What Did America Think of Sorkin’s ‘The Newsroom’

The man behind The West Wing and The Social Network returned to the small screen with The Newsroom – a show about a news show which tries to take on the big boys and bring people current affairs without bias – at the weekend, before it arrives on Sky Atlantic on July 10th.

Fans were expecting fast-paced dialogue, witty retorts and lots of “walk and talkâ€?, but is that what they got? We could review it for you, but that seems a bit too much like hard work (and besides how would we get our hands on it? *winks*) so instead we’ve scoured the internet to find out what the critics across the pond have to say about the cable news drama…

One person who wasn’t impressed was Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal, who explains that his usually incisive writing isn’t present.. “The journalists here don’t even have conversations — their talk runs to snippy verbal ping pong in which two people hurl lines of semi-coherent dialogue at each other at lightning speed.â€?

It’s a view shared by The New Yorker, who’s reviewer said: “Some of this banter is intelligent; just as often, however, it’s artificial intelligence, predicated on the notion that more words equals smarter.â€?

This is bad news for the show. Sorkin’s main selling point is the razor sharp dialogue, and here, it seems he’s been hoisted by his own petard. USA Today is a bit more sympathetic (which isn’t surprising when you consider that they only manage eight pages a day.. “Sorkin does have a gift for amusing chatter, even if he does overindulge it. Indeed, he’s probably so used to such criticisms, he’s now supplying them himself in the dialogue, from a warning that ‘Nobody’s going to watch a classroom’ to the admonition that ‘You should shut up more than you do.’â€?

But Mercury News’ Chuck Barney is a fan. Musing on what it would be like if we were scripted by Sorkin, he writes; “We’d all be witty, golden-tongued literates who spout verbal symphonies. We’d aspire to big, high-minded goals and refuse to be slaves to The Man. Moreover, we’d firmly believe that arcane data points and policy issues are sexy, not nerdy, and we’d routinely espouse the virtues of Mom, Dad and apple pie while racing through office hallways as dramatic music swells in the background.â€?

It’s the latter that has attracted more criticism, with some critics suggesting that Sorkin’s script idolises and promotes a vision of America that may never have of existed. Accusations of preaching are abound..

“The Newsroom doesn’t work in part because it’s never content to make a point: It feels the need to hit the audience over the head with each point, gild the point, outline it in neon and then underline it fifty times with a thick Sharpieâ€? writes Maureen Ryan in The Huffington Post. “Possibility, romance, mystery, ambiguity – these are the elements that fill out and enrich compelling dramas, but Sorkin’s condescending need to educate the masses and his characters’ exhausting need to verbalise everything tends to bludgeon these qualities like baby seals.â€?

So far, it’s not looking great for The Newsroom. The Hollywood Reporter gives a more positive appraisal, saying of Sorkin; “He can make the politically jaded feel patriotic and the cynical see hope in any situation. Also, love or hate his soapboxing, the man can writeâ€?, before concluding; “Whether you go along on that ride with him has everything to do with whether you like his styleâ€?.

It appears that The Newsroom has divided critics into three camps. Some have given it glowing reviews, others have slammed it. Most, however, believe it to be flawed, dissapointing, but not awful. The criticisms are often the same – preachy monologues and underdeveloped characters are a recurring theme.

If you’re a Sorkin fan, you know what to expect. It’s no West Wing, but if you can tolerate the soapbox antics, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it. If you never really got into the West Wing, and thought The Social Network was “okayâ€? rather then “amazingâ€?, and if you don’t share Sorkin’s tame liberal viewpoints, you may have a harder time.

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