Aaron Sorkin’s HBO TV journalism fantasy The Newsroom went out with a season high. The third and final season wrap-up, on Sunday, averaged 1.6 million viewers at 9 PM, and a nightly season high of 1.9 million viewers across all three Sunday telecasts. The series third season is currently averaging a gross audience of 5 million viewers per episode.
The fairly non-controversial final episode of the nearly always controversial, and short lived, series was called “What Kind of Day Has It Been” and included — Spoiler Alert — Will and Mackenzie discovering they will have a baby, Jim and Maggie deciding to have A Moment, and Charlie having a funeral.
In mid-November, the abbreviated final season of the show opened with an episode tackling coverage and the media ethics of the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing; that debut of its final season opened to a crowd of 1.2 million on a Sunday at 9 PM. Compared to the 2.2 million who watched the series Season 2 premiere at 10 PM on July 14 last year, Newsroom was down almost 45%. That said, the Jeff Daniels-led ensemble show was opening in the fall as opposed to the summer, and in direct competition with AMC’s powerhouse The Walking Dead to boot.
This season’s debut suffered from the long hiatus, Season 2 having wrapped in September of ’13, attracting 1.7 million viewers to its Sunday at 10 PM first telecast, and 1.9 million viewers for the night. The previous August, the series’ first-season finale clocked 2.3 million viewers with its initial telecast — a season high — and 2.8 milllion for the night. The previous year’s finale had followed the True Blood season ender (2.3 million), while the Season 2 closer had followed Boardwalk Empire (2.2 million).
This short third season was announced last January — four months after Season 2 had wrapped. “The Newsroom is classic Aaron Sorkin – smart, riveting and thought-provoking,” HBO Programming president Michael Lombardo said in that announcement, adding. “I’m sure this farewell season will be one to remember.”
Quite an understatement, given the kerfuffle that followed particularly the penultimate episode with its storyline about an alleged campus rape.
TV critics bashing that episode of Sorkin’s drama series was not news, since The Newsroom was for its entire run the series they most loved to hate in all of TV. But that particular episode, which included a timely storyline about campus rape (though it was written long in advance of Rolling Stone’s now crumbled blockbuster article about an alleged gang rape at a UVA frat house) the critics seemed to really draw themselves up to their full height and let Sorkin have it in the neck. One scene in particular — in which Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) tells a Princeton student who claims she was raped that, as a journalist, he is “morally obligated” to believe her alleged attacker’s innocence until the man is proven guilty — had critics worked up into an ecstasy of outrage. Staff writer Alena Smith began tweeting the night the episode aired, saying she had argued with Sorkin about the episode, in response to which he kicked her out of the writers’ room. Sorkin acknowledged Smith had objected to the storyline during the writing process, and that “there was some healthy back and forth” but that when he needed to move on to make deadline, Smith wouldn’t let up, “so I excused her from the room.” But, he said, he wrote a new draft after hearing her objections and “Alena gave the new pages her enthusiastic support.” While saying he was surprised to learn Smith had tweeted her unhappiness with the episode, he was even more surprised to learn Smith “had so casually violated the most important rule of working in a writers room which is confidentiality,” adding, “I’m saddened that she’s broken that trust.”