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Featured TV on DVD Review: The Newsroom: The Complete First Season

June 11th, 2013

The Newsroom: The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

The Newsroom was one of three new shows to debut on HBO last year, and the only drama. It was created by Aaron Sorkin, who has won countless awards including an Oscar, a Golden Globe, numerous Prime Time Emmys, WGAs, PGAs, etc. Needless to say, it had high expectations associated with it. Can it live up to those expectations? Will it appeal to fans of Aaron Sorkin? Will it only appeal to fans of Aaron Sorkin?

The Show

The series begins with Will McAvoy, a news anchor on ACN, who is on a panel at Northwestern University. He represents the straight news, as he's a news anchor, while there's a Republican / Conservative and a Democrat / Liberal arguing about political sides. After a young student there asks what makes the United States the greatest nation on the Earth, the liberal and the conservative give trite answers. At first Will tries to dodge the answer, but when he thinks he sees a woman in the audience he knows, he tells her and everyone there that the United States isn't the greatest nation on the Earth. He makes a very compelling argument backing up this claim and then ends that the United States isn't the greatest nation on the Earth, but it has the potential to do so. Needless to say, this causes a huge backlash.

We flash forward a few weeks and Will is returning to work after a vacation. It takes a bit to notice, but the vast majority of his crew isn't there. When he talks to his boss, Charlie Skinner, he explains Elliot Hirsch is taking over the 10:00 news. That's good news, as Will has been pushing for Elliot to get a promotion. However, Don Keefer, Will's Executive Producer, is going with him, and he's taking most of his crew. There are a few staying behind, like Maggie Jordan, who started out as an intern but was promoted to Will's personal assistant, when Will mistook her for his personal assistant. Worse still for Will, replacing Don is MacKenzie "Mac" McHale, his ex-girlfriend. He's so determined not to work under his ex that Will renegotiates his contract just to get the right to fire her whenever he wants. She is able to convince Will to take the show in a new direction. Instead of trying to be as inoffensive as possible, she wants to news to do what it was supposed to do: Inform the voters.

In the second episode, we are introduced to a couple of new characters. First is Sloan Sabbith, a woman with a Ph.D. in economics. She also has amazing legs. It's these two factors that go into Mac's decision to hire her for a nightly segment. Mac wants to teach people about economics, but she knows she has to get people to pay attention first. The second introduced is Reese Lansing, the president of ACN. He only cares about the ratings numbers and this puts him at odds of the new direction the show is going in. Normally this would be a problem, but it is much, much worse, as he's the son of the CEO Atlantis World Media, the parent company of ACN, Leona Lansing. When Will goes after people in power, he starts going after people Leona has to do business with. Leona first warns Charlie to rein in Will, but when he refuses, she uses the power of AWM to discredit Will so she can fire him.

That's the main thread that travels through the show. There are two other main aspects of the show, both of which involve too many spoilers. First of all, the show takes place two years in the past, more or less, so the news stories that are covered are the real deal, not the creation of the writers. Since they are real, if you've been paying attention to the news over the past three years, you won't be surprised by how the stories play out once they are introduced on the show, but I don't want to spoil them. Secondly, there are a lot of interpersonal relationships to deal with. When the series starts, Maggie is in a relationship with Don. However, in the first episode, she's introduced to Mac's assistant, Jim, there's an instant connection. This isn't the only relationship that comes up during the season.

In my opinion, The Newsroom isn't the best scripted show on HBO. The Game of Thrones is the best scripted show on HBO. The Newsroom is the second best. It deals with a subject I love. I'm a political junkie and have been since I discovered Spitting Image when I was a child. I don't think that show was aimed at 10-year olds, but it was a puppet show and even though most of the political jokes went over my head, I still watched it. In fact, it made me pay attention to the news, so I could learn more and get the jokes that went past me the first time around. I mention this so you know the kind of insanity I have, which might cloud my opinion of the TV series. That said, even those who are not dealing with a news addiction should like The Newsroom. There are plenty of aspects of the show that will draw you in.

First and foremost is the writing. It is an Aaron Sorkin and it does have his fingerprints all over it. If you love his writing style, you will love this show, as it is clear from the big picture stories right down to the banter that this is his show. That said, his writing does have a certain style and if you don't like it, it can be a little much. The acting is terrific from the main cast, as well as supporting characters, and even the guest appearances. Case in point, Terry Crews has a recurring guest role as a bodyguard and he and Jeff Daniels have great chemistry together. Finally, the stories the show tells are incredibly important. If only the real news networks cared more about educating viewers than getting ratings.

The Extras

There are lots of extras spread throughout the four-disc set. Disc one has an audio commentary track on the pilot, a short featurette for both episodes, and a deleted scene. Disc two has two audio commentary tracks, as well as similar featurettes for each episode, and another deleted scene. Disc three has an audio commentary track on one episode and and more episode specific featurettes. The final disc has an audio commentary track, more featurettes for the episodes, and three deleted scenes. There is also a five-minute season one overview. Finally, there's a 25-minute long roundtable with the cast and some of the creators. This is an excellent selection of extras.

The technical presentation is as good as you could ask for with a release like this. It is TV on DVD and not a particularly visually stimulating show, so this isn't something you are going to want to use to show off your TV, but there are also no significant problems to complain about. (At least this is true after the pilot, which wasn't shot digitally.) The level of details is good, the colors are great, the blacks are deep, although there is some crushing there. The audio is clear, but mostly uncomplicated. There's not a lot of activity in the surround sound speakers, nor is the bass given a workout. Still, it is good for this type of release.

The Blu-ray costs just $5 or 15% more than the DVD. This is an amazing deal, especially since it comes with a copy on DVD, albeit on flipper discs.

The Verdict

The Newsroom: is one of the best new shows from last season. It is worth checking out, especially if you are a news junkie. The DVD has enough extras that it is worth picking up, but the Blu-ray Combo Pack is the better deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Terry Crews, Jeff Daniels, Jane Fonda, David Harbour, Chris Messina, Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Sam Waterston, John Gallagher, Jr., Aaron Sorkin, Olivia Munn