In a review dated 6.25, New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum conveys some admiration for Aaron Sorkin‘s The Newsroom (HBO, premiering 6.24). She says it has the same kind of energy that The West Wing and The Social Network had. But mostly she rips into it, and into Sorkin’s writing style. Episodes 3 and 4 suck, she says. Especially 4. She hasn’t seen 5 through 10.
But I don’t know. There’s something about Nussbaum’s own fevered writing style that suggests she might have been thinking about picking a fight with this show no matter what. She seems to enjoy being pissy and ultra-particular, or so I’m sensing. In any event, The Newsroom needs someone to ride in on a white horse and say, “Nussbaum is a smart and feisty writer, but she has a stick up her butt! Listen to me instead!”
“This is not to say that The Newsroom doesn’t score points now and then, if you share its politics,” Nussbaum writes. “It starts effectively enough, with an homage to Network ‘s galvanizing ‘I’m mad as hell’ rant, as McAvoy, a blandly uncontroversial cable big shot whom everyone tauntingly calls Leno, is trapped on a journalism-school panel. When the moderator needles him into answering a question about why America is the greatest country on earth, he goes volcanic, ticking off the ways in which America is no such thing, then closing with a statement of hope, about the way things used to be.
“This speech goes viral, and his boss (Sam Waterston) and his producer, MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), who’s also his ex-girlfriend, encourage him to create a purer news program, purged of any obsession with ratings and buzz.
“Much of McAvoy’s diatribe is bona-fide baloney — false nostalgia for an America that never existed — but it is exciting to watch. And if you enjoyed The West Wing, Sorkin’s helpful counterprogramming to the Bush Administration, your ears will prick up. The pilot of The Newsroom is full of yelling and self-righteousness, but it’s got energy, just like The West Wing, Sorkin’s Sports Night and his hit movie The Social Network.
“The second episode is more obviously stuffed with piety and syrup, although there’s one amusing segment, when McAvoy mocks some right-wing idiots. After that, The Newsroom gets so bad so quickly that I found my jaw dropping. The third episode is lousy (and devolves into lectures that are chopped into montages). The fourth episode is the worst. There are six to go.”