There’s a reference to the 1987 film Broadcast News in The Newsreader, a new six-episode drama premiering Friday (March 18) on Roku.
Set in Australia in 1986, the series stars Anna Torv (“Fringe,” “Mindhunter”) as Helen Norville, the boisterous co-host of “News at Six” in Melbourne, alongside her aging, jealous colleague Geoff Walters (Robert Taylor ). ), who turns 60 and clings to his days as a Vietnam War correspondent to assert his relevance. He knows (but doesn’t admit it) that viewers tune in to the news program for Helen; Her on-camera smile masks the icy friction off-camera.
Also joining the “News at Six” team is young, newly minted producer/reporter Dale Jennings (Sam Reid), who’s hoping for his big break as a news anchor and snagging the all-important morning “Update” segment – but screwing it up, big Time he fills in for Helen after she storms out of the train station after a loud argument with her boss, news chief Lindsay Cunningham (William McInnes) – after he calls her “a two-legged war zone” and says she has ” a face like a slapped…” He knows that Helen is the bread and butter of the network’s news department, and he tells her so… in his own un-PC way. Such was life in the Go-Go editorial offices in the mid-80s.
The Newsreader begins in January 1986 and builds its narrative around two major real-life news events: the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, killing all seven crew members (including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe), and the arrival of Halley’s Comet appear once every 75 years.
As the series progresses, Helen and Dale’s relationship also develops – she believes in his talent and he becomes her producer after she returns to News at Six. Dale is in awe of Helen as she fights for the respect she deserves — and is so often denied — and is able to bring him together remarkably for the camera seconds after emotional breakdowns. They embark on a romance while he becomes attracted to cinematographer Tim Ahern (Chai Hansen), while one of his co-workers rumblings about how one of his co-workers says he’s “a faggot.”
Meanwhile, Helen’s strained relationship with her older co-host Geoff (and his wife, who isn’t a fan) is tested when he makes an unexpected announcement at his 60th birthday party – and counts on Dale as an ally in the newsroom.
The Newsreader, which premiered on Australia’s ABC Network last summer, has won five AACTA Awards (the national version of the Emmys and Oscars combined), including Torv for Best Lead Actress in a Drama and McInnes for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama. You are all well deserved. Torv plays Helen as a whirlwind of emotion, ambition, and empathy who doesn’t give in to the sexism of her colleagues and bosses, no matter how obvious or subtle, while McInnes lends shading to his role as the demanding, demeaning, coaxing, understanding, and intuitive news boss.
Kudos too to Reid, Taylor and Hansen – who all deliver strong performances – and to series creator and co-writer Michael Lucas for recapturing the tenor of the times.
While The Newsreader is set in Australia, the behavior and manners of the News at Six editorial staff were universal and commonplace for their time.