Welcome to Pilot Perception, our new feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Show: The Newsroom, HBO, Sundays at 10/9c
The Pedigree: The Newsroom comes from the brain and pen of Aaron Sorkin, of The West Wing, Sports Night, The Social Network, Studio 60, etc. The pilot as well as some other episodes were directed by Greg Mottola (Undeclared, Arrested Development).
The Cast & How You Know Them: Star Jeff Daniels has primarily worked in movies, from Good Night, and Good Luck to The Squid and the Whale to Dumb and Dumber. The ensemble includes Emily Mortimer (Cars, Hugo), John Gallagher Jr. (Jonah Hex, the Broadway versions of American Idiot and Spring Awakening), Alison Pill (The Pillars of the Earth, Midnight in Paris), Thomas Sadoski (As the World Turns), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Olivia Munn (Perfect Couples), and Sam Waterston (Law & Order).
The Premise: After a public meltdown, a cable news anchor, his new producer/old girlfriend, and their staff rededicate themselves to making a quality news show rather than worrying about corporate interests and pandering for ratings. The show is set in the near past, so we get to see them report on real-life events.
What Works: This was one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The writing and acting are brilliant, and both the situation and the characters are immediately compelling. The show does a good job of introducing a complicated scenario quickly and making the viewer really care about the people involved. The entire ensemble is strong, and there are several potential relationships and friendships in which I find myself already invested. And watching extremely smart people be really good at their jobs is always a delight.
What Doesn’t: Honestly, I liked basically everything about this pilot. But some of the things I liked are things others have not liked, so your mileage may vary. The main character comes across as pretty unlikeable, which is an important part of the show, but may make it hard for viewers to get attached. While I liked the fact that the show is set in the recent past, others found this aspect grating or hard to watch because it made them emotionally relive past crises. And while Sorkin’s rapid, hyperliterate dialogue style has rabid fans (of which I am one), it’s definitely not for everyone.
Our Favorite Line: “I’m a registered Republican, I only seem liberal because I believe that hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure and not gay marriage.”
You Might Like This if you like Sorkin’s other work, especially Sports Night, which also took place behind the scenes at a cable news show. Or, if you’re unfamiliar with Sorkin: It’s lots of really smart people talking a lot, basically. You’ll probably like it if you’re interested in news and current events, but maybe not if you actually work in the business, since, as with all workplace shows, inaccuracies tend to drive experts crazy.
If You’re Interested: The Newsroom premieres tomorrow, Sunday June 24, at 10/9c on HBO and will replay on HBO and its affiliated stations many times during the week. HBO subscribers can also watch on HBO GO.
(Photo courtesy of HBO.)