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"The Newsroom": The Complete First Season Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

The Newsroom: The Complete First Season Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack box cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com The Newsroom: Season One (2012)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Aaron Sorkin / Executive Producers: Alan Poul, Scott Rudin, Aaron Sorkin

Writers: Aaron Sorkin, Gideon Yago / Directors: Greg Mottola, Alan Poul, Alex Graves, Daniel Minahan, Jeremy Podeswa, Joshua Marston, Lesli Linka Glatter

Regular Cast: Jeff Daniels (Will McAvoy), Emily Mortimer (MacKenzie McHale), John Gallagher Jr. (Jim Harper), Alison Pill (Maggie Jordan), Thomas Sadoski (Don Keefer), Dev Patel (Neelamani "Neal" Sampat), Olivia Munn (Sloan Sabbith), Sam Waterston (Charlie Skinner)

Recurring Cast Members: Chris Messina (Reese Lansing), Jane Fonda (Leona Lansing), Terry Crews (Lonny Church), Kelen Coleman (Lisa Larkin), David Harbour (Elliot Hirsch), Hope Davis (Nina Howard), Paul Schneider (Brian Brenner), David Krumholtz (Dr. Jack Habib), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Solomon Hancock), Jon Tenney (Wade Campbell), Natalie Morales (Kaylee), Alison Becker (Sandy Whiddles), Riley Voelkel (Jennifer Johnson)

Secondary Cast Members: Adina Porter (Kendra James), Chris Chalk (Gary Cooper), Margaret Judson (Tess Westin), Wynn Everett (Tamara Hart), Thomas Matthews (Martin Stallworth), John F. Carpenter (Herb Wilson), Trieu Tran (Joey Phan), Charlie Weirauch (Jake Watson)

Notable Guest Stars: Jesse Eisenberg (voice of Eric Neal - uncredited), Cornell Womack (Daniel Mendoza), Paul Willson (Dr. Dwayne Sotter), Marshall Bell (Ross Fernholm), Megan Park (Gwen Valley), Philip Baker Hall (Bryce Delancy), Matt Long (Brad), Kathryn Hahn (Carrie), Merle Dandridge (Maria Guerrero), Patrick Fabian (Tony Hart), Amin El Gamal (Kahlid Salim), Damon Gupton (Sutton Hall), Eve Gordon (Phyllis Greer), Yuki Matsuzaki (Daisuke Tanaka), Christina Kirk (Flight Attendant Cox), Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Jane Barrow), Adam Arkin (Adam Roth), Jake McDorman (Tate Brady), Angela Sargeant (Nurse Cooper), Kenneth Choi (Dr. Lee)

Running Time: 588 Minutes (10 episodes) / Rating: TV-MA

Blu-ray: 1.78:1 Widescreen; DTS-HD MA 5.1 (English), DTS 5.1 (French), DTS 2.0 (Spanish)
DVD: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Spanish)
Blu-ray Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish
DVD Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Complex Chinese, Korean, Thai
Video Extras Subtitled in English, French, and Spanish; DVD Closed Captioned
Season 1 Airdates: June 24, 2012 - August 26, 2012
Suggested Retail Price: $79.98 / Blu-ray Release Date: June 11, 2013
Six discs (4 BD-50s and 2 DVD-18s) / Digipak and Folder in Cardboard Box
Also available in standalone 2-Disc DVD ($59.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video: SD, HD

Buy The Newsroom: The Complete First Season from Amazon.com Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy DVD / Instant Video: SD, HD

Maggie (Alison Pill) alternately encourages and discourages her colleague dating her roommate Lisa (Kelen Coleman). A drop of blood on the New York Magazine's hatchet piece on Will McAvoy provides a clue in a short-lived season finale mystery.

VIDEO and AUDIO

It seems pretty much a given in 2013 that a new HBO show will look terrific on Blu-ray. "The Newsroom" seems poised to upset that theory in its grainy first episode. After that, however, it's smooth sailing, as the 1.78:1 element is as clean and sharp as 1080p allows.

The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is predictably driven by dialogue, which is always crisp and properly weighted. The soundtrack also does a nice job of distributing sparingly used score, on-the-nose needle drops, and a bit of atmosphere. As they apparently do, HBO loads this collection with foreign language options, including seven subtitles on the Blu-ray, a somewhat different eight on DVD, as well as French and Spanish dubs. That suggests the network's shows have greater international appeal than the typical TV series.

Creator Aaron Sorkin discusses each installment in ten "Inside the Episode" shorts spread across the set. Bodyguard Lonny Church (Terry Crews) looks out for Will in this deleted scene from "The Blackout Part II."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Each episode of "The Newsroom" is equipped with a number of items, including an episode preview and a backstory-supplying recap (each running about 45 seconds) and a 2-5-minute clip-heavy "Inside the Episode" making-of short
gathering Aaron Sorkin's thoughts on that specific installment. Every episode's preview and recap is nicely included on every disc.

