"The Newsroom" returns Sunday for a second season of telling us, with the benefit of hindsight, how reporters should have covered the biggest stories of recent years.
HBO's Aaron Sorkin drama, starring Jeff Daniels as a crusading cable news anchor and Emily Mortimer as his even more crusading producer, uses fictional news outfit ACN to critique news media coverage and sometimes society in general. The ACN team cuts through the clutter to very quickly get to the truth that the real-life media missed. On "The Newsroom," that truth is often that Republicans are full of it and reporters are too gutless or lazy to call them on it.
Oversimplified? Some real-life reporters think so. But "The Newsroom" believes the truth is sometimes more simple than the media gives it credit for.
This season's focus on August 2011 through November 2012 gives "The Newsroom" plenty of real news to dig into — and one story that seems entirely fictionalized. (And yes, we see you in the back, conspiracy theorists: Yes, even more fictionalized than real news stories.)
Here are five real stories you can expect to see dissected on "The Newsroom." We'd say spoiler alert, except that they've already happened.
1. Occupy Wall Street: "The Newsroom" loves class divisions — really, what news operation doesn't? — and the Occupy movement was the rare one that injected passion (and visuals) into a debate about such dry subjects as taxes and job creation. "The Newsroom" team will, as usual, jump into the middle of things — and one member of the team will face legal consequences.
2. The Presidential Election: Remember how Mitt Romney was able to steal the election because the media was too gutless and lazy to call him out? No? Oh well. "The Newsroom" will nonetheless look at whether he got a fair shake, as it introduces Constance Zimmer (“House of Cards”) as a Romney spokeswoman who thinks her candidate isn't being treated fairly.
3. Troy Davis: We're going to use the present tense here in case you don't know the outcome of the Davis case and don't want to know as you watch "The Newsroom." Davis is a death row inmate convicted in the murder of a Georgia police officer. Death penalty opponents believe there are serious questions about his guilt, and this season, Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) pleads with Daniels' Will McAvoy to do something.
4. Drones: Here's an opportunity for "The Newsroom" to answer critics who claim it's in the bag for President Obama. Even as Don urges Will to advocate for Davis, Mortimer's Mackenzie McHale pushes him for more coverage of the U.S.'s drone assaults. So does Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn), still around after a last-minute decision in the Season 1 finale not to bail on ACN.
5. 9/11: Will makes an on-air remark that gets him pulled from the network's coverage of the anniversary. Did he learn nothing from HBO counterpart Bill Maher?
And now, the semi-made-up story. "The Newsroom" wouldn't be half as fun without the behind-the-scenes debacles that threaten to undermine ACN's campaign for truth, justice, and a semblance of civility. Last season it was Will covering Osama bin Laden's death while high. This season, it involves something called the Genoa story, and the network's coverage of it.
The fictionalized Genoa story is partly inspired by CNN's false "Operation Tailwind" report, in which it said the U.S. used sarin nerve gas on defectors. CNN was roundly criticized, and issued a 54-page retraction. (And this is where I apologize for intitially saying, in this very story, that I coudn't find the inspiration for Genoa. Fifty-four page retraction to follow.)
"The Newsroom" returns Sunday at 10/9c on HBO.