The Newsroom has a new opening credits sequence. Gone is the soupy paean to venerable television newsmen of yesteryear, replaced by images of New York City, of workroom frenzy, coffee cups spilling on newspaper, the sometimes errant bustle of getting things done. Thomas Newman's swooning music still plays over all this, but without the invocations of Cronkite and Murrow, the tune sounds sprightlier, more darting and witty than heavy-handed. From the get-go, the second season of Aaron Sorkin's much-derided (and rightfully so) HBO drama, which premieres this Sunday night, is advertising its new sleekness. Having shed the weight of all its grand intentions, Sorkin's show is suddenly freed; it's livelier and looser and, I daresay, likable.
In the four episodes I've seen, we are mostly spared any lectures about How News Should Be and instead simply shown how the news is. Of course this is still Sorkin's hyped-up, harried world, so nothing is exactly believable, but with much of the first season's achingly pretentious — and deceptively shallow — moralizing gone, the world of Atlantis Cable News is a more relatable, livable place. We're still dealing with yesterday's news — the season starts in August 2011 — but last season's air of hindsight-blessed sanctimony is subdued. Sorkin continues to preach to us about the media's mistakes, but without as much haughty finger-wagging. Season two is less about a crusade and more about the slog. And while that might sound like a bad thing, the slog is actually what's interesting, the day-to-day of it, the careful building of a story piece-by-piece. While I'm sure most real journalists would shiver at the idea that The Newsroom is at all accurately representative of what they do, let's just go with it. It's television.