The West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin Returns to TV with The Newsroom

Lovers of crisp and snappy dialogue rejoice! Aaron Sorkin's highly anticipated new drama The Newsroom delivers

Credit: HBO Canada

Emily Mortimer and Jeff Daniels star in the highly anticipated HBO drama The Newsroom

Aaron Sorkin returns to television with HBO’s The Newsroom

With a track record that includes The West Wing, the woefully underrated Sports Night and screenplays for feature films A Few Good Men and The Social Network (including an Oscar win for the latter), any new project from writer/producer Aaron Sorkin immediately goes to the front of my must-watch category. 

Sorkin’s latest is a worthy addition to this pantheon: The Newsroom, an HBO drama set at a fictional cable-news network, ACN. 

Sorkin takes viewers on a behind-the-camera journey through television news, as seen through the eyes of network anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), his new executive producer Mackenzie MacHale (Emily Mortimer) and loyal staff (Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel and John Gallagher, Jr.). Law & Order vet Sam Waterston plays network head Charlie Skinner, a hard-drinking old-school newsman who answers to the CEO of ACN’s parent company, Leona Lansing (Oscar-winner Jane Fonda). 

The show clearly owes a debt to Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 movie masterpiece Network, and The Newsroom treads similar ground. Mass media has evolved so much during the ensuing three decades, however, that The Newsroom goes a step further by asking an entirely new question: in this era of the 24-hour news cycle, fragmented viewership and decreasing ratings, is it possible to deliver responsible, solid journalism while still making a profit? 

It’s a provocative idea, and one that Sorkin prefers to explore on television rather than in a movie. “I love television,” Sorkin said in a recent interview with Vanity Fair. “I love putting on a show every week. I love coming to work with the same people every week. I love the immediacy of it.” 

This immediacy has allowed Sorkin to pepper The Newsroom with relevant, ripped-from-the-headlines stories such as the BP oil spill and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

“But the price you pay for all that is the ferocity of the schedule,” he added. “We have to make a one-hour movie every nine days — so I have to write a one-hour movie every nine days. You’re writing an episode, you’re shooting an episode, and one is in postproduction while another is in pre-production, casting and scouting. It becomes a little bit like a M*A*S*H unit.”

The Newsroom premieres Sunday, June 24th at 9 pm on HBO Canada.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.