Sorkin's 'The Newsroom' returns to HBO

John Gallagher Jr. and Emily Mortimer are ready to report for duty as the Aaron Sorkin drama "The Newsroom" returns Sunday.
John Gallagher Jr. and Emily Mortimer are ready to report for duty as the Aaron Sorkin drama "The Newsroom" returns Sunday.
Posted: July 12, 2013

* THE NEWSROOM. 10 p.m. Sunday, HBO.

AARON SORKIN is not going to blink.

And why should he?

As "The Newsroom" returns to HBO, "The West Wing" creator's series about cable news is still the show that a year ago I called "both wonderful and terrible" - a quote that inexplicably failed to make it into any ads - and is still entertaining.

In a way that only occasionally makes me want to throw things at the screen.

Picking up 14 months after the events of the first season finale, Sunday's premiere introduces us to a $1,500-an-hour lawyer played by Marcia Gay Harden. She's taking a deposition from Atlantis Cable News anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), attempting to grill him about a debacle that for now we'll just call "Genoa," because that's what they're calling it, and, no, it doesn't really seem to have anything to do with Italy or salami or even sailing, though that doesn't stop Will from explaining that a genoa is a "kind of a jib or a foresail on a boat."

Watching a Sorkin show now, I realize his characters speak, and have always spoken, in a language that feels comfortable to me because, in the age of Google, I have trouble completing a single thought without being distracted by a half-dozen others, all demanding attention, and in some cases, fact-checking.

The nine-episode second season will involve a lot of flashbacks, so that we can be caught up not just on the Genoa thing, but also on what happened with Will and Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) after his stoned voice mail to her was intercepted, and what happened with Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) and Maggie (Alison Pill) and Don (Thomas Sadoski) after Maggie's "Sex and the City" meltdown, and, oh, yes, what happened to ACN after Will's slightly more public rant about the tea party.

It turns out that calling some members of the GOP the American Taliban on TV has consequences, though since most of those consequences illustrate his original premise, no actual harm is done to Will's world view as a Republican only Democrats could love.

Maggie doesn't get off so easily, and neither does her hair (whose transformation will serve as the marker for "before" and "after" in the premiere). She's going to spend some time in Africa on what seems like an unlikely assignment for someone at her level. Jim will also be leaving town, even less probably, to follow the not-yet-nominated Mitt Romney around the country, leaving an opening for guest star Hamish Linklater.

Grace Gummer plays another reporter on the Romney bus who may become the latest woman to mess with Jim's head, and Constance Zimmer guests as a campaign spokeswoman whose depiction isn't likely to please her real-life counterparts.

If you didn't like Sorkin's politics before, I doubt you'll be any happier with them this season.

I'm a sucker for romantic comedies, but the amount of time and effort "The Newsroom" spends keeping people apart who could just as easily be together used to irritate me, along with the way its women in love behaved, as if the inability to master technology - like email - was what made them so darned attractive.

Technology continues to be a bugbear for Sorkin (maybe that's why he was so prescient last season about the NSA stuff?), but stupidity in general seems more evenly distributed this season, which also has digital whiz Neal (Dev Patel) taking a not entirely detached interest in the beginnings of Occupy Wall Street.

All roads appear to to lead to some big payoff on the Genoa front, but it may be the journey that counts more.

Because I'm beginning to see the drama's mix of serious and silly as a metaphor, deliberate or not, for the current news universe, in which a celebrity breakup - or birth - is given the same weight in the marketplace as revelations that our government's keeping tabs on us.

At ACN, they report (and cavort). We decide which parts we care about.


Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray

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