The fans and critics devouring the first trailer for Aaron Sorkin's new HBO drama series are experiencing a bit of deja vu. (Watch the video below.) It "sounds like The West Wing plus Sports Night times Studio 60, plus swearing, because it's HBO," says Linda Holmes at NPR. Newsroom, which premieres June 24, is a behind-the-scenes look at a cable news program anchored by a fiery conservative talking head named Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels. Penned by Sorkin — the Oscar-winning scribe of The Social Network, Moneyball, The American President, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and Sports Night — Newsroom bears more than a handful of the distinctive writer's trademarks. Here, the six most "Sorkin-y" elements from the Newsroom trailer:
1. The behind-the-scenes glimpses
Sorkin loves showing us how the sausage is made, says David Haglund at Slate, and Newsroom's backstage look at the daily machinations of a cable news program is "Sorkin deja vu." Before Newsroom, there was "sporty Newsroom" with Sports Night, "jokey Newsroom" with Studio 60, and — of course — "White House Newsroom" with The West Wing.
2. The rapid-fire dialogue
The trailer shows off the "crackling dialogue" that makes all Sorkin creations "essential viewing," says Kevin Perry at GQ. The writer's penchant for rousing monologues and fiery diatribes is on shining display with Daniels' rant on why America isn't the greatest country in the world, says Kevin Yeoman at Screen Rant. When Daniels throws up his hands and bitingly guesses that the nation's best asset is Yosemite, Sorkin once again earns his reputation for writing the most memorable dialogue in TV history, says Holmes.
3. The unlikable hero
After we see Daniels throw his BlackBerry, fly off the rails at producers, and argue with everyone in his path, another character passionately defends him: "He's trying to do good! And he's risking a lot to do it!" It's yet another example of a Sorkin-esque "empathetic portrait of a not-necessarily-sympathetic character," says James Poniewozik at TIME — emblematic of his tendency to "make his characters idealized mouthpieces with certain flaws."
4. The tension between art and commercialism
Thematically, Newsroom echoes something that was at the core of Sports Night and Studio 60, says Holmes. The lead character in all three shows is "a man whose art is always being stepped on by other people's commercial considerations." The conflict seems to be one of Sorkin's biggest obsessions. Daniels' big monologue appears to be pulled directly from the opening scene of Studio 60, says Gowland, in which Judd Hirsch's character finally breaks free of his corporate shackles and unleashes an on-camera tirade.
5. The grating self-importance
One of Sorkin's biggest flaws, that "he imagines television has a much grander sort of importance than it really does," is on full display in Newsroom, says Haglund. The trailer is riddled with the "preachy, self-important elements I could never stand in The West Wing and Studio 60," says Poniewozik. Yes, says Russ Fischer at Slash Film, it's hard to shake the feeling that Daniels' McAvoy is "a political mouthpiece in search of a character."
6. The rattling off of facts
It's a delight to watch Daniels lay into a sorority girl with his argument that America isn't so great by firing off a litany of stats that he magically — and implausibly — has at the ready, says Poniewozik. That fantasy was always one of the most appealing parts of Sorkin's TV shows, as we all wish we had the ability to rattle off facts and figures to perfectly make our points.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
- Paul Ryan's anti-poverty plan is another sign of life in the GOP
Subscribe to the Week