Monday, July 09, 2012

Laser accuracy is what was needed; flopping fish is too often what we got.

One of the first things I liked about the pilot for Aaron Sorkin's new HBO series. The Newsroom was that it had time to breathe.  Not having to fit between commercial breaks, the show can ease off of the full-speed-ahead ethos which was the trademark of Sorkin's previous shows, but now overtly risks appearing passé by sheer repetition.  

The show can still bring the fast when needed, but it doesn't have to bring nearly everything at that breakneck pace.  But perhaps I'm overly aware of that pace.  I sometimes think that maybe my judgment of Sorkin's writing is a little unbalanced.  Not because I am a fan, although I am.  I'm still well aware, I think, that not everything he does is his best work.  

No, the "problem," if indeed it is one, is that I know his stuff so well that his "tricks" sometimes stand out to me like a sore thumb (or something less cliched).

 I've been putting off writing anything here about the new show.  Why?  Well because a couple of years ago I greeted his first post-West Wing return to television, Studio 60, with celebration...and then watched with dismay as that series got worse and worse until it finally limped off the air.  So, I figured, lay low, and let this new series find its feet for a few episodes.  

Watching Sunday's third episode, I quickly came to feel that I wished the previous two had been tighter.  If those episodes plus the beginning of this one had been streamlined into one, two-hour series opening, it's conceivable we just might have had something as strong as West Wing's "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen" or "20 Hours in America."

As is, I'd be lying if I said I held The Newsroom in the regard with which I almost immediately held West Wing, or already loved it as I've come to love Sports Night.  These first few episodes, and especially the very first two, flopped around just a little bit too much trying to fill a space.   

But I'd also be lying if I said that I didn't think the series deserved what the networks used to call time to grow.  It's why I'm glad the show's already been guaranteed a second season. The material is there, the seeds.  It just needs a little more cutting, some better gardening.