On Sunday, 24th of June HBO aired 74 minute pilot episode of Aaron Sorkin’s new drama “The Newsroom”. Similar to last decade “Sports Night” and recent “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” it’s a tv show about tv show, an area of almost speciality for Sorkin, which usually guarantees superbly developed stories and very entertaining viewing. Unfortunately it usually also guarantees that the show will go with a loud “woosh” high over the heads of standard polled US TV audience and their attention span, which in terms means shorter lifespan for TV series then we would like here in Europe (“Sports Night” managed just two season and “Studio 60” survived single season despite both being highly acclaimed, internationally syndicated, incredibly well written shows, if not the best in their broadcast years).
I am happy to confirm that “The Newsroom” is no exception to the rule and lives up to expectations. The pilot focusing solely on introduction of the new production team to an hour long news commentary program at the brink of one of the biggest news stories of 2010, is smart and witty, with bitter punchlines and excellent dialogue full of typical Sorkin machine gun fire banter between characters. Similar to early West Wing, the pilot script is right from the start openly obvious about its political stance and doesn’t wait more than 10 minutes to deliver preachy and condescending faux pass left hook right on the nose of the star spangled flag waving, empty head saluting, middle American red state elephantism, which makes for entertaining viewing to anyone outside of U.S. but is guaranteed to create wave of negative press and slating reviews for the series on its own soil.
Where the pilot script defends itself with musketeerial flair and finesse, things are somewhat different when it comes to casting. It’s no secret that the casting in Sorkin series always ends up with unusual set of female leads and supports. Although Sorkin’s female leads almost never lack the talent, the way characters are usually presented to us, viewers, is quite a different story. Throughout most of his previous series we were treated to one of the two character types – either “looking too old for her age” dry, agressive, almost manly, raging “forever alone” or “easy on the eye, borderline psychotic complete basket case” female leads. And although in nearly all cases the female roles in most of Sorkin’s TV series were delivered brilliantly (who can forget C.J. from West Wing) very often though this pool of repetitive character types appears to be then slightly mis-casted, as if the part was written for someone else and given to another actress at the last minute. The talent is there, but it’s the character that doesn’t fit. As a result, quite often the script later force the characters rather unachievable tasks. Like Felicity Huffman vs Peter Krause in “Sports Night” for example. As Casey’s love interest Dana was out of her depth, out of her league and on top she looked at least a decade his senior. But the script made her behave as if her role was written for Amanda Peet vs Matthew Perry. , it was due to those constraints, that very often supporting female cast of his series are much easier to warm up to than the leads. And “The Newsroom” is no exception.