A Very Brief Summary (Covering all of Season One)
The show starts out with the on-air anchor, Will McAvoy, stating his real opinions at a Town Hall-style Q&A at Northwestern, landing him in the public profile more so than he would like. Three weeks later, he comes back to work to find that his Executive Producer has quit—as well as most of his production staff—and his new “E.P.” is his former girlfriend, MacKenzie “Mac” McHale. The first night of production is about the B.P. oil spill in the Gulf, while the newest Associate Producer, Maggie Jordan, becomes the unknown affection of Mac’s number one guy, Jim Harper.
Throughout the series, the show gives a look at some of the most memorable moments of 2010-2011, while also focusing on the changes that Will and his show have taken in how he reports the news. No longer caring about how the show is perceived by the corporate and political spheres, Will and his team focus on responsible reporting and covering all sides (within reason) to a story. Later on, his new change brings about some inside division amongst the top leadership of the company, in which the major higher-ups want to cut him off at the knees, while his direct superiors are trying to back him up.
The Sorkin Formula
As I stated before, I’m a fan of Aaron Sorkin, and I’ve seen all of his works (that I’m aware of, at least), but while I am a fan of his, I have come to discover that he has a formula that he tends to use with regard to his television shows, and this one’s no exception.
Behind-The-Scenes: He seems to love to give a look of things behind the scenes and how they function, the little problems that can turn into huge problems with the potential to derail the main events. Most of the time, the characters are able to solve the situation in some fashion, but not completely.
Romantic Entanglements: There always seems to be at least one case of romantic tension among the characters, though in this case, there are several. Mac and Will have their former romantic relationship, while Maggie is being pursued by Jim and Dan, who in turn are being pursued by Lisa and Sloane (respectively). It makes for some interesting situations but is also really annoying to see when there are some other things going on that I much rather would know about.
Sending a Message: There’s always an idea in my head that Sorkin is using his powers of creator and writer (and in some cases executive producer) to get across his own personal message concerning something—usually in a socio-political fashion—that has a huge impact on the show’s premise and workings. I’m all for using your talents to give an opinion on subjects—I do it some of my articles, after all—but I don’t always want what I watch to be about politics and economic issues. I enjoy some politics, but it does not need to be pervasive in my entertainment.
Characterization: Sorkin seems to recycle the same type of characters throughout his shows, sometimes even the same dialogue between them—and in some cases, the same actors (though not so far for this show). It seems to be very easy to spot who portrays whom from each show, and to me it seems to lack imagination on his part.
It is a decent enough show that has personal and political intrigue involved and wraps itself around some of the more memorable moments of recent news history, but I wouldn’t consider it something you have to see in order to be “cool” or “in-the-know.” As someone who has seen Sorkin’s other works, I feel as though I’ve already seen this show in reruns—more than once—and have pretty accurately predicted what’s happened with characters and intra-office politics. The fact that it is on HBO and is given a pretty decent operating budget, the set designs and effects are spectacular, but even those don’t make a story worth watching. So, if you’ve seen Sports Night, The West Wing, or Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, then you really don’t need to watch this show—except to see Jeff Daniels rant about politics and news.