HBO is giving The Newsroom a second chance to make some decent headlines.
Despite a slew of tepid reviews, less-than-stellar ratings and harsh criticism about its outmoded portrayal of women, Aaron Sorkin's ham-fisted drama about the inner workings of the cable-news business will be renewed for a second season, the channel announced Monday.
The series, which stars Jeff Daniels as an Olbermannesque news anchor and Emily Mortimer as his new executive producer, premiered on June 24 amid much fanfare, but so far, the show has failed to live up to the hype.
While the series premiere pulled in a respectable 2.1 million viewers, that number was a significant drop from the 4.7 million viewers who watched its popular lead-in, True Blood. Critically speaking, the show didn't fare much better. Although Sorkin's snappy dialogue earned its usual high praise, many critics with knowledge of the news business felt the program fell wholly short of its promise to offer an insider's look at the dysfunctional culture of 24-hour news.
'The Newsroom' can be read as Sorkin's attempt to cure what's ailing the news industry, but he's misdiagnosing the patient, wrote Joe Muto, a former producer for Fox News, on Slate magazine.
Other critics were even less kind. The Daily Beast's Jace Lacob and Maureen Ryan, for instance, lambasted Sorkin's portrayal of women, calling the show's female characters hysterics and fools. The authors were particularly insulted by Mortimer's character, a high-powered newsroom executive who can't seem to figure out how to use email.
The reception of The Newsroom might be proof that Sorkin himself is suffering from a crisis similar to that of his news-anchor protagonist -- a onetime ratings king who evokes public backlash after a mad as hell moment forces him to take a temporary hiatus. Sorkin, similarly, may also have nowhere to go but down, particularly coming from an Academy Award for 2010's enormously popular The Social Network.
Then again, maybe a good public smackdown will be the best thing for him. As they say in the news business, If it bleeds, it leads.