I didn't miss a single episode of HBO's The Newsroom last season, but I can't remember ever having such a mixed reaction to a show. Normally I either like something enough to keep watching it, or I stop watching it, you know? Newsroom, however, fell squarely into some previously unexperienced middle ground where I greatly enjoyed parts of each episode and was profoundly irritated by others.
Which is to say I'm tentatively looking forward to the Season 2 premiere tonight. I'm personally crossing my fingers it has more of its snappy, sparkling good stuff and less of its sanctimonious ONLY OUR HEROIC ABILITY TO DELIVER MEANINGFUL RATINGS-AGNOSTIC NEWS STORIES CAN SAVE THE WORLD FROM IGNORANCE vibe.
According to what I've read from writer-producer Aaron Sorkin, however, he really doesn't care if I like it or not. He calls it his "romanticized and idealized version" of journalism -- and Season 2 sounds like he was really willing to dig deep to put together a major high-stakes story that the entire season will follow.
In Season 2, Newsroom will focus on Occupy Wall Street, the Trayvon Martin killing, and the Benghazi consulate attack. On the relationship side of things, senior producer Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) joins the Romney campaign bus to avoid his unrequited love Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill).
The main arc for the season, however, is a fictional story that the network is chasing called Operation Genoa. In order to write this in a believable manner, Sorkin called on a group of consultants with expertise in news and world events:
I kind of sent out the bat-signal that I was looking for an idea for a high-stakes lawsuit [story]. That would give me the opportunity to question the characters, and it would last the whole season long. (...) I started by asking the consultants if there was anything real that I could use as a jumping-off point, and I immediately heard back from Rick Kaplan ... and also from Jeff Greenfield, who was the anchor at CNN during a broadcast about Operation Tailwind. And Rick Kaplan was the president of CNN at the time.
Newroom's Operation Genoa is based on Operation Tailwind, the story of the U.S. Army using chemical weapons in Laos in 1970, which CNN later retracted. Two key CNN producers were fired during the fallout, and another senior producer resigned.
So that's pretty interesting to hear, right? Sorkin says he "updated and fictionalized" the story, but it certainly sounds like we can expect some major network drama to go down this season. Like, maybe we'll even be saying goodbye to some familiar faces. According to Jeff Daniels,
In the first season, we were going after the Tea Party, what has kind of divided the Republican Party. This is more about an incident that happens to us. Journalistically, we follow ... a very, very wrong path.
The focus on this one particular arc is a big change from Season 1, and I'm hopeful the story will be tighter and more compelling as a result. However, Daniels also makes it sound like we can expect more of the same frustrating one-step-forward, two-steps-back relationship progress between Will McAvoy and producer Mackenzie McHale:
They absolutely love each other and can't stand each other. Just when you think this might happen, somebody says the wrong thing and then we're in the middle of the civil war again.
Daniels does add that he's really pleased with how season 2 turned out:
I was real anxious to see what they did with it. I think it looks like we own it. It's like anything: the first season -- Aaron and everyone is really good at what they do, but it's the first time, a first draft. This is like, "OK, we know what we're doing now."
Well, if last season is any indication, I'll be watching even if I don't agree that they're owning it, such is the mysterious and maddening appeal of this show. Check out the Season 2 trailer:
Did you like Season 1 of The Newsroom? Will you be watching the premiere tonight?
Image via HBO