The Newsroom is an American drama television series created and principally written by Aaron Sorkin that premiered on HBO on June 24, 2012. The series chronicles the behind-the-scenes events at the fictional Atlantis Cable News (ACN) channel. It features an ensemble cast including Jeff Daniels as anchor Will McAvoy, who, together with his staff set out to put on a news show "in the face of corporate and commercial obstacles and their own personal entanglements." Other cast members include Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher, Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, and Sam Waterston.
Sorkin, who created the Emmy Award-winning political drama The West Wing, has reportedly been developing a cable-news-centered TV drama since 2009. After months of negotiations, premium cable network HBO ordered a pilot in January 2011 and then a full series in September that year. Sorkin did his research for the series by observing several real-world cable news programs firsthand. He serves as executive producer, along with Scott Rudin and Alan Poul.
The Newsroom has been renewed for a second season, which will premiere in June 2013.
The series is set behind the scenes at the fictional Atlantis Cable News (ACN) and centers around anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), his new executive producer MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), newsroom staff Jim (John Gallagher, Jr.), Maggie (Alison Pill), Sloan (Olivia Munn), Neal (Dev Patel), Don (Thomas Sadoski), and their boss Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston).
Cast and characters
- Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy: the anchor and managing editor of News Night. Will describes himself as a moderate Republican. He presents a gruff exterior when he is off camera. His world is turned upside down when MacKenzie re-enters his life. In the pilot, he is forced to contend with a new team after his executive producer lands a new program and takes most of his staff with him.
- Emily Mortimer as MacKenzie "Mac" McHale: News Night's new executive producer and Will's ex-girlfriend.
- John Gallagher, Jr. as James "Jim" Harper: a producer who was offered another job when MacKenzie's previous show was canceled but turned it down to follow her to News Night. At his new job, he develops feelings for Maggie.
- Alison Pill as Margaret "Maggie" Jordan: associate producer of News Night. She is in a relationship with Don, but displays feelings for Jim.
- Thomas Sadoski as Don Keefer: News Night's former executive producer who leaves for the new program on the network.
- Dev Patel as Neelamani "Neal" Sampat: writer of Will's blog and news scanner of the Internet who covered the London Underground bombings with a camera phone.
- Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbith: An economist with a show on the network. Sloan is attractive but socially awkward, creating uncomfortable situations for herself and others. She holds a Ph.D. from Duke University and speaks fluent Japanese.
- Sam Waterston as Charlie Skinner: ACN news division president.
- Jane Fonda as Leona Lansing: CEO of Atlantis World Media (AWM), the parent company of ACN.
- Chris Messina as Reese Lansing: president of ACN, and Leona's son.
- Adina Porter as Kendra James: a booker for News Night.
- David Harbour as Elliot Hirsch: the anchor for Don's new program on the network.
- Hope Davis as Nina Howard: a gossip columnist for TMI, AWM's tabloid magazine.
- Margaret Judson as Tess Westin: an associate producer for News Night.
- Chris Chalk as Gary Cooper: an associate producer for News Night, and former TMI employee.
- Thomas Matthews as Martin Stallworth: an associate producer for News Night
- Wynn Everett as Tamara Hart: an associate producer and booker for News Night.
- Jon Tenney as Wade Campbell: a Congressional candidate who briefly dates MacKenzie in order to boost his campaign through ACN.
- Terry Crews as Lonny Church: Will's bodyguard assigned to him after Will receives death threats.
- Natalie Morales as Kaylee: Neal's girlfriend.
- Kelen Coleman as Lisa Lambert: Maggie's roommate who dates Jim.
- David Krumholtz as Dr. Jack Habib: Will's current therapist, who is the son of Will's original therapist.
- Paul Schneider as Bryan Brenner: a writer for New York magazine whom Will hires for an all-access profile; MacKenzie cheated on Will with him.
- Stephen McKinley Henderson as Solomon Hancock: an NSA employee who whistle-blows to Charlie about illegal hacking by TMI.
- Riley Voelkel as Jennifer Johnson: a college student triggering Will's outburst in the pilot and later hired as an intern.
- Patton Oswalt as Jonas Pfeiffer: the new V.P. of human resources at ACN.
- Grace Gummer as Hallie Shea: a reporter who is embedded with the Mitt Romney campaign.
- Marcia Gay Harden as Rebecca Halliday, a litigator defending Atlantis Cable News in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Entertainment Weekly reported in April 2009 that Sorkin, while still working on the screenplay for The Social Network, was contemplating a new TV drama about the behind-the-scenes events at a cable news program. Sorkin was the series creator of Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, both shows depicting the off-camera happenings of fictional television programs. Talks were reportedly ongoing between Sorkin and HBO since 2010. In January 2011, Sorkin revealed the project on BBC News.
