The Newsroom and Why I Love It – Part 1

First off, I want to say that not many TV shows move me to (a) write about them and (b) to actually take away some of the dialogue that resonates with me.  Only a few other shows have captivated me the way The Newsroom has: Big Love; Californication; United States of Tara and Sex in the City. What do all of these shows have in common? Excellent writing with witty and meaningful dialogue. Also the interconnectedness of the characters and their relationships helps to engage the viewer. 

If you haven’t watched The Newsroom it is a fictional take on a nightly news program that focuses on politics.  If you don’t like politics then this might not be for you, but I love politics albeit this show focuses on US politics. I don’t mind because the politics often takes a backseat to the social and personal issues of the characters.  Jeff Daniels plays Bill McAvoy who is essentially the boss of the show and the news anchor for News Night (the flagship news program of the fictitious ACN TV station). He is brilliant in this role. As Season 1, Episode 1 opens we see a reticent McAvoy that has been pushed to the edge because in his quest to please viewers and the network’s owner, he has sacrificed himself. He would literally check his opinion at the door so as not to be contentious. From the outset, we the viewers, have no idea what has transpired to make him this way. 

We see that his Senior Producer, Don Keefer, has ditched McAvoy because he is difficult to work with; in fact, most of his staff has moved on to the 10:00 pm news show because of McAvoy’s seemingly unpleasant nature.  Moreover, McAvoy shows us his worst side in episode one from not remembering his staffers names and even calling out a female college student for not being very bright. He is not a very enduring character, but for some reason we want to see more of him. Why?

It’s the dialogue.  Ok, so yes McAvoy is crass, but truthful. It’s his honesty that is enduring and makes the audience appreciate him; even though he can be a little mean in his truth. 

Season 1’s first episode is its pilot, so it has to be darn good and darn captivating. The writing has to be fantastic and the timing impeccable.  So many pilots go wrong in this area, but not Newsroom. For instance, we see McAvoy at a University with a panel of other journalists talking to students about politics and journalism. McAvoy is starting to return to his roots of intense and stalwartly opinions. We can see the change happening almost like a bullet ricocheting off metal. McAvoy says: 

“And with a straight face, you're gonna tell students that America's so star-spangled awesome, that we're the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom. So 207 sovereign states in the world, like a hundred and eighty of them have freedom” (The Newsroom, HBO, 2012). 

This is the beginning of McAvoy’s return. His jagged self back again and although this is our introduction to him, we are shown through flashbacks that he was broken, fragmented, and holding back. We are also shown brief glimpses of MacKenzie McHale, who in episodes to follow plays an integral role in McAvoy’s life as well as being a part of his past. This is what keeps us, as an audience, going. During McAvoy’s revelation at the university, we see this woman holding two signs: “It’s not, but it can be.” We instantly know she’s an important figure in his life…just how important will she become in Episode 2?

~Jennifer Ward

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