Two highly anticipated new summer shows debut this week in Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” on HBO and Charlie Sheen’s comedy “Anger Management” on FX.
“The Newsroom,” airing at 9 p.m. Sundays, is Sorkin’s behind-the-scenes look at a cable news network, with Jeff Daniels starring as the surly anchor and English-accented Emily Mortimer as his executive producer and love interest.
Sorkin, the creator of NBC’s “The West Wing,” returns to series television after writing screenplays for the “The Social Network” and “Moneyball.” He won an Oscar for best-adapted screenplay for “The Social Network.”
Nobody writes dialogue the way Sorkin can. “The Newsroom” is another excellent example, with scenes reminiscent of a fencing exhibition, only words are used instead of swords.
Sometimes Sorkin gets carried away. In the second episode, supporting characters John Gallagher Jr. (who plays senior producer Jim Harper) and Alison Pil (associate producer Margaret Jordan) go back-and-forth over a mistake Jordan has made. Though the dialogue flowed, the scene ran too long, making it more agonizing than rewarding.
“The Newsroom” focuses on Will McAvoy (Daniels), a popular news anchor who, in the opening scene, has a meltdown of sorts in a public forum. The opener is well written and worth savoring a second or third time.
The meltdown leads the head of the news division (played by Sam Waterston with a twinkle in his eye) to hire MacKenzie McHale (Mortimer) as Will’s new executive producer in order to help him find direction again.
Fans of Sorkin’s “The West Wing” and “Sports Night” will enjoy “The Newsroom.” He populates his worlds with supporting characters as strong and relevant as his leads. His stories often have messages to them. This will be a fun summer ride. Grade: A-minus
Sheen’s comedy, however, will be an acquired taste, much like his previous sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” Sheen again portrays a version of his real self, a caddish womanizer, who, thanks to the roles his daughter (Daniela Bobadilla) and ex-wife (Shawnee Smith) play in his life, has a bit of a heart.
In the comedy, Sheen is a nontraditional therapist who specializes in anger management. He leads a group session much the same way Bob Newhart did in the 1970s. His patients account for much of the laughter, which is included in an annoying laugh-track.
Sheen fans will enjoy the new series. It’s Charlie being Charlie. As for the rest of us, it’s a take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing. Grade: C-plus
Across the remote
* Thursday is a big night for FX. In addition to Sheen’s “Anger Management,” the network premieres new seasons of “Wilfred” (9 p.m.) and “Louie” (9:30 p.m.) and debuts Russell Brand’s new late-night series “Brand X” (10 p.m.).
* Other notable shows returning this week include “Army Wives” (9 p.m. Sunday, Lifetime), “Wipeout” (8 p.m. Thursday, ABC) and “Awkward” (9:30 p.m. Thursday, MTV).
* CBS may not be done with Poppy Montgomery’s “Unforgettable.” Entertainment blog Deadline reports the network is contemplating a 13-episode second season to run next summer.
* It appears Ann Curry is on her way out as co-host of NBC’s “Today” after just one year. The New York Times reports Curry will vacate the seat next to Matt Lauer, possibly becoming a foreign correspondent. The ratings for “Today” have dipped significantly since Curry took over for Meredith Vieira, with ABC’s “Good Morning America” ending a 16-year run this spring for "Today" as the No. 1 morning show.
* MTV will re-air once-popular shows “Laguna Beach,” “The Hills” and “Daria” during a six-week special event beginning Monday. The series will air in a block from 8 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday until Aug. 3.
* Arsenio Hall is returning to late-night TV. The recent winner of “Celebrity Apprentice” inked a deal with CBS Television Distribution to host a syndicated talkie beginning in fall 2013. No word yet if any Omaha or Lincoln stations will take the show.
* “Parenthood” has booked funny man Ray Romano for a multi-episode arc as a photographer who has an eye for Sarah, played by Laura Graham.
In other casting news:
* “NCIS” (CBS) promoted Brian Dietzen to series regular on “NCIS.” He plays Jimmy Palmer.
* “Once Upon a Time” (ABC) promoted Meghan Ory (Red) and Emilie de Ravin (Belle) to series regulars.
* “Leverage” (TNT) booked “Chuck” alum Adam Baldwin for a recurring role as a former soldier running a counter-terrorism unit.
* “Smash” (NBC) signed Jeremy Jordan, who just won a Tony Award for “Newsies,” as a new series regular.
* Mark Pellegrino will guest star next season on “Grimm.” He is best known for playing Jacob on “Lost” and the devil on “Supernatural.”
* “X-Files” alum Robert Patrick will play werewolf Alcide’s father in three episodes this season on HBO’s “True Blood.”