The Newsroom follows a popular cable news anchor, Will McAvoy (Daniels), and his staff in their fervent attempt to report the news honestly and fairly amidst corporate mandates and complicated personal relationships. The third season finds Will, Mac (Mortimer) and the staff of "News Night" facing two explosive situations: the possibility of a hostile takeover of the network, and leaked classified government documents that unleash a legal fire storm threatening to topple more than one professional career.
Going beyond the headlines, the six-part season turns its attention inward, focusing on a series of internal events at ACN that rock the very foundation of the network, and tackles such topics as privacy issues, the influence of social media on traditional news gathering and corporate takeover. The men and women of "News Night" are faced with personal and professional dilemmas that will forever determine their futures. Set against the backdrop of the Boston Marathon bombing, The Newsroom kicks off the season with a highly charged look at the core issue of maintaining journalistic integrity in the era of 24-hour news cycles, while crowd-sourcing and "citizen journalism" result in the dissemination of misinformation.
Back when The Newsroom first premiered on HBO a couple years ago, I thought it was one of the best new shows I'd seen on television in a long time…to the point where I waxed poetically about my love for it and got some (perhaps deserved) rants about my over-the-top kudos. While I still think that first season is pretty darn good, the second season – at least for me – was a huge letdown. It seemed as if all the critical bashing the show had received had gone to creator Aaron Sorkin's head and he decided to morph the show into something it really shouldn't have been. 'The Newsroom' now wraps up its all-too-short pay cable run with an abbreviated six-episode final season that – while still not matching the quality of the first year – manages to get back to its roots, making relevant comments about the world and the media while still showcasing the playful banter between the main characters that makes this series such a blast to watch at times.
One of the best moves Sorkin makes for this final go-around is to put the focus of the series back on Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) when he learns the name of an informant from which fellow newsroom employee Neal (Dev Patel) obtains some highly classified government information. Of course, this is primarily Sorkin commenting on the real-life incidents involving Edward Snowden, but it's also a chance for him to address freedom of the press when it comes to such issues.
For such a short season, there are a lot of other storylines going on as well – some of them good, some of them a little tired. One of the good ones involves network owner Leona Lansing's (Jane Fonda) stepchildren, who are intending to sell their outstanding shares to another company, and hence, put all our main characters out of work – or at least in the hands of someone who isn't interested in doing 'hard' news anymore. Less appealing is Sorkin's decision to once again spend a big chunk of the final season focusing on the relationship that no viewer really cares about anymore: the on-again, off-again romance between Jim Harper (John Gallagher, Jr.) and Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill). If you can stomach their scenes, rest assured their storyline is the worse that Season Three has to offer.
The best episode of the six isn't the finale, but rather the penultimate episode, 'Oh Shenandoah', which not only offs one of the series' major characters, but features an outstanding (and highly controversial) subplot involving Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) covering the alleged rape of a college student on campus. The episode got its share of uproar in the mainstream press because the character of Don has the gall to suggest that rape allegations are things that should be tried in a court of law instead of in the court of public opinion. Of course, many saw this show as encouraging women not to come forward if they had been sexually assaulted, but that's not what Sorkin is trying to say at all here. At the very least, it got people talking – which is what any good/great TV series is supposed to get people to do.
As finales go, 'The Newsroom's last episode is rather a mixed bag. Everything is a little tied up too neatly in a bow for loyal viewers. It also seems to be a letdown after the vastly superior episode that proceeded it. It does, however, find out a way to bring back the popular character who was so shockingly disposed of just one episode earlier. It also gives us a chance to see Jeff Daniels show off his musical skills in a scene that you'll either love or hate (I actually liked it quite a bit).
Better than Season Two, but not as much fun as Season One, the third and final season of 'The Newsroom' is a solid enough send-off for a show that might have eventually turned into one of HBO's more memorable series, had everyone involved not been so anxious to pull the plug so soon. Still, it's definitely worth addition to one's collection, if and when the price is right.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
Season Three of 'The Newsroom' reports onto Blu-ray in a sturdy cardboard tri-fold that slides into an equally sturdy cardboard slipcase. The case includes two inserts: one for an UltraViolet and iTunes copy of the season, and one for an 'HBO Sampler' option that is contained on Disc 1 of this set, which will give viewers with BD-Live-enabled players access to some bonus episodes of HBO's other series. Each of the two 50GB dual-layer discs are held inside of plastic hubs, with an additional inside flap listing all six of the second season's episodes, along with a short synopsis of each.
There are no front-loaded trailers on either of the discs, which go straight to the main menu after a short HBO logo clip. However, if you load Disc 1 of the set with your BD-Live settings enabled, you'll get a streaming trailer for HBO on Blu-ray before the disc goes to the menus. The main menu consists of a montage of footage and dialogue from Season Three, with menu selections on the left bottom side of the screen.
Although I haven't listed the 'Sampler' episodes in the bonus features below, since they're not content actually physically present on these discs, for those interested, HBO is offering up the Season Four premiere of Veep, the Season Two premiere of Silicon Valley, the Season Five premiere of 'Game of Thrones', and the pilot episode of The Wire as part of this promotional extra. All shows with the exception of 'The Wire' also feature trailers for the episode. I have no idea if the selected episodes remain through the life of the disc, change to different episodes, or disappear completely after a period of time.
The Blu-rays in this set are region-free.
Like the majority of the original season and all of Season Two, Season Three of 'The Newsroom' has been shot digitally using Arri Alexa cameras. However, once again, the creators have put in faux 'grain' in the background to make the digital image have a more film-like look to it. This is primarily to retain the look the show has had throughout – including the original pilot, which was shot on 16mm film. It's somewhat of a shame, since without the manipulation, these episodes would look super-detailed, but it's still a very good looking transfer and on par with the prior two season releases.
Detail in these episodes is strong throughout, black levels are pretty solid, and skin tones are consistent with what we've seen in the prior two seasons. In terms of any issues with banding, aliasing or the like, this is pretty much an error-free presentation. Fans of the series should be happy with the video quality of this release.
As were the first two seasons of the series, 'The Newsroom' continues to be dialogue-intensive, meaning that the majority of the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track for each episode is front-heavy. However, the rears are occasionally noticeable for ambient and background sounds, as well as to occasionally amp up the soundtrack or other music that is featured on the show. There's also excellent separation between the dialogue and various sounds, as well as everything being properly mixed so nothing ever drowns out the spoken word. There are no issues with dropouts, hissing, or other glitches on the lossless English tracks.
In addition to the lossless English track, each episode also includes the option of French 5.1 DTS Digital Surround, Spanish (Latin) 2.0 DTS Digital Surround, and Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 DTS Digital Surround. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian), Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish .
It's still a little frustrating to me what 'The Newsroom' might have been. It started out as one of my favorite series on TV, devolved into average viewing in Season Two, but was able to capture a bit of the magic again in this final third season. While there's not much it terms of bonus content on this release, it's still worth picking up to finalize one's collection. Recommended.