindsight) a perfect pair of sources! Our blogger knows all about deep drilling! What fortune! Don (the 'old' EP) must be an asshole because he doesn't have the savvy to see there is a 'real' story here! The new guy is REALLY savvy because he KNOWS there is a story here! And, of course once the episode ends we find that all the other news shows weren't savvy enough to cover this story. It all smacks of formulated BS - which is what this show is supposed to be AGAINST! I hated it. And, it's sad...because it could have been handled in the present day with a 'fake' disaster and created the necessary drama. Just like West Wing created fictional issues for that staff. And, once the news alert turns 'red' at the end, we all see how smart the newsroom was and we 'get' the event in context. Much better than this 20/20 hindsight we were given.

#12 of 69 OFFLINE   Josh Dial

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Posted June 25 2012 - 11:49 AM

Originally Posted by Quentin 

But, let's face it - it will be hard to make this show apolitical...and according to the reviews, the next few episodes get more political and more clownish. We'll see.
I will say that despite the highs of this episode (the dialogue, the relationships, the pace), the use of REAL news from two years ago gave this show a feeling of falsehood/mockery that I could not get over. Because Sorkin (and we, the audience) get to work with a safety net of complete hindsight, the drama feels false. Our new producer has (purely by the magic of luck...errrr, hindsight) a perfect pair of sources! Our blogger knows all about deep drilling! What fortune! Don (the 'old' EP) must be an asshole because he doesn't have the savvy to see there is a 'real' story here! The new guy is REALLY savvy because he KNOWS there is a story here! And, of course once the episode ends we find that all the other news shows weren't savvy enough to cover this story. It all smacks of formulated BS - which is what this show is supposed to be AGAINST! I hated it.
 


Interesting.  I had virtually the opposite reaction, both to the use of an historical event (love it), and the reaction to it (which I felt was genuine).  I don't think it's too much of a stretch to believe that for any given news story, someone--be it AP, Reuters, et cetera--has an inline track that has a chance to "be lucky."  Inside sources abound.  Even the random blogger worked--it's pretty easy for anyone even a bit internet-savy to pull up some pretty proprietary information quickly.  The "old EP" dynamic is a bit formulaic, I'll grant you that, but it's specifically in-line with what the show is speaking to, in my opinion (the current way of "doing" the news is not working).  Further, it was pretty representative of the what actually happened as the event was unfolding--most news stations focused on the search and rescue, while a handful gravitated more quickly toward the environmental impact.


Additionally, and obviously we'll see just how accurate the early reviews are, I'm not sure how difficult it is to make the show neutral on its face.  The danger, really, lies in the various factions of American politics claiming that commentary on reality is commentary on their party.  If Sorkin says (through the show) that reporters lie if it means increased viewership, or that networks restrict coverage on certain stories because of who (read: investors) it might offend, that's likely true.  If a particular party reads that as an attack them and their members, well, that's on them, not Sorkin.



#13 of 69 OFFLINE   Quentin

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Posted June 25 2012 - 12:37 PM

You're right, Josh. Sources abound and people/newsrooms get lucky all the time. HOWEVER, this show purports to be revolving around a theme regarding making news noble, pure, etc. again. And, this particular newsroom is going to do what it has to do to reach those heights. Ok...so far, so good - all Sorkin's shows are about this. But, the reality of this event is that no one got that lucky. And, now this show creates a newsroom that just so happened to get that lucky and at the end of the episode they bask in the glory that they are superior to all other news shows (who only mentioned the rig explosion in passing). Sorkin has purposefully set up this newsroom as superior based on 'luck' that he created by having pure hindsight. Even if this doesn't ring patently false to you because there COULD be a newsroom that gets so lucky (even though there wasn't in reality), doesn't it smack of artificial superiority by making these guys the heroes of the day and basing the show on the thematic premise that this is what newsrooms should aspire to? And, even if I let this one pass (which I plan to do...we'll see how political it gets next week)...if the show EVER did this again I would turn it off and never again watch.

