"The Newsroom" caught a lot of flack during its first season. Critics called it sexist, unrealistic and found fault in every corner of Aaron Sorkin's fantasy of behind-the-scenes life at a TV cable news channel.
But the lights will be back on at Newsnight this Sunday, and before audiences or critics open fire on Sorkin's latest work, I'd like to take the time to point out what was actually great about Season 1.
In the pilot episode of "The Newsroom," Will McCavoy (Jeff Daniels) unleashed an insane tirade on an unassuming 20-year-old college student about America's faults, and it was great. And how about that time he ate a couple pot cookies on what turned out to be the day the U.S. Navy SEALs killed Bin Laden?
Every time Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) and MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) interact, it's delightful, and Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) and Maggie (Allison Pill) have a bunch of awkward conversations full of physical comedy, like when Maggie almost gave Jim a concussion with a glass door. And I'm only citing a few incidents here!
The characters are lovable.
Say what you will about how quickly Sorkin launched us into a series of love triangles, but we can't help rooting for the characters and their love lives. Of course we want MacKenzie and Will to find a happy ending to their tragic love story, and Jim and Maggie are so naive, cute and unassuming.
Then there's Sloan. She's got the looks and the brains, just not the social skills. Though she's stubborn to a fault, she's also strangely likable and has this unexpectedly adorable will-they-won't-they thing going on with Don (Thomas Sadoski).
And for all his not-so-nice moments, how touching was it when we learned Will's backstory during a tough love therapy session? His father was abusive, and he had to defend his entire family against him starting in fifth grade. And for God's sake, MacKenzie was cheating on him for four months while he was getting ready to propose. Move over Don Draper and Walter White -- Will McAvoy has all the ingredients for the next big antihero.
"The Newsroom" is a lot things, but boring isn't one of them. It's fast-paced and jam-packed with news events and a whole lot of drama. For all you binge-watchers out there, I dare you to only watch one episode at a time.
That all being said, there are a few tweaks I would make going into Season 2 of "The Newsroom" ...
Let's have the female characters flip out a little less.
It would be great to get through an episode of "The Newsroom" without cringing because a woman is sending an incriminating mass email (MacKenzie), begging for a Xanax (Maggie), getting overly invested in a new relationship (Maggie's roommate) or having an impossibly difficult time communicating effectively with other humans (Sloan).
Many women are actually very smart and efficient, and the sooner TV portrays them that way the better.
Must we use facts?
Sorkin made up an entire administration for "The West Wing" and it made for seven years of glorious TV. People are still binge-watching it on Netflix seven years after it ended, and because it didn't chronicle actual events, it served as a great work of (well-informed and timeless) fiction.
The debt-ceiling crisis, Gabrielle Giffords' shooting and death of Osama Bin Laden were interesting through the eyes of Sorkin, but they also dragged on and came off as too dramatic and unrealistic. Would it be so wrong for Sorkin to rewind to his "West Wing" days and consider inventing his own news stories?
Tone it down.
It's no secret that Sorkin likes his scenes full of fast dialogue, but often times, the characters of "The Newsroom" are talking at each other if they're not flat-out screaming. Since slowing it down isn't an option in Sorkin's world, toning it down may be the key to saving "The Newsroom." Less yelling, more doing!
Season 2 of "The Newsroom" will premiere on Sunday, July 14 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.