HBO's "The Newsroom"

THE FIRST EPISODE is brilliant, Aaron Sorkin at his finest. HBO has uploaded the entire episode on YouTube, though it’s non-embeddable, so watch it while it lasts.

Jeff Daniels reminds me of the image of Keith Olbermann when he last left Current TV, in the wake of MSNBC. The Daniel’s character, Will McAvoy, this lumbering, over-sized ego and talent trying to fit himself inside the television, though McAvoy has gravitas that Olbermann only dreamed about and copied through borrowing Edward R. Murrow’s sign off, but never replicated, because he couldn’t shed his partisanship.

Nobody can play it straight anymore. It’s what is so depressing about cable news and where it leaves the American people. Will McAvoy says it perfectly in the first episode, everyone now has their own facts. That’s the truest statement about our political journalism today and it will be the ruination of this country if it continues. There’s no end in sight this year.

Segue to Dan Rather’s review:

There is a battle for the soul of the craft that goes on daily now in virtually every newsroom in the country. It’s a fight that matters, not just for journalists but for the country. It centers on whether news reporting is to be considered and practiced”“to any significant degree, even a little”“as a public service, in the public interest ,or is to exsist solely as just another money-making operation for owners of news outlets.

As the Newsroom character MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) says, in challenging the anchorman Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) to be a crusader for quality journalism, “There is nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate. When there is no information or, much worse, wrong information, it can lead to calamitous decisions that clobber any attempts at vigorous debate.”

This is the battle being lost in almost every newsroom, in every place around the world. Ratings (or circulation), demographics, and profits rule. Any talk of the public interest or of doing quality journalism of integrity with guts is considered passé.

Sorkin and his team deserve full praise for bringing the issue to the screen and to a mass audience, and for doing it in an interesting and entertaining way.

If Mr. Sorkin can keep up what he and his team have begun in the first episode it’s going to be quite a ride. As for Jeff Daniels, it’s the role of his life and he’s mindful of not chewing the scenery, an old acting term, but he tears through the script and in the first episode at least, delivers a tour de force performance that has me crossing my fingers. The rest of the cast is also first rate.

Watch it.

The New Yorker and the New York Times get it wrong.