Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fueled By Newsroom

HBO's The Newsroom is my favorite new series on television. It is not only features witty dialogue, lovable characters and captivating narratives, but it also provides an insight into the challenges that American journalism faces today. Without giving too much away, the show is about a cable news anchor named Will McAvoy who has focused more on charming his audience than on uncovering the truth. But after his ex-girlfriend becomes his executive producer, he decides to quit his soft approach and actually report the news for a change. 

The Newsroom is a pretty new show––the pilot aired in mid-June of this year––and, for once, I feel like I'm ahead of the curve with television trends. (Seriously, I just finished Sex and the City this summer and am still inching my way through Mad Men.) So, while it's still a hidden gem, I'd like to share my reasons for loving this show: 

1. Its Emphasis on Integrity. (Also this Clip.)

The incredibly captivating clip above, from the opening scene of the show, gives you a little taste of what The Newsroom is all about. Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is part of a panel discussion at Northwestern, and has been playing it safe and dodging questions all evening. The professor moderating the debate finally forces him to answer the question: "Why is America the greatest country in the world?" In response he gives an answer that shocks the audience (and in my humble opinion, is dead on): it's not. He goes on a bit of a tirade, describing all the ways in which America has gone downhill in recent years. While he's giving what one youtuber calls the speech "the most honest three and half minutes of television, EVER...," it's almost impossible to look away.

That clip embodies the absolute number one reason that I love this show: the emphasis it puts on integrity. The Newsroom draws attention to an issue that far too many Americans have either ignored or just not noticed––that journalists face an uphill battle when attempting to inform the public in a corporate setting. Maybe the general public is aware of the impact that big money and ratings have on the information they are getting––namely, that entertainment largely passes for news nowadays. But, if not, The Newsroom, along with shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, is one of those rare pieces of television that has the potential to do more than just entertain its viewers––it also provides an insight into how our society functions (or, in this case, doesn't function).

2.  It's a News-Junkie's Dream

Another reason I love this show is its focus on events of the recent past. (The fictional ACN news team starts its reporting in 2010 with the BP Oil Spill and moves on from there.) Any news-junkie will adore this show simply for the recap of what has happened in the past few years. (Personally, I can't wait to see how they handle Occupy Wall St.) 

Beyond reliving the happenings of a few years ago, one of the more interesting aspects of looking at the news of the recent past is how relevant it is to the news of today. The episode that tackles the Gabby Gifford's shooting seems especially poignant in the aftermath of Aurora, Wisconsin, and College Station. The BP Oil Spill in the first episode reminds us of other environmental problems we face––climate change, the extreme heat and droughts we've seen this summer, etc. The midterm elections...well, that reminds me that those crazy teapartiers are still out there and that 2012 is also an election year. Cheesy as it sounds, this show has reminded me of how important it is to remember the past and to stay informed in the present; it has rekindled the news-junkie in me. 

3. Tackles Important Issues While Still Being Entertaining

Along with the focus on the important stuff––the tension between money and journalistic independence 
and the zeitgeist of 2010-2011––The Newsroom also has qualities that make it great television: hilarity (see the above photos), character quirks, and personal tensions. The dialogue is fast-paced and smart, just the way I like it. The characters are lovable, in spite of, or maybe because of, their flaws. (MacKenzie subtracts using her fingers, Will cries during Rudy, Neal is convinced Bigfoot is real, Sloan has no human knowledge, etc.) And, while I can't go too much into the personal tensions aspect of the show without spoiling it for you, I'll just say that it adds a little extra juiciness to the already stressful environment of a newsroom. 

4. Ridiculously Talented Cast

And, the final reason that I'll give for adoring this show––because this post is getting long and you're probably tired of my gushing––is the incredibly talented cast. The show is filled with compelling performances, to the point where I don't see the actor, I see the character. And, the cast is packed with faces that you feel you've seen before...probably because you have. Will McAvoy, the brilliant journalist with a law degree, is played by Jeff Daniels, aka Harry of Dumb and Dumber. (By the way, there's going to be a sequel, aptly named Dumb and Dumber To). Emily Mortimer, who has been in so many things (The Kid, Lars and the Real Girl, Shutter Island, Our Idiot Brother), plays MacKenzie McHale, Will's executive producer and former girlfriend. We've also got Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire playing the tech savvy blogger Neal Sampat; Alison Pill of Scott Pilgrim and other things playing the passionate associate producer Maggie Johnson; Olivia Munn of The Daily Show, being a model, and other things playing the socially-awkward but brilliant economist Sloan Sabbath; and Sam Waterson of Law & Order playing the bourbon-drinking president of the ACN news division. Even Jane Fonda makes the occasional appearance. 

Like I said earlier, I'm usually not up-to-date with television shows. While I still have the chance to be a trendsetter, I'd like to encourage you all to watch this excellent excellent show if you can. (HBO makes it hard for us struggling young people sometimes). If you have any interest in the news, journalism, current events, or politics, you're bound to love it.

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