Critics hate Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom, but it's a hit anyway
Critics loathe HBO's new TV drama about journalists, but will UK viewers listen to them?
HBO'S NEW television series, The Newsroom, has met with a string of negative reviews in the US and UK, but one of its actors, Dev Patel, claims it is suffering because the media don't like being criticised. And besides, TV viewers don't seem to be listening.
The show, written by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, depicts life in a fictional TV newsroom and debuted in the UK on Sky Atlantic last night. Following a panning in the US, UK critics were quick to round on the show, calling it clichéd and patronising.
The Daily Telegraph's Benjamin Secher calls it "an embarrassment" for a writer of Sorkin's talents. Those who disagree with Sorkin's liberal agenda will find it irritating, says Secher, and those who agree with him will find it patronising. Sorkin has described The Newsroom as "a valentine to journalism". If this is so, Secher adds, "it belongs to the long tradition of woeful mistakes made by men in love".
In The Independent, Tim Walker says The Newsroom is "a stream of familiar Sorkin tics". It depicts "how a newsroom ought to work, not how a newsroom actually works". The latter, says Walker, "might have been more interesting".
Stuart Jeffries, from The Guardian, is a little kinder, admitting there's "a lot to enjoy" in the show, including "sharp dialogue", but it is "mired in the treacly lie of American exceptionalism".
But Newsroom actor and Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel has dismissed the bad reviews as sour grapes from a news media that disapproves of its portrayal in the show. Patel, who plays blogger Neal Sampat, told BBC Radio One's Newsbeat he was prepared for controversy and criticism because of the drama's "unapologetic" nature.
"We're going after the media as an establishment and Aaron [Sorkin] is not pulling punches," said Patel. "It's controversial and it has an opinion, which makes for good television. From a viewership point of view we're doing pretty well."
Indeed, The Newsroom has been a hit for HBO. E! Online reports that while hate has been growing among US journalists, who have called it "farcical", "unwatchable" and "unhinged-from-reality", the ratings have grown too. Three episodes into its run there, The Newsroom hit a new season high on Sunday night, scoring 2.2 million fans.
Justin Timberlake is one of them, tweeting at the weekend: "HBO's 'The Newsroom' is so well crafted... Aaron Sorkin's characters are smart, neurotic, and so fun to watch. Genius moments."
It remains to be seen whether UK audiences will also ignore the critics.