After taking us behind the scenes of the White House with The West Wing and behind the scenes of a TV show with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Aaron Sorkin explored both politics and showbiz with The Newsroom, the HBO drama that premiered 10 years ago, on June 24, 2012.
Jeff Daniels earned an Emmy Award for his performance as Will McAvoy, the anchor of the News Night program on Atlantis Cable News network, and a man perennially on the verge of a preachy breakdown.
Meanwhile, Emily Mortimer played MacKenzie McHale, Will’s ex-turned-executive producer, and Sam Waterston played Charlie Skinner, president of ACN. Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, and John Gallagher Jr. rounded out the cast, playing ACN staffers.
To celebrate the show’s 10th anniversary, we’re highlighting the top 10 episodes of the series, as chosen by IMDb users, with representative reviews from that site singing these episodes’ praises.
10. Season 3, Episode 1: “Boston”
The future of News Night is at stake as the team deals with a loss of viewer trust, Will’s announced resignation, and a hostile takeover of AWM, all while reporting on the Boston Marathon bombing. “I love to see how they all come together as a family to fight each other’s battles,” an IMDb user writes in a review.
9. Season 1, Episode 10: “The Greater Fool”
A hospitalized Will chances upon a headlining story about voters rights for News Night, Charlie learns tragic news about his NSA whistleblower, and Will, Mac, and Charlie have a showdown with mother-and-son Atlantis World Media executives Leona (Jane Fonda) and Reese (Chris Messina). “TV doesn’t get better than this,” a user writes on IMDb.
8. Season 1, Episode 4: “I’ll Try to Fix You”
A disastrous encounter with gossip columnist Nina Howard (Hope Davis) at a New Year’s Eve party makes Will the news story du jour for the tabloid press. On IMDb, a user writes that this episode’s final 10 minutes, which deals with the real-life assassination attempt against former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, “was probably the best sequence that I have ever watched in any TV series.”
7. Season 1, Episode 1: “We Just Decided To”
The Newsroom’s series premiere introduces Will as a disillusioned TV anchor reimagining his show News Night with the help of his new producer — who happens to be his ex Mackenzie — as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill unfolds in the background. “Perhaps the best opening episode/pilot to a series I’ve ever seen,” one IMDb user says. “It grabs you from the start, and 71 minutes later, you’re left to revisit the room you’re sitting in.”
6. Season 2, Episode 9: “Election Night: Part II”
On the night of the 2012 presidential election, Will defends his Republican politics (while distancing himself from hateful members of the party) and then pops the question to Mac. “I was never one for politics, love stories, or drama, but Aaron Sorkin has found a way to entertain me while educating me on many political things I never knew I cared about,” a reviewer writes.
5. Season 3, Episode 2: “Run”
As Charlie and Leona continue dealing with a hostile takeover from within their own family, Will helps Neal (Dev Patel) handle his case of unwitting espionage. On IMDb, votes from more than 1,400 users give this episode a weighed average rating of 9.0/10.
4. Season 3, Episode 4: “Contempt”
As Will continues to handle the fallout from the espionage case, Charlie butts head with Lucas Pruit (B.J. Novak), ACN’s new buyer. “While fully sympathetic with Will and the rest of the ACN crew, any intelligent viewer has got to feel ambivalent as well,” an IMDb reviewer writes. “This is about the clash of conflicting principles and moral imperatives, the conflict between the First Amendment and national security.”
3. Season 2, Episode 7: “Red Team III”
Rebecca Halliday (Marcia Gay Harden), AWM’s lawyer, gets to the bottom of how the News Night team erroneously reported that the U.S. military used sarin gas on civilians. “Anyone who can watch this episode without admiring Sorkin is beyond my comprehension,” one fan raves on IMDb. “And the acting and direction live up to his vision. Truly superb.”
2. Season 3, Episode 6: “What Kind of Day Has It Been”
In The Newsroom’s series finale, the ACN crew convene to mourn Charlie — more on his demise below — while Leona has Mac take over his job as network president. “This episode hit all the right notes but lacked the emotional punch of Episode 5, because to match that, Sorkin would actually have to come to your home and wallop you in person,” an IMDb user writes.
1. Season 3, Episode 5: “Oh Shenandoah”
One episode earlier, Will is jailed as he keeps the identity of Neal’s source a secret, Sloan (Olivia Munn) takes down Neal’s replacement on air, and Charlie dies of a heart attack in the office. “Aaron Sorkin is on fire with his writing and the cast all step up to make it happen,” says one fan.
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