#14 of 69 OFFLINE   joshEH

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Posted June 25 2012 - 01:25 PM

I thought it was really solid, except for that middle segment where Emily Mortimer is giving speech after speech after speech after speech in Daniels' office trying to convince him to let her stay and do a Super-Awesome News Show™. It was probably the most cyclical argument Sorkin's ever written, and combined with the eight rounds of New Guy With The Facts™ butting heads with Soon-To-Be-Kicked-To-The-Curb Asshole EP Boyfriend-Type™, I was praying for Dev Patel or Alison Pill to just take the notepad and go running into the office. Other than that, sure, it's romanticized, but I can definitely get on board. Hopefully it gives me the same magic West Wing did, where, yes, something like this has never and likely will never exist, but for an hour a week, gee, wouldn't it be nice? As others here have already pointed out, Sorkin set this series in the recent past to make it easier to come up with news stories, and that on Sports Night, they were quite easy to fake, despite being fictional. Looks like he also took to heart the criticism about his Studio 60 sketches not being funny. Ultimately, he can write dialogue and characters like a champ. I can see the "know-it-all" Sorkin-ness, but I don't have a problem with it ('cause, y'know -- Sorkin gonna Sorkin). I want to believe that smart people are in positions of power, making moral decisions, not venal ones. I want Neil DeGrasse Tyson to put in charge of...something.

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#15 of 69 OFFLINE   joshEH

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Posted June 25 2012 - 02:36 PM

According to Sepinwall, the "nervous-sounding" Minerals Management Service official interviewed on-air by Daniels (who was responsible for inspecting Deepwater Horizon) was played by Jesse Eisenberg, doing an uncredited voice-cameo (similar to Frasier's call-in guests).

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#16 of 69 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted June 25 2012 - 11:47 PM

I was really impressed with the pilot. I don't know how the rest of the episodes will be but if there as good as this episode, I'll be happy.

Part of me wonders if the "reviews" aren't a symptom of the very problem Sorkin seems to be tackling with the show...

While the critics have seen three more episodes than me, I thought the same thing. If there's one thing the media doesn't like, it's being reminded of how fucked up and detrimental to society they've become. The critical lovefest for The Wire began to wane in its fifth season and you'll never convince that a big part of that negative reaction was that David Simon was critiquing the media that year.

#17 of 69 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted June 26 2012 - 08:06 AM

I'm waiting for all the Sorkinisms to start showing up





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#18 of 69 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted June 26 2012 - 11:11 AM