Five of the ten episodes are joined by value-adding audio commentaries. Creator/executive producer Sorkin, executive producer Alan Poul, and co-executive producer/director Greg Mottola comment on the first episode, revealing their decision to avoid stunt casting, why overlapping dialogue is a challenge for sound editing, actor heights, the use of Super 16 (hence the grain), the ability to mention brand names, and scheduling-spawned continuity lapses.

On Episode 3, "The 112th Congress", Sorkin joins Jeff Daniels and Sam Waterston for a sporadic but stately track about cut material, The Purple Rose of Cairo, staging "News Night", a memorable experience on the set of A Few Good Men, and Jane Fonda.

The next episode, "I'll Try to Fix You", features Sorkin, Poul, and Emily Mortimer, who start with the "aggressively unhip" opening titles and proceed to discuss Mortimer's playwright father and reluctance to watch herself, how the filming is executed like a real news show (only with seven cameras rolling), Mortimer's underwear acting in Sharpe's Sword and clothed L.K. Bennett modeling, and tipping off Gabrielle Giffords' family about the episode.

Daniels, Poul, and Olivia Munn comment on Episode 6, "Bullies." They discuss the power of nasty anonymous Internet comments and the need for moderation, getting to use Munn's Japanese authentically, the challenges of memorizing Sorkin dialogue, wardrobe, necklace continuity, and dealing with bullies.

The season finale assembles a group of seven from five different places: Sorkin, Poul, Daniels, Mortimer, Waterston, Alison Pill, and Thomas Sadoski. Their conversation flows with much laughter, as they recall the shooting conditions and dissect the visuals.

Five deleted scenes are attached to the four episodes they were intended for. One from the premiere episode (1:24) introduces Olivia Munn's character and suggests her as a love interest for Jim. Episode 3 includes a deleted scene of Don working on the 10:00 show (0:43). In a scene cut from "The Blackout, Part II" (1:29), Will interacts with tourist fans, while Lonny protects him from an irate viewer. Deleted from the season finale (1:59) are a look at Will's replacement's and a "News Night" segment vouching for Obama's success at targeting Al Qaeda officials.

This aerial shot from "Mission Control" shows off the spacious set "The Newsroom" calls home. Emily Mortimer is one of three cast members invited to participate in a Season 1 Roundtable.

Additional video extras are found on Disc 4. Like everything else on this set, they are in HD. "Mission Control" (5:17) slickly celebrates the series' extensive, authentic production design,
giving us insight into the creation of one giant set and the actors' experience of filming on it.

The more substantial "Roundtable" (25:30) assembles Sorkin, Poul, Mottola, Daniels, Mortimer, and Waterston to reflect on the first season. They discuss using real news stories, sources of inspiration, the characters, memorable moments, the atmosphere on set, getting character information in advance (or not), and what might happen in Season 2.

Like most of HBO's new Blu-ray season sets, this one is a combo pack which covers all your bases by including DVDs and a code for downloadable digital copies and UltraViolet. The two double-sided DVDs are simplified versions of the four DVD-9s sold on their own, losing all bonus features. That's a little unfortunate because there's unused space that could have gone to the commentaries, previews, making-of shorts, and such. Still, no other studio offers as much versatility, so it's a pretty sweet bonus for those who travel or watch on multiple screens.

The DVD's main menu employs the same montage, but loses some of the listings. Typical for an HBO show, the menus supply detailed episode synopses (plus previews, recaps, and more on Blu-ray).

The Blu-ray and DVD main menu has the look and feel of a high-budget newscast as clips, sound bites, and graphics move around to a score excerpt. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray discs fail to support bookmarks, resume playback or offer some kind of progress-tracking Season Play option like what is found on other studios' Blu-rays.
One nice touch, though, is that you can select any feature from any disc and once you get the right disc in there, it will play immediately, bypassing logos and warnings. On the downside, I found that the Blu-ray menu listings didn't always load, about one in four times requiring a restart of my player.

Within a sturdy cardboard box the height of a Blu-ray case and width of two standard DVD cases, the four Blu-rays and two DVDs are held in separate compartments, the former in a ten-sided Digipak and the latter in a book with trays. The HBO Select insert holding your unique authorization code is housed within the DVD folder, while a sweepstakes ad and standard disclaimer are folded up in the Digipak. A cardboard wrap-around listing bonus features and such seemingly asks to be discarded to reveal the classy ACN logo the box wields on its rear cover.

Former executive producer Don (Thomas Sadoski) shows the staff of "News Night" how Nancy Grace holds on to her audience's attention with nightly reports on the Casey Anthony murder trial.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"The Newsroom" doesn't always maintain the high quality of its first episode, but it remains the smart and florid workplace drama you expect of Aaron Sorkin. Occasionally preachy and gimmicky but ever watchable and usually quite good, this is a series well worth seeing. Undoubtedly, HBO's Blu-ray combo pack is the best way to do so. The show's fine, versatile presentation here, complimented by substantial extras, leaves little to be desired.

Buy The Newsroom: The Complete First Season at Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / DVD / Instant Video: SD, HD

Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed June 7, 2013.



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