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Posts Tagged ‘Sam Waterston’

Will a TV Show About the News be More Compelling Than the Real Thing?

I admire Aaron Sorkin, but he gives me a headache. By the time his characters finish a monologue, I’m ready for a nap.

Sorkin’s latest work, “The Newsroom,” which debuts Sunday on HBO, is no exception. In the pilot’s opening scene, set at a J-school panel, cable newsman Will McAvoy delivers a breathless tirade that, while eloquent, lasts longer than most network sitcoms.

In an homage to Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network,” McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, explodes when the moderator goads him into answering a student question about why America is the greatest country on earth. It’s not, he says, and here’s why.

Citing reams of statistics that someone in his line of work could not possibly know – another Sorkin trademark — McAvoy ends on a hopeful note. The speech will change the direction of his career from a bland ‘Jay Leno’ to a take-no-prisoners anchor of the Old School, like Murrow, Cronkite and Brinkley.

Images of those very men are in “Newsroom’s” opening montage, along with those of Dan Rather and legendary producer Don Hewitt. They are Sorkin’s heroes, he says. To that end, the underlying message of “Newsroom” is that it’s not too late to create a civil, intelligent newscast they would have been proud of.

News junkies will not be able to resist this show, despite the fact that some of the plotlines are ridiculous and that Sorkin writes like he’s getting paid by the word. Programs about the TV news business are rare. The last good one, Sorkin’s “Sports Night,” ended 12 years ago.

Sorkin reportedly based “Sports Night” on Keith Olbermann, but he’s denied that Olbermann was his muse for McAvoy.

Please. McAvoy is wicked smart, totally self-involved, highly temperamental and loathed by his staff. “I’m not the easiest guy to work for,” he tells his boss, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), news division president at fictional network ACN. Skinner has a short fuse and drinks a lot.

It pains me to say this, but Waterston, one of my favorite actors, is a tad old for the role. He punches out his lines like every breath will be his last. Daniels, on the other hand, is in his element,

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Aaron Sorkin’s HBO Cable News Series To Be Called ‘Newsroom’

Exclusive: The upcoming HBO drama about cable news from “The West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin finally has a name.  TVNewser has learned that HBO is expected to call the series “Newsroom.”

Sorkin’s series follows fictional cable news anchor Will McCallister (Jeff Daniels) and his “News Night” staff at the fictional cable news channel UBS.

While in development at HBO the new project was tentatively called “More As This Story Develops.” The name “Newsroom” (or possibly “The Newsroom,” HBO hasn’t decided whether to add a “the”) is likely to remind Sorkin fans of one of his earliest TV series, the critically acclaimed but short lived ABC program “Sports Night.”

While the series is a work of fiction, it exists in a universe in which UBS competes with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, and in a world complete with ABC and NBC. According to a copy of Sorkin’s pilot script obtained by TVNewser, there are a few familiar (and very real) names mentioned in the pilot, and some of the plot points will look very familiar to avid cable news fans:

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Earth Day Programming

Rip open your recycled paper-wrapped presents and hang the CFLs, its Earth Day. And the cable channels are programming just for you.

• CNN airs a special Planet in Peril and, in recognition of Earth Day, is recycling Anderson Cooper‘s “60 Minutes” swim with great white sharks. Tonight at 11pmET on CNN. Update: Actually, it looks like “60 Minutes” recycled CNN’s idea. Cooper dove with great whites for a previous Planet in Peril in late-2008.

• CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla hosts “Beyond the Barrel: The Race to Fuel the Future” which will introduce viewers to more than a dozen potential game changing energy innovations. Tonight at 8pmET on CNBC.

• MSNBC’s Earth Day special will be hosted by Law & Order’s Sam Waterston. The fourth installment of the network’s environmental documentary series, “Future Earth: Addicted to Power,” airs tonight at 11pmET.