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'The Newsroom' 2.1 Review: "First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers" (TRAILER)

Thompson on Hollywood By David Chute | Thompson on Hollywood July 9, 2013 at 7:53PM

The second season of Aaron Sorkin's HBO drama series "The Newsroom" promises to be every bit as entertaining as its first -- if not more so, due to a unifying structural choice that takes fuller advantage of novelistic narrative freedom of post-"Sopranos" cable drama.
Aaron Sorkin in the ACN newsroom
HBO Aaron Sorkin in the ACN newsroom

That conclusion would certainly gibe well with the darker, more desperate tone of the depiction of the newsroom staffers, and especially of the snarled, at times almost idiotic complexity of their relationships -- on non-relationships, really, since we now have three couples (Will and Mac, Jim and Maggie, Don and Sloan) that are presented as agonizingly dysfunctional, almost entirely because all the people involved are weirdly blocked and can't bring themselves to say what they really mean. Of course if they did that most of their dilemmas would evaporate. ("Oh, you love him and not me? Well, that's lucky because I love her and not you.")

Sorkin seems oddly old fashioned in his depiction of thirty-something (or younger) characters who can't bring themselves to blurt out their feelings, in an era and for a generation that sees taboos against acting immediately on impulse in and sorting things out afterward as eye-rollingly passe.

The three most interesting subplots, so far, focus on the determination of Neil Sampatb (Dev Patel) to convince his dismissive superiors of the importance of the burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement a traumatix pedition of Alison Pill's Maggie Jordon to an African war zone, and the flight of producer Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) to a frustrating sojourn in New England, attempting to cover the Romney campaign, which is determined not to be covered in any substantive way.

The best stuff is about the work, in other words, rather than contrived obstacles to true love. Back in good old "West Wing" days, Sorkin had surer touch finding the right balance.

This article is related to: Reviews, Television, TV, TV Reviews, The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.