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Steamed Anchor

Everybody in the broadcast booth is het-up about the state of politics in Aaron Sorkin's 'The Newsroom'



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No sound is without a scheme: the very leading lilt of Thomas Newman's piano, a thoughtful string or two, so much profundity and reflection and purpose to behold. Hardly a new ploy, that. If you're holding a candle for high truth, let go and bask in the flames.

The pilot's plot unravels with fury. While MacHale plays to McAvoy's heroic, pained ego with Don Quixote references, Harper and Sampat alight on breaking news: an oil spill off the coast of Louisiana—the infamous Deepwater Horizon explosion of 2010.

The disaster presents a opportunity for McAvoy's "finest hour," and where crickets once chirped, the studio's now full of movement and mayday appeals. They tie things up with a pristine bow, which means that thanks to not one but two family sources, Harper secures the story, positioning McAvoy as less like Jay Leno, more like Walter Cronkite.

He's back, baby! And he finally remembers his assistant's name, an unhinged blonde by the name of Margaret (Alison Pill, whose role as Zelda Fitzgerald in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris proves she's capable of total wish fulfillment). The hero rides off on his horse/donkey.

For all of this, Sorkin's been skewered by (surprise) the media in a way that he wasn't for a show like The West Wing or the doomsday prophecy that was 2010's Social Network.

The Newsroom is as overwrought and mythological, but instead of aiming his slingshot of morality at cold-blooded politicos or internet entrepreneurs, Sorkin is taking a weird slant on the news media, and they've already got enough people to do that (though they won't). This isn't the skeptical take of Paddy Chayefsky's Network either, a film Sorkin is aware of but clearly not interested in remaking.

The question isn't "What is this show about?" though there's that. It's "Who is this show about?"—and if you temporarily ignore the obviousness of seeing Sorkin's name hang a shade brighter than the show's title, you can see the other chance for humor.

In speaking with the New York Times, Keith Olbermann, the former sportsman turned progressive crank, humbly submitted himself as person of interest. It seems plausible given "Newsroom" and its similarity to an earlier Sorkin show, "Sports Night."

Still, I suspect that Will McAvoy is reminiscent of a lot of people, and maybe a handful of them have something to do with the news. He's a cynic, but also a sentimentalist. He is an idea. He exists for more than our, or Aaron Sorkin's, ego. He exists to entertain.

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