I caught the pilot on YouTube, and liked it much better than I thought I would. If the pilot's any example, it's going to be MUCH closer to "Sports Night" than anything he's done since then. "Studio 60" was way more focused on the personalities and the institution of late night sketch comedy than it was about the actual visceral experience of making a live national television broadcast. This shared that nuts-and-bolts sentimentality that I so enjoyed about "Sports Night." The half hour/hour difference was essentially unnoticeable for me. Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer are probably the best leads he's ever had, if you don't consider Martin Sheen the lead in "The West Wing". That being said, as someone who's done newsgathering and written articles and chased down sources, I agree with Quentin that it rang false. His college roommate is in the boardroom for BP, and his sister is high up in Haliburton? Just too damn convenient to be plausible. Things like that do happen, of course. But no single person would be directly tied to both key players in the night's major news story. I could swallow one coincidence, but not two for the same guy. If his college roommate at BP had put him in touch with a former colleague that now works at Haliburton, that would have been much closer to how these things really get pieced together. People know people who know people, and every link in the chain has its own self-interested reason for helping the media. On a larger note, using real news events with the benefit of hindsight is a really dangerous game to play because it allows you to make journalism look easy. Within twenty minutes of the AP bulletin, they had successfully parsed and put together the macro story that even the players involved in the disaster didn't have for days. That's not the way things work, and it helps discredit the real journalists out there that work their asses off for days, weeks and even months at a time slogging through massive amounts of irrelevant information to piece together the salient details. People will watch and ask: if they can do it in a matter of hours, why did the real guys take so long to falteringly put it together? The answer is that these guys were able to piece together the broad strokes because they had the hard work of the real guys to use as a reference. There is a lot wrong with television journalism, and McAvoy's low opinion of the masses is undeniably mirrored by the real decision makers at every cable news station in the country. But the people in the trenches bringing these stories to us deserve better. The other thing that rubs me wrong is the morality of mixing truth and fiction. The stats about the Deep Horizon disaster are real, including the gross mismatch between the number of inspectors and the number of wells in the Gulf. But from what I can tell, the MMS inspector voiced by Jesse Eisenberg is fictional, and there is no real world doppleganger with his background or personal history. There are lots of real reasons to say the now-defunct MMS was completely incompetent and politically neutered without creating a false smoking-gun character that wraps things up neater than the reality. When you introduce fictional components to real news, it distorts the news; people who didn't follow the BP disaster closely will watch this pilot and think the MMS was culpable because it sent a poorly trained newbie out to inspect the well, and that's not true. The MMS was culpable because its leadership was cozy with the industry it was supposed to be inspecting, and it didn't have the adequate resources to do its job. There's an argument to be made that Sorkin has no responsibility to get the news right, and that his only responsibility is to tell a compelling, entertaining story. I disagree, though. If you're dedicating a show to the people who gather, research and report the news, you should get both the process and the news itself right. People should come away no more poorly informed than than came in. Those concerns reflect my biases as a journalism student, and deep held beliefs that I didn't leave behind when I opted out of the field. The human stuff fares better. Daniels and Mortimer are, as I mentioned, terrific. Sam Waterston's character is a throwback to the Fred Friendly era; the kind of news division chief you'd hope network news divisions would have. Lots of the mechanics of putting together a live news broadcast rang true to my admittedly limited experience, especially having the go-to experts in every given field on retainer to comment on just this sort of breaking story. The Don character rang very true to certain personalities I've met, not bad producers but people who've been doing it long enough to see news as an assembly line and a predictable process. The stuff with the AP news wire came straight out of my own experience, and looked exactly like I remember the AP wire looking. Alison Pill was great as the intern -> assistant -> associate producer. Her rapid accession was not that unbelievable, especially given the massive staff turnover. The news business, whether print or online or broadcast, is a pyramid. If you're driven and you're good, it's easy to move up quickly because so many other people will drop out for better gigs, move to different gigs, burn out or flame out. The Indian blogger contributing to piecing the story together is absolutely right; one of the reasons newsrooms still exist in this digitally connected age is the resource of having a room full of smart people with diverse interests, backgrounds, and knowledge collected in one place. Shout out a question, and someone somewhere in the room will know. Who that person is doesn't matter. I'm probably not going to keep up with the show for future episodes that aren't on YouTube, but it'll be interesting to see what kind of show News Night becomes. The pilot paints the picture that it was like the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer: bland, non-partisan, non-challenging to its audience. If it becomes a more serious "Countdown", I'm not interested. If they're going for a modern day "See It Now" it'd be interesting to see how it can take its place in the world without changing the news that develops. That is to say: if we'd had a high quality, high visibility news program that galvanized public opinion in 2010, would we still be where we are now in 2012? I don't think so.

#19 of 69 OFFLINE   Sam Favate

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Posted June 26 2012 - 11:49 PM

Caught the first episode last night, and I liked it, with reservations. I didn't buy some of the quirkier moments in a very high stress environment. I did buy people yelling at one another in the newsroom ('cause that's what happens sometimes). Great cast, although the character of Don was unreasonably obstinate. Didn't ring true. He'd be fired for standing in the way of a developing story like that.


I'm interested to see where it goes. How many episodes this season? 10? 12?



#20 of 69 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted June 27 2012 - 12:17 AM

How many episodes this season? 10? 12?

10 episodes. Outside of True Blood, 10 is the standard size for an HBO drama now.




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