With the possible exception of Smash, The Newsroom was probably the most maligned TV series of 2012. Aaron Sorkin’s return to TV, according to most critics and many watchers, was a huge disappointment, falling victim to all of its creator’s worst tendencies as a writer and leaving out a lot of his best.
There was the smugness, the knee-jerk elitist liberalism, the condescension to female characters, the complete failure to understand anything about the Internet or technology, and the treatment of most characters as truth-speaking heroes, when they mostly came across as jerks. Then there were the asinine love triangles, the incongruously mean-spirited shots at Sex and the City, and numerous other misdeeds.
But while Smash adjusted itself in its second season by firing its showrunner and becoming both less objectionable and deathly boring The Newsroom has shown some honest-to-god improvement in Season 2. Not that the problems are all gone, of course, but they have been minimized.
The biggest change has been, rather than focusing entirely on the NewsNight crew re-reporting real-life stories from two years ago and correcting most of the mistakes made by reporters in real life, Season 2 has focused on the bizarre foul-up of the “Operation Genoa” story, a network news expose based loosely on the Tailwind scandal that engulfed CNN in the late ’90s.
Not only was it a fascinating storyline, but because it’s fictional we didn’t quite know where it was headed, and it was actually told very well, especially in the most recent episode. Ratings don’t appear to have fallen off- they actually increased with the second season premiere- so you’d think the show would be a shoo-in for a third season, right?
Maybe not. HBO in recent years has often renewed its shows quickly- each of the three Game of Thrones seasons to date has been renewed the morning after the first episode- but that hasn’t happened yet for The Newsroom. (NOTE: Minutes after this story went up, Deadline reported, based on a tweet from Jeff Daniels, that The Newsroom has in fact received a third season.)
A Buzzfeed report over the holiday weekend quoted Sorkin as saying he’s been offered a third season but hasn’t said yes yet, while an HBO is quoted as saying the two sides are in “negotiations.” Sorkin has also indicated in past interviews that he’s both short on ideas and eager to work on film projects, including both his adaptation of the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, and a movie about disgraced politician John Edwards. If there is a third season, expect Sorkin to invent a character, based on Buzzfeed TV reporter Kate Aurthur, who’s constantly nosing around whether or not NewsNight is getting cancelled.
The Newsroom is still far from perfect, and anti-Newsroom snark remains a lot of fun- political journalist Dave Weigel’s hostile weekly recaps at Slate have been a delight all season- but I know I’m rooting for a third season. Just so I can hear Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston argue about whether we should invade Syria.