HBO takes on contemporary journalism and politics in its new drama series The Newsroom.
The Aaron Sorkin-produced series stars Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, as a longtime journalist and anchor of
primetime talk show/newscast News Night on fictional cable news network ACN. Once a hard-nosed, takeno-
prisoners journalist, McAvoy has over the years become a more middle-of-the-road anchor, afraid to jeopardize
ratings by asking tough questions of his guests.
His attitude begins to change when he believes he sees an old flame, MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), while participating at a college debate with two politically partisan speakers. Urged on by his vision of McHale, he sheds
his trite, vanilla answers to students' questions and - in one of the best scenes in the pilot - delivers a sobering yet rousing answer to whether America is still the greatest country in the world.
The negative reverberations from his response, however, earn him a three-week hiatus from the show. Upon his return, he discovers that much of his staff, led by his executive producer Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski), have jumped ship to work with another news show on the network. Daniels' boss, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), then enlists, behind McAvoy's back, the talents of McHale - fresh off an exhausting stint covering the Iraq and Afghanistan wars - to serve as News Night's new executive producer.
As McAvoy and McHale battle over the changes, McHale's senior producer, Jim Harper (John Gallagher
Jr.) catches wind of a breaking news story. After learning the details of the story, McAvoy has to choose between continuing to deliver his risk-free version of the news or putting his trust in McHale and delivering good, truthful investigative journalism.
The ensemble cast also includes smart-but-green intern Margaret Jordan (Alison Pill) who gets promoted
to a senior staff position on the show, but whose name McAvoy can't remember.
Fans of Sorkin's other projects, including The West Wing, will enjoy the quick pace of the series as well as
the producer's signature strong, quick-witted dialogue and thorough character development.
The pilot episode of The Newsroom doesn't include a lot of racy language, nudity or violence. Sans the occasional
F-bomb, this series could easily be mistaken for a broadcast or basic-cable show.
R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.
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