continues to delight and disappoint in almost equal measure - a statistic almost mirrored in it's current Metacritic rating
(57%). Sorkin's scripts deliver as many verbal punches as they do corny set-ups and awkward characterizations. In the end, for me at least, I find I don't really like any of his grisly characters that much, except perhaps Will McAvoy, played reliably by Jeff Daniels. Still, it's quite something that Sorkin's clumsy, unrealistic, histrionic scripts can turn me against the ever-likeable Sam Waterston's Charlie Skinner and find me rooting for Jane Fonda's scheming Leona Lansing - a woman I wish more and more would succeed in her Machiavellian plans to have the entire annoying cast given the sack.
Nine of ten episodes into season 1 (a second series has been greenlit by HBO, despite the very mixed critical reception for S1), I'm still positively hostile to Emily Mortimer as MacKenzie "Mac" McHale - could she be any less convincing, any more irritating? As for the hopeless supporting cast - I'd gladly nailgun every last one of them - although the gorgeous Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbith, News Night's
economist, puts in a much better effort than most of her peers. One feels her character is struggling for breath, is capable of much more.
When Sorkin is writing about policy, about journalism, about current affairs, he - and we - are on much safer, far more assuredly enjoyable ground than when he launches into yet another dreary character exposition. These people and their personal lives are just not interesting. Their petty romances are trite; their selfish, self-obsessed, wise-cracking personalities are precisely the types I would avoid in real life. Conversely, when they are portrayed doing what they are supposed to be doing - putting on a prime time TV news programme - the whole enterprise positively crackles with kinetic energy and the characters become briefly engaging, albeit between over-dramatic displays of 'journalistic integrity' or clumsy set-piece monologues optimistically (if inappropriately) invoking the ghosts of Rather and Murrow...
The fact that anchor man Will McAvoy has been gifted a notional Republican voting habit seems almost irrelevant when set next to the show's (and Sorkin's) clear left-wing bias. I'm not sure who Sorkin thought he might have been trying to fool here - but it doesn't work, either for the character or for the viewer. If McAvoy is
truly a Republican (even a very soft one - and we have so far no evidence to suppose this is true) he's clearly misunderstood the party membership small print as his every utterance screams CONFIRMED DEMOCRAT.
One episode left to go of this first season and I'm still entirely undecided about The Newsroom
. It chafes. It entertains. But much of the time it's all a bit embarrassing.