To research the cable news world, Sorkin had been an off-camera guest at MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann in 2010 to observe the show's production and quizzed Parker Spitzer's staff when he was a guest on that show. He also spent time shadowing Hardball with Chris Matthews as well as other programs on Fox News Channel and CNN. Sorkin told TV Guide that he intended to take a less cynical view of the media: "They're going to be trying to do well in a context where it's very difficult to do well when there are commercial concerns and political concerns and corporate concerns." Sorkin decided that rather than have his characters react to fictional news events as on his earlier series, The Newsroom would be set in the recent past and track real-world stories largely as they unfolded, to give a greater sense of realism.
HBO ordered a pilot in January 2011 with the working title More as This Story Develops. The Social Network's Scott Rudin signed on as executive producer. Rudin's only previous television work was the 1996 spinoff series Clueless. By June, Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Sam Waterston, Olivia Munn, and Dev Patel were cast, while Greg Mottola had signed on to direct the pilot. The pilot script was later reportedly obtained by several news outlets.
On September 8, 2011, HBO ordered a full series starting with an initial 10-episode run with a premiere date set for summer 2012. A day after the second episode aired, HBO renewed the series for a second season.
Sorkin said in June 2012 that The Newsroom "is meant to be an idealistic, romantic, swashbuckling, sometimes comedic but very optimistic, upward-looking look at a group of people who are often looked at cynically. The same as with The West Wing, where ordinarily in popular culture our leaders are portrayed either as Machiavellian or dumb; I wanted to do something different and show a highly competent group of people."
While the pilot was in development, the project was tentatively titled More as This Story Develops. On November 29, 2011, HBO filed for a trademark on "The Newsroom" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The new name immediately drew comparisons with the Ken Finkleman-created Canadian comedy series of the same name that aired on CBC and public television stations in the U.S. The series' name was confirmed as The Newsroom in an HBO promo released on December 21, 2011, previewing its programs for 2012.
Writing in Maclean's, Jaime Weinman said the choice of name was "a bit of a grimly amusing reminder that the U.S. TV industry doesn't take Canada very seriously ... The Newsroom is often considered the greatest show Canada has ever produced, but a U.S. network feels no need to fear unflattering comparisons: assuming they've heard of the show, they probably think most people in the States have not heard of it." In an interview with The Daily Beast following the Sorkin show's premiere, Finkleman revealed that HBO did contact him for permission to reuse the title, which he granted.
Jeff Daniels was cast in the lead role in March 2011. Alison Pill and Olivia Munn reportedly entered negotiations to star in April 2011. The fictional executive producer role was initially offered to Marisa Tomei, but negotiations fell through. Tomei was replaced by Emily Mortimer in May 2011. Sam Waterston also joined the project in May. John Gallagher, Jr., Thomas Sadoski, Josh Pence, and Dev Patel were added to the cast in June 2011.
New York magazine reported that Sorkin had planned for MSNBC host Chris Matthews and Andrew Breitbart to appear in a roundtable debate scene in the pilot. However, the idea was shot down by MSNBC purportedly because the network was displeased with the corporate culture portrayal of cable news and skewering of left-leaning media in the show's script. Chris Matthews' son, Thomas, joined the cast in the role of Martin Stallworth, an associate producer for the fictional show.
Three months after the series was picked up, Jane Fonda signed on to play Leona Lansing, the CEO of the fictional network's parent company. Fonda was married to Turner Broadcasting System and CNN founder Ted Turner for 10 years. Lansing was touted by some observers as a female version of Fonda's ex-husband. The name "Leona Lansing" is taken from the names of two highly successful businesswomen, real estate developer Leona Helmsley and former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing.
Jon Tenney guest-starred as Wade, MacKenzie's boyfriend. Natalie Morales has a guest role as Kaylee, Neal's girlfriend. Terry Crews plays Lonny, Will's bodyguard.
Rosemarie DeWitt was originally cast as Rebecca Halliday, a litigator who is tasked with defending the ACN in a wrongful termination suit in the second season, but DeWitt had to vacate the role due to scheduling conflicts. The role was recast with Marcia Gay Harden.
