Dan Rather is reviewing HBO's The Newsroom for Gawker throughout the show's first season.
Bull's-eye. Spot on.
The second episode of HBO's The Newsroom is better—much better—than the first. And I thought the first one was terrific. This one is less given to monologues, more given to crisp, sharp dialogue and action.
In its depiction of big network television newsrooms—the people who work in them, what goes on in and around them, and in the front offices and boardrooms that control them—this show is almost eerily true to life.
The plot has now clearly developed into a battle for the soul of the anchorman, his newscast—and, indeed, for the soul of news in general.
Loved it when the executive producer, MacKenzie Hale (played by Emily Mortimer) implores her big-ratings anchorman, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), to "Be the leader. Be the moral center of the show. Be the integrity."
This echoed almost exactly what the best of the executive producers I worked with at The CBS Evening News said to me.
Other notes from my scribblings while watching:
- Talking about the youth of this newsroom (and most others), the executive producer says, "What they lack in experience they make up for…[a pause] in inexperience."
- Realistic planning meeting for a night's newscast and debates about what to cover and what the lead story should be.
- The head of the news division (played by Sam Waterson) under top corporate pressure saying, "We're going to try doing the news; I don't want content to drive ratings and demographics. (This once was the attitude of real news division presidents such as Richard Salant at CBS News in the 1960s and ‘70s, but it seems a long time ago these days.)
- A debate among newsroom personnel about how to cover new Arizona immigration laws and who is going to tell the anchorman he blew it: well done. Every anchor is an "ass" at least some of the time in some ways. This writer no exception.
- Good portrayal of young woman producer who is frequently in error but never in doubt.
- Ditto depiction of young journalists mating more often than rabbits, or at a minimum wishing to do so.
- Line in the script especially liked, "The anchorman is trying to do good and is taking a risk to do it" (after the anchor here has decided to fight for real, meaningful hard-news.)
This second installment of the series looks like a real newsroom, feels like one, sounds like one, talks like one. I'm generally reluctant to give any TV program a rave, and I'm going to stop (just) short of giving such to this one. For the moment—only two episodes in—let's leave it at "This is the best new television series of the year. And if the early quality is maintained in future installments it may prove to be a classic."
Dan Rather is anchor and managing editor of AXS TV's Dan Rather Reports (Tuesdays, 8 p.m. ET on AXS TV). You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.