Final 'Newsroom' premiere best left unreported

(Image courtesy of HBO) (Image courtesy of HBO)

Logic would dictate there is no better marriage than wordsmith extraordinaire Aaron Sorkin and the 24-hour news cycle.

After mastering the art of behind the scenes storytelling with politically charged "The West Wing" and the regrettably short-lived ESPN themed "Sports Night" (we'll gloss over "Studio 60"), Sorkin's dive into HBO waters appeared to instantly be event television. It was not because of the Oscar he had just received for the impeccably crafted modern masterpiece "The Social Network" or the idea of one of Hollywood's sharpest-tongued writers feeding words to a Keith Olbermann facsimile. Rather, a show like "The Newsroom" seemed necessary as a means of holding a mirror to a society whose relationship with the easily maligned cable news media had become symbiotic after the start of the Iraq War.

Read more "Newsroom" tidbits from our past coverage here.

We needed someone to call us out on our increasingly infantile, opinion-centered, hyper-partisan nonsense, if not to genuinely turn the tides then to at least to give the cultural elite something to point to as a call to arms. There was no more obvious man for the job than Aaron Sorkin, and in the show's first season, he obliged. Filtering the events of the year prior to its airing through the prism of hindsight and acerbic wit, "The Newsroom" bordered on erotic for those who needed to see Republicans, Democrats, the media who covers them and the people who vote for them sternly rebuked, while remaining sympathetic to the lattermost group.

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At first, the show's over-dependence on trite sentimentality, rehashed Sorkin plotlines and musings (also known as "Sorkinisms") and a plagiarizing reverence for James L. Brooks' "Broadcast News" were easily overlooked. Jeff Daniels, who ended up winning an Emmy for his work on the show, ranting and raving about why the U.S. is not the greatest country in the world, was too exhilarating to look away from. Every member of the supporting cast, from beloved stage actors John Gallagher, Jr. and Thomas Sadoski, to screen legends Sam Waterston and Jane Fonda, were just as electric.

The honeymoon period with "The Newsroom" came to a quick end. Not to belabor the point, but Season 2 was a genuine show-killer, drowning the show in its most egregious indulgences and turning its lone fictional news story, "Operation Genoa," into a punchline that may prove to have staying power not seen since The Fonz jumped a shark.

The fallout from this nosedive resulted in HBO ordering a truncated six-episode final season for the show, despite healthy ratings, which premiered Sunday. Hyped up as a return to form for the departing series, it is a great displeasure to report that the third season seems to have picked up where the second season left off.

The show has clearly gone back to preaching against anything and everything it can with the kind of left-leaning anger that made it so refreshing, but it is too little, too late. The show still cannot help itself from giving Neil (Dev Patel) absurd techno-babble subplots stilted by an overabundance of research into topics its creative team are not naturally inclined to know about. The personal relationships between the characters, while necessary to make the show an actual story and not irrelevant, best standards and practices manual, are still "hide under the galaxy" embarrassing.

"The Newsroom" only has five more weeks before fading into obscurity, leading up to its writer/creator surely knocking his Steve Jobs movie out of the park. Enjoy it while you can, in theory. It is easy to watch and think about how good it could be.

"The Newsroom" airs on HBO Sunday nights at 9 p.m.

Reach the reporter at zheltzel@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @zachheltzel.

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