TV critics pan Sorkin's 'The Newsroom'

No need to stay up late Sunday for the debut of Aaron Sorkin's new show "The Newsroom," say most TV critics. Here's an understated trailer for the show, which is set at a fictional television network and features a Keith Olbermann-like anchor.

A roundup of reviews:

Maureen Ryan, The Huffington Post

Ultimately, the show is the worst possible vehicle for promulgating the values and beliefs that the core characters profess. With shrill, self-righteous friends like these, journalism doesn't need enemies. ...

The funniest thing about "The Newsroom" is that it takes as a given that people care a great deal about what one news anchor says on his show; despite writing that Facebook movie, Sorkin still doesn't get that people sample the news all day through any number of sources and that news anchors and their shows, frankly, don't matter that much in the grand scheme of things. It's telling that Internet is only mentioned once or twice, mainly when Will finds out that, unbeknownst to him, he has a blog. Twitter is mocked, naturally.

Hank Stuever, The Washington Post

There are a number of possibly irreparable miscalculations going on here. The first is that, no matter what “The Newsroom’s” producers and writers might think, journalism just isn’t very much like politics. The brain-wiring between reporters and politicos is more different than most people realize, and the high-profile personality who traverses between them (George Stephanopoulos, say) is more of an exception. Yet, from Sorkin’s keyboard, these are all the same kind of folk, thriving merely on their own highfalutin’-ness, determined to shape forces beyond their control, and determined to do it with talk.

Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast

Sorkin isn’t really interested in unspooling how journalism functions, the way he was in how Martin Sheen wielded political power. The bustle of the newsroom is a mere backdrop for self-involved characters to give talky speeches and taunt each other. In fact, the smart-ass speeches go on and on and on, the actors seemingly in love with the sound of their voices.

Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times

Yet oddly enough “The Newsroom” suffers from the same flaw that it decries on real cable shows on MSNBC or Fox News. Cable television would be a lot better if anchors pontificated less and went back to reporting. “The Newsroom” would be a lot better if the main characters preached less and went back to reporting.

Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker

Sorkin’s shows are the type that people who never watch TV are always claiming are better than anything else on TV. The shows’ air of defiant intellectual superiority is rarely backed up by what’s inside—all those Wagnerian rants, fingers poked in chests, palms slammed on desks, and so on. In fact, “The Newsroom” treats the audience as though we were extremely stupid. Characters describe events we’ve just witnessed. When a cast member gets a shtick (like an obsession with Bigfoot), he delivers it over and over. In episode four, there’s a flashback to episode three.

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

For the first hour, the show seems promising, especially for Sorkin fans. After that, things go into a baffling free-fall in which plot exists almost solely to support the political and cultural points Sorkin wants to make, often in non sequitur monologues. ...

But try as they might, the actors cannot make their characters anything but what they are: mini-megaphones for pronouncements on blogs, morning shows, reality TV, celebrity news sites, the tea party, handguns, the history of the FCC and Bigfoot.

Finally, a positive review! Sarah Rodman, The Boston Globe

It is a behind-the-scenes look at an interesting, hectic professional environment — in this case the fictional 24-hour cable news network Atlantis Cable News — with a strong ensemble cast who must navigate gushing waterfalls of dialogue. And that dialogue is clever, impassioned, well-researched, funny, inspiring, and, honestly, frequently exhausting.

Related: Sorkin says, "I've never in my life written in order to send a message to somebody, change somebody's mind." (The Wall Street Journal) | Sorkin again: "The character has nothing to do with Keith Olbermann." (USA Today) | Introducing ‘Atlantis Cable News,’ The Cable News Channel On Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The Newsroom’ (TVNewser)

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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