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The Newsroom’s maiden season recently finished on Sky Atlantic, showing that Aaron Sorkin is back at his best.  The West Wing, renowned as one of the best television shows of recent years was a huge hit, and of the first four seasons, Sorkin wrote eighty-seven of eighty-eight episodes, garnering himself and the show numerous awards in the process.

His next offering, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was initially met with much encouragement, but soon became a little too “Sorkin-esque”: that is, it was regarded by critics as too well written, with a script more complex than it needed to be, which alienated some viewers, who felt what they were watching was too intelligent to keep up with.  Many – myself included – felt it bordered on pretentious at times, which takes nothing away from Sorkin’s skill and vision, but suggests he and his writing were at times too intricate for the core audience the show was aimed at.

Sorkin went on to write the script for Oscar nominated David Fincher movie, The Social Network.

With The Newsroom however, Sorkin returns to television this time on HBO instead of NBC.  I have always been one to rave about HBO – the scripting, the acting and the production values outclass much of what is and has been on television for quite some time.  Together, Sorkin and HBO seem a perfect fit.  Renowned as classy, intelligent viewing, HBO offers Sorkin’s work to an expectant fanbase who know their calibre of television is likely to be top notch.

The huge success of shows such as The Sopranos, The Wire, and Deadwood have created opportunities for new series such as Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire to flourish, winning numerous prizes at award ceremonies over the past couple of years – and now The Newsroom looks to muscle in on the action.

The dialogue is first class, as is always the case with Sorkin, but unlike the short lived Studio 60 – it lasted only one season – The Newsroom has panache, and more originality about it to engage viewers.  The cast is excellent, from Jeff Daniels, to Emily Mortimer, as well as Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel, with all playing their roles in sublime fashion.

That said, while there seems to be no limit to Sorkin’s writing ability and intellect, there are parts of The Newsroom’s first season that seem a little too soap opera-esque.  Though this may be the only flaw, as far as I am concerned.  Of course, whilst the idea as a whole is a fairly original one, there are still some clichés: the “office romance” and the “pining protagonist” are present, but then again one has to consider the familiar narrative devices writers must deploy in order to keep audiences and critics interested.  Many say that after Sorkin departed The West Wing the show dipped in quality, and these later seasons are evidence of the effect writers have on television shows.

The Newsroom’s excellent first episode shows everything a quality HBO programme tends to do, but what sets it apart is Aaron Sorkin’s influence.  The first scene has all the signs of Sorkin and Jeff Daniels at their best too.  The subsequent episodes follow suit, elevating The Newsroom to a standard not dissimilar at times to the excellent West Wing, though perhaps without so many likeable characters.  The season is made up of ten episodes, and they are all engaging hours of television.  Whilst in the middle the quality is not as high as the first few episodes, the series culminates in a magnificent finale, which has, in my opinion (apart from the notable episodes of The West Wing, some of which won Emmy Awards) got to be up there with some of his best work.

The Newsroom for me is a hit.  There are far more positives than negatives, and HBO and Sorkin seem a match made in heaven, at least as far as this huge fan of both is concerned.  The thing is though, even if you aren’t a Sorkin fan or have never heard of him, you should take in the show.  At its best, it is some of the best television you are likely to see this year.

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