Is it possible to make a major mistake that could cost you everything? That’s part of the premise behind the 2nd season of HBO’s “The Newsroom,” which followed a group of dedicated news employees that do what it takes for a good story no matter what. The show has the potential to be great, but it also tended to get tripped up in the day-to-day character details.
“The Newsroom” followed a once respected news anchor named Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) who spoke his piece on-camera, but he secretly wanted to be liked by the viewers when the cameras stopped rolling. He started reading the internet posts that bashed him after each “News Night” broadcast when he should’ve trusted his instincts. MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) helped to run “News Night” behind the scenes, while she tried to keep her ex-boyfriend from falling to pieces in front of the camera. Luckily, the constantly bickering former lovers had their boss Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) to lean on when things got to be too much. Charlie was able to keep his staff in check and kept the higher ups from firing Will at any given moment. Unfortunately, the love triangle between Margaret “Maggie” Jordan (Alison Pill), Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) and Jim Harper (John Gallagher, Jr.) ended up imploding under the weight of a surprise internet video. Maggie and Jim will be taking different news assignments that will change their lives for better or worse. Don has also managed to develop a bond with financial reporter Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) that could turn into something more down the line. Will the struggling news show be able to survive another possible scandal that could end multiple careers?
In terms of questions, the show has managed to pose a few, but the biggest one would whether it could survive splitting up the cast. Despite its flaws, the show’s first season worked for the most part based on the cast’s credible rapport. The only blessing of this potential risk would be a wise break from the love triangle between Maggie and her fellow colleagues. The story took up way too much time in season one and it has also become a distraction for the first two episodes as well. The show needs to give the rest of the cast more to do than being mere background players. Munn’s Sloane provided some major comic relief as the somewhat cold Sloane tried to relate to people. which always ended up in disaster. In the second episode, she tried to help Maggie fix a problem involving the online video, but she only made matters much worse instead. Munn also had a decent chemistry with Sadoski that could turn into something more for their characters, or just be the makings of a perfect on-screen friendship. It works either way in the end. Hopefully, Munn will get the chance to flesh Sloane out a little bit more. The show would also be wise to make Jane Fonda’s Leona Lansing a more permanent fixture, because she helped to keep viewers on their toes. It also helped that Fonda and Waterston had a strong chemistry that should be explored at some point in the season, especially if the possibility of a third season could be up in the air.
As for breakout performances, Daniels and Mortimer led the pack as their characters verbally sparred like a married couple to get the job done. It was a welcome relief for the show to put aside a possible reunion between Will and MacKenzie for the time being to allow viewers to focus on the news side of the show. Daniels had the more challenging task of making a potentially unlikable charcter somewhat human to viewers. Despite the character’s arrogant bravado, Daniels made Will someone who was looking for acceptance in all of the wrong places. He excelled best in Will’s quieter moments as he reflected on the past and the mistakes he had made. Daniels gave a fairly subtle performance that will likely get overlooked come awards season, but it made viewers see the actor in a different light. Mortimer, on the other hand, had an equally challenging task of finding a balance between playing a career woman and having a personal life. Luckily, this season’s early episodes has focused more on MacKenzie’s career than her complicated love life. Mortimer’s character will be the one that drives most of the main story, which involved an unexpected lawsuit over a questionable story that she likely authorized. Future episodes will give Mortimer more of a chance to shine as the scandal unfolds. Only time will tell if this story will give the show an opportunity to get to season three, or find a way to tie up any unfinished stories. Viewers will have to tune into find out.
“The Newsroom” premiered on July 14th and airs Sundays at 10:00 PM on HBO.
Verdict: The early episodes have indicated that the cast was headed towards major trouble down the road, but it’s unclear whether it’s the beginning or the end. Viewers might get distracted by the conflicting past and the present stories; unless Sorkin’s writing helped to separate the two sooner rather than later.
TV Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)