While HBO's The Newsroom, from highly acclaimed TV producer and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, nabbed an impressive 2.1 million viewers for its first episode, the reviews have not been so kind. (Check out our review here). Many of the show's critics argue that The Newsroom, which is about the inner-workings of a cable news program, represents the work of Sorkin's artistic quirks (lots and lots of talking) without the inspiration or fuel for compelling television. In other words, it's preachy — very preachy.

The episode starts in the spring of 2010, with famous TV journalist Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels, pictured) speaking on a panel at a college. Clearly the objective centrist determined not to resemble either of his co-panelists (one is a conservative, the other a liberal), McAvoy fields a question from a student who wants to know why America is "the greatest country in the world."

McAvoy loses his temper a bit when the student reveals dissatisfaction with his milquetoast answers and starts to argue that America is, in fact, not the greatest country in the world but rather a country that is falling behind on literacy, policy and moral character. Then, McAvoy starts to criticize his own profession as a media man, how the time when the nation was "informed by great men, men who were revered" has long since past. Before it's over, he drops the F-bomb a time or two.

McAvoy's freak-out goes viral and then sets in motion a series of events that are suppose to reconfigure the banal status quo that so irks McAvoy. He leaves the country for some R & R, and when he returns he finds that his show, "News Night," is basically no more. The staff has fled, and his boss, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), has brought back his ex-producer and ex-girlfriend MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) to run things. Needless to say, McAvoy is not happy, despite his own view of himself: "I'm affable!" he says at one point in a shout-fight with Skinner.


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After the reconfiguration of "News Night," and the decision on McAvoy's part to become a TV journalist more worthy of respect, news of an oil rig exploding in the Gulf of Mexico strikes. This is McAvoy's big moment to nail politicians and big wigs on live television and do the kind of reportage that is necessary, as the show reminds us repeatedly, for a functioning democracy. The first episode of the series finishes off with the sense that McAvoy will be a kind of hero TV journalist, nowhere to be found in the world today, with problems and anxieties cobbled together from real TV journalists like Dan Rather and Keith Olbermann, as well as news that is ripped from actual headllines.

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