The Newsroom Season 2 Blu-ray Review
There are few people behind the scenes in television that can stir up excitement simply on a name alone but Aaron Sorkin is certainly one of them. To this day, The West Wing remains one of the finest examples of television history, and Sorkin is known for his hands-on control of writing and production. Not happy with just TV success, he has also stepped into Hollywood with such movies as A Few Good Men right through to The Social Network. Rarely does Sorkin deal with anything less than serious world issues and high drama, so you know what you’re getting when you see his name involved in a project.
The Newsroom is a perfect example of all things Sorkin – stories based on dramatic real world goings-on, a number of well-known actors and actresses, and sky high expectations from audiences and critics alike. The buzz surrounding any new Aaron Sorkin project is always enjoyable, but comes with its own issues. Can anything ever really live up to The West Wing? Take the story of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip – it only aired for one season in 2006 despite starting with huge ratings. With Matthew Perry from Friends on board alongside The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford, it seemed to be destined for great things but it never seemed to gain an audience. Were expectations too high? Who knows. It was a difficult situation and personally I think the show had a lot more to give, but now it’s in TV history and a case of ‘what might have been’.
Six years later and HBO’s The Newsroom debuted with much of a similar feeling overall – a number of big names in Jeff Daniels, Sam Waterston, Emily Mortimer, Dev Patel and Olivia Munn, as well as some initial albeit slightly cautious buzz. Being on HBO allowed Sorkin to focus on creativity rather than ratings and the first season seemed to be received okay. It hardly set the world alight but for classic Sorkin fans, this was a real treat. Much like Studio 60, it was always going to be risky dealing with the media, but overall it managed to deliver some worthwhile television. The real question was how Season 2 would do once Sorkin and co had found their footing.
What’s It About? If you hadn’t guessed from the title, The Newsroom surprisingly covers the ups and downs of cable news, specifically News Night fronted by Will McAvoy (Daniels) at Atlantis Cable News. It’s as much about McAvoy’s personal relationships with those around him as it is about the stories themselves, especially his ex-girlfriend and executive producer Mackenzie McHale (Mortimer). As you can imagine, the twists and turns of their personal lives have a knock-on effect, and we see how their professional careers unravel because of this. These struggles are exactly what Sorkin is best at focusing on, much like in The West Wing, and by the second season while some of the personal issues have been ironed out, others now start to form.
In season 2 we deal with such big stories as the presidential campaign, phone hacking, the anniversary of 9/11 and the war on terrorism. It’s safe to say that there’s a lot more drama and emphasis placed on the importance of the news itself, even though the personal side is still there. It’s hard to separate both, especially when they impact on each other. Will is still presented as a fallible man who is talented but imperfect, while those around him try to get the best out of him and manage his mistakes when necessary. Staff have to deal with ethical dilemmas as well as private ones, and Sorkin shows that the world of media is never an easy one to work in.
Verdict: As someone who adored The West Wing and even Studio 60, hopes were certainly high for The Newsroom and while I wasn’t blown away by the first season, it was a good foundation to build on. Luckily Season 2 takes all the good points and runs with them. The acting is top class, Sorkin is back on form with his writing, and there’s no doubt that the news is a fantastic subject to focus on for a drama. The behind-the-scenes clashes, the individuals involved, and the stories in front of the cameras all come together to create truly fantastic and addictive television. By only having short seasons, The Newsroom feels like it delivers high quality every episode without having to stretch itself too thin.
Extras: With audio commentaries, interviews, deleted scenes and recaps, there’s enough to keep any fan interested in what goes into making The Newsroom and how Aaron Sorkin’s mind works. He gives away just enough to keep you wanting more.
Final Words: Can an Aaron Sorkin project ever live up to expectations? It’s a hard question to answer. I think it’s doubtful, especially since The West Wing is now considered up there alongside shows like The Wire and The Sopranos as one of the best series of all time. How do you compete with that? If you’re Sorkin then quite simply you don’t. You just carry on doing your thing, believing in what you do, and hope others come along for the ride also. The Newsroom is exactly what you’d expect and depending on how you feel about Sorkin’s style, that could either be a great thing or completely put you off. As a piece of TV drama it’s certainly worth a shot for anyone who enjoys a well written show with a strong cast and interesting storylines. Season 2 undoubtedly learns from the previous season and hopefully Season 3 will be even better.
The Newsroom Season 2 is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 27 October 2014.