That's how I would measure the hiatus of Aaron Sorkin from television. The mastermind behind Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is back on HBO with The Newsroom, a new drama following Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and the rest of his news team at the fictional Atlantis Cable News Network.
I delayed writing about the show until now for one main reason: I didn't want to jump the gun based solely on one or two episodes. Now four in, I simply cannot help myself: this show is brilliant. The way the show integrates a fictional news team into real life events is, thus far, seamlessly done. The cast, led by Daniels but also includes Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr, Dev Patel, Sam Waterston and (occasionally) Jane Fonda, bring to life expertly crafted characters that, by the end of the pilot, I was already highly invested in. Daniels' McAvoy is just the right amount of tortured asshole you can love and root for, and this last episode proved it. His celebration, mid-show, after deciding not to pronounce Gabriel Giffords' as DOA at the hospital transferred through the screen and directly to my heart, and I was punching the air with delight right along with him. Aside from individual performances, this group make a brilliant team; both as a news crew and as an acting ensemble. From an acting and directing perspective, you can tell they all get each other and are absolutely grounded in the same realm. This may sound strange, but you can see the same type of cast chemistry in The Office those people are a family both on and off set, and you can feel that when either of these shows end it will be a very sad day at that studio...and that feeling is perhaps the keystone to this show.
By depicting actual events (BP oil spill, 2010 congressional election, Gabriel Giffords' shooting) help the audience to immediately sink into the drama of the moment, partially because we have already been there. It is also not all news drama. As with all Sorkin's work, there are relationship storylines built in that help to drive the main plot forward. In this case, they were introduced in the very first episode...which worried me. I thought they may become a little overbearing (which they did, to an extent, become in Studio 60) but much to my delight, I was proven wrong. Thus far the relationship storylines have been done with nothing but class, and careful planning.
But points also have to be given to HBO. Very rarely does the network debut a true-to-form 'dud'. Hung is the only thing that comes close, but even that didn't start going down the tubes until its' second season. As a mini-series, the first season was great. People often complain about the networks prices, but, at least you know you'll be getting what you pay for.
Anyway, just a quick blurb about some truly great television; there isn't a lot of it left, so I always try to honor the examples I come across.
But don't take my word for it: HBO was kind enough to put the whole pilot on YouTube, so please...enjoy. It can't be embedded...but the link is below.