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The Newsroom: The Complete Second
HBO Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/4/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/11/2014
I've been known to dabble in screenwriting and I can tell you that writing a feature film screenplay is quite a challenge. It's not easy to craft a coherent story (should that be your goal), make believable characters, and avoid plot-holes. Therefore, I truly admire those who write serials, such as television shows or comic books. Writing one story is hard enough, but writing story-after-story seems like a daunting task. That's why I admire writers like Aaron Sorkin, who is considered one of the best in the biz when it comes to sculpting TV shows. And his talent continues to shine in The Newsroom: The Complete Second Season.
Season Two of The Newsroom goes with aDamages approach by opening with the aftermath of a powerful event and then jumping back and forth through time. On the surface, much of the story continues from its roots in Season One. Main newscaster Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) continues to ruffle feathers, especially those of his producer/love interest, MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer). Producer Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski), still reeling from his breakup with Maggie Jordan (Alison Pil), finds himself attracted to financial reporter Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn). Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), the head of the ACN news division, simply tries to keep everyone in line.
The real drama begins when producer Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater) gets a tip about the Marines using Sarin gas in Afghanistan in an offensive which killed civilians. There is some skepticism about pursuing the story, but Dantana's source seems airtight, so interviews are done and stories are aired. Suddenly, Will and Charlie find themselves meeting with corporate attorney Rebecca Halliday (Marcia Gay Harden) to defends themselves against allegations of manufacturing a story. Meanwhile, Maggie has traveled to Africa and witnesses first-hand how the unrest there affects innocent children. While all of this is going on, the team must deal with the 2012 elections.
In my review for Season One of The Newsroom, I wrote about how the stories were "ripped from the headlines". This clearly continues in Season Two as the main plot is clearly influenced by the 1998 Time Magazine story (which was also reported by CNN) which stated that sarin had been used in Vietnam and the more recent 2004 60 Minutes story in which Dan Rather reported having documents concerning George W. Bush which were later debunked. With The Newsroom, we have a story concerning the military in which the ACN crew is forced to furiously back-pedal when the story is challenged. This combines a need to have a big story and get good ratings, along with a desire to expose wrongdoing when it occurs, along with one man's petty desires to best his peers.
Let's face it, reading that you realize that there is a huge potential for this material to be dry and boring. Sorkin avoids this by doing two things very well. First of all, he has created characters which crackle and pop with life and energy. While they are stereotypes in some ways, each is individualized and, more importantly, everyone has their strengths and faults. For the most part, there are no heroes and villains here -- Everyone has their good days and bad days, and they all have victories and they all make mistakes. This makes the show very engaging and even though these aren't like people which most of us know in real life, they are very relatable. Secondly, there is a lot of humor in The Newsroom. While the stories deal with very serious, often deadly serious, topics, the human element of the series brings in some nice laughs. We all know that humor can arise in the worst of situations and Sorkin does a great job of highlighting this.
If you were to describe The Newsroom to me, it wouldn't sound like my kind of show. Therefore, I'm very glad that I gave it a shot, as it's one of my favorites (and I'll be very sad to see it end after three seasons). The ingenious idea that the show is set in the near past and focuses on real-life events which we clearly remember makes the serious material very accessible. Add in the characters and the humor and you have a highbrow drama which can be enjoyed by nearly everyone.
The Newsroom: The Complete Second Season makes you wonder if that really is two month's salary on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment. The 3-Disc set contains all ten episodes from the show's second season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look natural and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the depth is acceptable. This rivals HD broadcast quality. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As this is a dialogue-driven drama, most of the audio comes from the center and front channels. The Africa sequences do provide some nice surround sound and subwoofer.
The Newsroom: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Disc has a few extras spread over the three Discs. There is an "Inside the Episode" entry for each episode. These 2-3 minute shorts give an overview of the plot and theme of each show. Disc One kicks off with an AUDIO COMMENTARY for the episode "First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers" with Aaron Sorkin, Jeff Daniels, Sam Waterston, and Executive Producer/Director Alan Poul. There is one DELETED SCENE on Disc 1. The lone extra on Disc 2 is an AUDIO COMMENTARY on "News Night with Will McAvoy" with Daniels, Emily Mortimer, and Poul. Disc 3 has two AUDIO COMMENTARIES -- "Red Team III" has Mortimer, Thomas Sadoski, Hamish Linklater, Poul, and Director Anthony Hemingway; "Election Night, Part II" features Sorkin, Daneil, Olivia Munn, Constance Zimmer, and Poul. This Disc also has one DELETED SCENE.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long