HBO’s The Newsroom, starring Jeff Daniels will be saying farewell in just a few weeks, as its final three episodes air. The series, created by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and starring Jeff Daniels (in, arguably, his best non-comedic role) takes on the 24/7 cable news and industry for what it has become over the past several years: “infotainment.” I’ve enjoyed this series from the start, for its take on the headlines, its commentary on the news industry, and for the personal drama behind the scenes at the fictitious Atlantic Cable News organization.
Daniels’ character Will McAvoy is the anchor of the primetime cable news show “News Night.” At the series start, McAvoy is a hugely successful anchor, riding on his own coattails, serving up softball questions to his guests and underutilizing his immense knowledge and legal skills for the sake of ratings. Challenged in that first episode to say what he really thinks, McAvoy speaks truth to the industry that is the American news media, and rises above where he’s sat idly by to turn his show into a “real” news show, unafraid to approach the hard-hitting questions, challenging the all-too-frequent moral relativism that permeates too much of cable news–no matter the cost to ratings.
Flanked by his executive producer, Emily Mortimer’s Mackenzie McHale (the woman behind the man–pushing), and a staff more skeptical producers, who believe that Will’s determination to change the focus of his news show will end in doom, Will forges ahead. A Republican, Will finds himself appalled by the Tea Party and the increasingly right-wing tilt of his party, slings his arrows inwards, not earning him any favors with old friends. Although his boss, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) is supportive, the head of his network, played by none other than Jane Fonda is not.
This, the third and final, season of The Newsroom finds the staff of “News Night” trapped between two bombshells: a hostile takeover of the network, and a legal firestorm that involves leaked, classified government documents. The internal fires that rage inside the news network reflect the the more global themes tackled this season: privacy, social media and citizen journalism, the way in which the news media gather information in the 21st Century, and the ugly side of corporate takeovers.
The Newsroom is down to its final three episodes (you can easily catch up if you subscribe to HBO). It’s a well-written, terrific series that in true Aaron Sorkin style enlightens to (or reminds us of) critical issues, done up in an entertaining package. The series is not perfect, and has been criticized for how it portrays women on the series, and for being overly harsh on the news organizations it’s skewering (Hello, CNN!). It has also been criticized for its liberal point of view, but, hey, this is unabashed liberal Aaron Sorkin, we’re talking about, guys! And casting the main character as a mainstream Republican caught in the insanity of the current extreme conservative bent of his party is brilliant. (Something also tackled by Garry Trudeau’s streamed series Alpha House.)
I originally tuned in for the concept, and for Jeff Daniels (and the tasty liberal comfort food), but also will miss watching the careers and personal lives of Don (Thomas Sadoski), Neal (Dev Patel), Maggie (Alison Pill), Charlie (Waterston), and Jim (John Gallagher, Jr.). And Jane Fonda’s great cameos as media mogul Leona. I’m sorry to see the series leave us so soon!
The final three episodes of The Newsroom air November 30, December 7, and December 14, Sunday nights on HBO.