The Newsroom's set is located in Sunset Gower Studios, Hollywood. The fictional Atlantis World Media building, however, is actually the Bank of America Tower on Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan (directly across the street from HBO's New York City offices), with CGI being used to change the name of the building above the entrance. Production began in the fall of 2011. The schedule called for each episode – comprising a dialogue-dense script – to be filmed in nine days, as opposed to six to seven days for broadcast network TV series.
Although The Newsroom has fewer writers than most other television series, with fewer than 10 credited writers, it has been reported that Sorkin has already planned to replace most of the first season's writers in the second season, but he later explained this to be untrue. Sorkin explained his approach:
I create these shows so that I can write them. I'm not an empire builder. I'm not interested in just producing. All I want to do is write. I came up as a playwright—writing is something you do by yourself in a room. That said, I couldn't possibly write the show without that room full of people. I go in there, and we kick around ideas. I'm writing about all kinds of things I don't know anything about. So they do research for me.
Sorkin will also hire conservative media consultants for the second season which will represent "every part of the ideological spectrum" and give the show "a political perspective that I [Sorkin] don't have." Sorkin also said the second season will most likely include the 2012 United States presidential election.
Each episode is built around a major news event from the recent past, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill or the killing of Osama Bin Laden. This acts as a background for the interpersonal drama, as well as providing a sense of familiarity, as the audience is likely to know the context and so not require too much explanation of events. Sorkin has said the news events on the show "will always be real", which, for him, "became a kind of creative gift. For one thing, the audience knows more than the characters do, which is kind of fun. And it gives me the chance to have the characters be smarter than we were". However, he has also said "[i]t is a romanticised, idealised newsroom, a sort of a heightened newsroom – it is not meant to be a documentary."
The Newsroom premiered in the United States on HBO on June 24, 2012. It was watched by 2.1 million viewers, making it one of HBO's most-watched series premieres since 2008. The first episode was made available free to all viewers on multiple platforms, including HBO.com, iTunes, YouTube, and other free on-demand services.
The show airs simultaneously on HBO Canada. It premiered on Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom and Ireland on July 10, 2012, two weeks after its U.S. debut. In Germany and Austria The Newsroom premiered on Sky's video-on-demand service Sky Go one day after the U.S. premiere on June 25, 2012, and Sky Anytime one day later, although only with the original English language soundtrack; the German language version is scheduled to be shown on Sky Atlantic HD in fall 2012. HBO Hungary also began airing the show with Hungarian subtitles on HBO Go one day after the U.S. premiere while the dubbed version premiered on July 30, 2012. In Israel, the show premiered on yes Oh on June 30, 2012. It premiered in the Netherlands on July 2, 2012, on HBO. In Poland the series premiered on July 16, 2012, on HBO. In Brazil, the first season started on August 5, 2012, also on HBO. The show premiered in New Zealand on August 13, 2012 on SKY NZ's SoHo channel. The show debuted in Australia on the SoHo channel on August 20, 2012 (available on the Foxtel platform). HBO Bulgaria started to air the show with Bulgarian subtitles on June 25, 2012. In Turkey, the show premiered on CNBC-e on September 16, 2012.
Critical reaction to the series has been mixed. It has a score of 57 out of 100 based on 31 reviews on review aggregator Metacritic, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter writes that how viewers respond to the show "has everything to do with whether you like his style. Because ... Sorkin is always true to himself and doesn't try to cover his tendencies or be embarrassed by them." Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times commented that "at its best ... The Newsroom has a wit, sophistication and manic energy.... But at its worst, the show chokes on its own sanctimony." Maureen Ryan of The Huffington Post called the preview episodes "a dramatically inert, infuriating mess, one that wastes a fine cast to no demonstrable purpose, unless you consider giving Sorkin yet another platform in which to Set the People Straight is a worthwhile purpose." Time's James Poniewozik criticized the show for being "smug" and "intellectually self-serving," with "Aaron Sorkin writing one argument after another for himself to win." Los Angeles Times critic Mary McNamara said the show's drama is "weighted too heavily toward sermonizing diatribes."
Reviews by newscasters have been mixed as well. Jake Tapper of ABC News criticized Sorkin's partisanship: "they extol the Fourth Estate's democratic duty, but they believe that responsibility consists mostly of criticizing Republicans." Dave Marash was not convinced that the show portrays the news industry accurately. On August 1, 2012, Sorkin responded to critics by including news consultants with newsroom experience. Former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather gave a favorable review, saying the show "has the potential to become a classic."
Awards and nominations
The Newsroom received two nominations for the 70th Golden Globe Awards, for Best Drama Series, and Best Performance in a Television Series – Drama for Jeff Daniels. Daniels was also nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series.
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