TV: The Newsroom (Season 2)

The Newsroom┬áis compulsively watchable; it’s one of the few shows I can keep up with in real time. Season two just wrapped, and I quite enjoyed it, despite a general sense that it’s not really a great show, so much as an earnest and polished one that gets by on the strength of its funny, speedy Aaron Sorkin dialogue.

The major arc this year depicts the crew of ACN pursuing a highly controversial story: a report that the US military deployed sarin gas during an extraction operation. But the details of this very problematic plot aren’t nearly as important as how it peels away at the team’s defenses, and forces them to confront and question their professional abilities and personal integrity. It makes for some gripping interactions, blazingly performed by the talented cast. And yet, weirdly, it feels a little disposable, too, which I think might be a cynical response to its workplace backdrop. This is a show that tries to champion journalism in the era of the 24-hour news cycle, and even when Sorkin is getting his better rants on, it’s never entirely credible.

Still, season two rights some of season one’s wrongs. It tones down the leftist sanctimony a little, and it smartens the silly romantic entanglements. I found it a particularly good year for Sam Waterston and Thomas Sadoski, whose jerky Don Keefer is rehabilitated by this season’s events. It also adds a feisty, smartly cast Constance Zimmer to the mix, which is always good. On the other hand, its female characters still generally play second fiddle to men in the Noble Awesomeness department. The way the main plotline unfolds has severe credibility issues, and the team’s constant fuck-ups continue to undermine Sorkin’s mission to depict this gang as a special, earnest, professional super-team.

But it’s easy to blaze past the flaws and fumbles this season. It continues to talk about important stuff in funny ways, and the submerged idealist in me respects the, to me, fantastic concept that somewhere there exists a group of people, working together, who both love what they do and think it’s important. I want to go to there.

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