It’s 3AM, so this might not be the most coherent piece of criticism.
I’m a fan of Sorkin’s work. I’m not a fan of him, but thinking an artist is an asshole shouldn’t mean you can’t enjoy their art, and finding aspects of a show problematic doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy others. I love Sports Night, for all its flaws, and I worship The West Wing. Studio 60… had a brilliant pilot but tried too hard to force politics into a show about comedy sketches, and the humour, both on and off the show-within-a-show, was weak.
The Newsroom had me hopeful - the political aspects of Sorkin’s work would be easier to integrate, and the cast included Dev Patel and Alison Pill, both of whom are great. Having watched the first episode, I’m really not sure. Most of the coverage I’ve seen has touched on Sorkin’s hilariously douchey interview with Sarah Nicole Prickett, which goes a long way to demonstrate why he’s such an ass, but frankly, there’s enough wrong with the show to provide plentiful criticism without pivoting to that. This fantastic post over on Hello, Tailor details a lot of them, and covers a lot of the ground I will - I highly recommend going to read it.
The main problem with The Newsroom is Jeff Daniel’s Will McAvoy. Sorkin’s protagonists have always had flaws, and often skirted close to being insufferable arses, but it’s gotten worse as his career has progressed, and Will McAvoy is so far from the charm of Casey McCall and Josh Lyman it’s ridiculous. Beyond an impressive ability to vamp a live news broadcast, he lacks any redeeming qualities. He belittles his staff, he refuses to acknowledge constructive criticism, he resorts to some hi-larious racism to identify his one Indian staffer. The fact that he finally manages to learn the name of his assistant is presented as some major emotional note, when clearly this is what human beings do all the time.
He speaks of the past as some glorious time when everything was better (which it arguably may have been in terms of television news, but certainly wasn’t in terms of society) but then doesn’t appear to hold himself to those values he champions. He clearly has no sense of humour about himself. There is nothing likeable about him, yet he is presented as a Great Man who will Fix The World (and of course it has to be a Man who will fix the world).
The show around Will was much better - the characters weren’t nearly as well developed as those in The West Wing, Sports Night or Studio 60… pilots, but they had potential. However, the fact that they will remain tethered to the black hole that is Will McAvoy may well render the show unwatchable. I’ll be back for the next episode, because it’s the kind of show I could enjoy, but unless the main character spends the next episode apologising for everything he did in this one, it’s going to be a tricky one to keep coming back to.