'The Newsroom' finale is a debate to watch

Actor Jeff Daniels appears onstage during HBO's TCA Actor Jeff Daniels appears onstage during HBO's TCA panel for "The Newsroom" in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Aug. 1, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "The Newsroom"

WHEN | WHERE First-season finale Sunday at 10 p.m. on HBO

CATCHING UP Summer 2011, and the Casey Anthony trial has riveted some viewers, but divided "News Night." Producers don't want to cover the trial but Reese Lansing (Chris Messina), president of Atlantis Cable Network and son of Cruella De Vil facsimile Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda), the parent company boss, has demanded it for ratings sake. Promos for Sunday's episode have teased a major firing. Lansing wants Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) out because of his attacks on the Tea Party, which have put her company in the GOP's crosshairs.

MY SAY Phew. The first season of the most debated, vilified, assailed, new HBO series of the entire year ends Sunday. Not a minute too soon. For a lively stretch, culminating with the recent TV critics' press tour in Beverly Hills, it seemed as though every professional or paraprofessional TV critic in the country had a bone to pick with (or throw at) creator Aaron Sorkin.

How DARE you, sir, make your female characters so weak, your dialogue so didactic, your plots so treacly? There was a reason for their high dudgeon -- most expected "The West Wing" meets "Network" -- but in the end not much resonance to it, either.

"Newsroom" has been a moderate success for HBO and Sorkin will be back next season to torment his enemies (conservative Newsbusters.org keeps a close and baleful eye on the show) and endorse his own left-leaning causes. But who was right? The haters or . . . the viewers?

I'm siding with the viewers on this one. With "Newsroom," Sorkin created a vital, interesting and mostly enjoyable viewing experience. Flawed? Of course, but those flaws are often its virtues. The histrionics, and bellicose speechifying, and windy violent debates between characters across crowded newsrooms was great theater and sometimes great TV, too.

In a recent episode, Will ripped apart a Rick Santorum aide -- played by a fine stage actor, Damon Gupton, when suddenly, the aide turned on Will and ripped his head off. If Santorum was watching, he would have stood and cheered.

BOTTOM LINE "The Newsroom" is a winner. Debate settled.

GRADE B+

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