TV Series Review: The Newsroom on HBO

Scarsdale’s Aaron Sorkin gets mixed reactions for his new series, The Newsroom

Now that we’ve all seen The Dark Knight — some people twice (ahem) — and since no other movies seem to be challenging Batman at the box office anytime soon, what are we supposed to do for our pop-culture fix? Well, there’s always HBO.

Right now, we’re exactly halfway through the run of The Newsroom, a series airing on HBO created by, written by, and executively produced by Scarsdale native Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin’s on a good streak right now: he won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Social Network (2011) and was nominated in the same category for Moneyball in 2012. Yet reaction to his new outing hasn’t been quite so positive.

Of course, Sorkin always has his fans — like veteran anchor Dan Rather: “The show gets close to the bone of what happens, what really happens, behind the scenes in newsrooms and the boardrooms that govern them,” he told Gawker.

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Sarah Rodman of the Boston Globe agrees: “It is a behind-the-scenes look at an interesting, hectic professional environment — in this case the fictional 24-hour cable news network Atlantis Cable News — with a strong ensemble cast who must navigate gushing waterfalls of dialogue. And that dialogue is clever, impassioned, well-researched, funny, inspiring, and, honestly, frequently exhausting.”

aaron sorkinThe big man in the room: Creator Aaron Sorkin

Photograph courtesy of NBC Photo

But then there are those who are uncomfortable with the show’s Sorkinisms. “The Newsroom Is Incredibly Hostile Toward Women,” reads one headline in New York magazine’s Vulture. “Women: Aren’t they crazy?” Margaret Lyons writes. “Why are they so frivolous? Why can’t they be more serious — you know, like how men are?”

That article has more than 150 comments, some agreeing with Lyons that the show is sexist in its portrayal of women, and some arguing that all of the characters are flawed in some way and that Lyons is being too sensitive. Strong feelings run on both sides.

And Lyons isn’t the only writer who has the long knives drawn for Sorkin. “He’s a smug, condescending know-it-all who isn’t as smart as he thinks he is,” Alex Pareene writes. “His feints toward open-mindedness are transparently phony, he mistakes his opinion for common sense, and he’s preachy. Sorkin has spent years fueling the delusional self-regard of well-educated liberals.”

Sorkin, who recently fired most of the writing staff on the show, defends himself by calling the show “aspirational.” He told NPR’s Terry Gross: “I think that the critics and the audience who are reacting as hostilely to the show as they are, part of the reason is because they think that I’m showing off an intellect and an erudition that I don’t have. I’m not pretending to have it. I know that I don’t have it.”

How do you feel about The Newsroom? Is it an exciting, ambitious, inspirational behind-the-scenes portrayal of journalism with some flawed characters, or is it one falsely modest, condescending man trying to impart his smugness on the entire world? Or is it both — and can (or should) we tune this conversation out long enough to enjoy it as a TV show?

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