The Newsroom, the HBO drama which opens its second season on Sunday evening, isn't content to be riveting or lively or even highly entertaining.
The curious show want something more, and its creator Aaron Sorkin wants a lot more.
It wants respectability, to join the national entertainment vs. fluff media debate. Sorkin wants to be known as a media conscience of sorts. As someone who has worked in newsrooms and been on my share of TV shows, sometimes it seems like The Newsroom has as much to do with the life of a journalist (TV or otherwise) as The Andy Griffith Show had to do with cops catching the bad guys.
It's not the fault of the highly skilled actors. Daniels is first class as Will, the paranoid, insecure anchor. His supporting cast comes across as being earnest and concerned about getting the job done right.
But Sorkin seems to want to Feel Important, a pretentious death knell for Hollywood. Sorkin, who has scaled the TV heights with The West Wing and in film with The Social Network, seems to have a yearning to be taken seriously, as if to separate himself from the fluff that passes for content all too often.
It's a lofty ambition, to be sure, but I don't completely understand how they're going about it. The show tries too darned hard to be high and mighty so it comes off as sounding preachy (especially the grizzled TV veteran who wants desperately to have the kind of trust and clout that Walter Cronkite enjoyed in his heyday, long before we had cable news and talk radio).
The Newsroom, which depicts life and love in a CNN-type chamber, is a very fun TV romp. The show MOVES. But its rapid-fire tone robs viewers of a sense of realism. Even though The Newsroom takes place in what would seem to be a setting of high intellectualism (now that media companies have blocked employees from perusing porn sites in the office), we never glimpse a character actually in the process of thinking (presumably) a deep thought.
Instead, the actors are forever racing around to get the story or are engaged in confrontations with one another in attempts to figure out how to get the story. Or they're clumsily putting the moves on one another, which is probably the most realistic feature of the whole show.
If The Newsroom gets a deal for a third season -- and I hope it does because Serious TV has its place -- perhaps Sorkin would consider dialing down the melodramatic aspects of the show that comes across as being stilted and forced.
We all understood that the 1976 classic Network was a bit of a futuristic farce and we didn't mind much when Howard Beale went nuts or someone got shot during a live program. Precisely because the film didn't try to take itself so Seriously, we took it seriously. Because All the President's Men showed journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as fully formed characters, we could embrace them.
Mr. Sorkin, please dial down the melodrama, for our sake and yours as well.