The Newsroom Blu-ray
HBO’s The Newsroom has a lot going for it in the first season. The show has a built-in audience thanks to Aaron Sorkin and offers an all-star cast, led by Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr., Alison Pill, Sam Waterston, Jane Fonda, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, and more. The writing is tightly woven and the characters in the program are complicated without ever seeming silly or convoluted. The biggest problem with Season 1 of The Newsroom is that it can’t decide whether it wants to be a program about creating the news or a program about human interaction and relationships.
Set in the recent past, The Newsroom tells the story of news anchor Will McAvoy (Daniels) who hires on his former girlfriend MacKenzie McHale (Mortimer) to produce his program and change the way his office puts out the news. The crew spends long days, as well as many nights together, and it's no surprise that the show often features emotional overloads and plenty of sexual tension between its characters. This sort of melodrama actually works for the program, but Season 1 also spends a lot of time detailing what society perceives TV news should be and what McAvoy’s team thinks it should be.
This leads us to a secondary problem with The Newsroom during its first season. Not only does the show split time between breaking news and developing personal stories, when it is breaking news, it can’t decide if it wants to be an objective look at how news breaks or a partisan take real issues. It likes to think it’s both, but it can’t be. Mixing melodrama with two separate ideas about the news makes The Newsroom a schizophrenic program, and sharp writing and clever ideas can't change that.
Despite these problems, character development has always been an area where Sorkin has thrived and there are enough well-developed characters to enjoy The Newsroom that it should be worth sticking around for another season, in spite of the drama’s problems. Honestly, even if most of the characters weren’t so carefully crafted, McAvoy is complicated and weird, and offers both a fragile side and an increasingly confident one that makes watching the Newsroom worth it just to see what antics the character will get up to each week. There’s not a lot of characters on television that deserve more than four adjectives, but McAvoy is one of them, and, like McAvoy himself, with a little work The Newsroom could shape up into a show that knows exactly what it wants and what it is capable of accomplishing.
Best Special Feature: I’ve definitely gone on and on in the past about how nice HBO’s sets are. However, for those who aren’t regular readers of this column, The Newsroom Blu-ray comes in an excellently packaged set that also offers DVD and digital copies of the The Newsroom: The Complete First Season. The set is pretty and peppered with mentions of the news network, ACN, which totally works for the series.
If you are already an avid fan of the series, you probably have caught the “Inside the Episode” segments HBO often makes available after an episode airs, as well as online. These are also packaged as part of the set, and while the audio commentaries get more in depth for each episode, the “Inside the Episode” segments offer fans a unique window into the production. Plus, they are each short, but jam-packed with information, so it isn’t hugely stressful to sit through each of them, as it can be for the audio commentaries.
Other Special Features:
Audio Commentary, Episode 1
Audio Commentary, Episode 3
Audio Commentary, Episode 4
Audio Commentary, Episode 6
Audio Commentary, Episode 10
“Mission Control: Behind the Scenes Look”
Roundtable with the cast and producers