News at Six, 80s style

News at Six, 80s style

Review: The Newsreader

Starring: Anna Torv, William McInnes, Sam Reid

A new 80s era newsroom drama set in the midst of some of the more career-making stories in television history, the new ABC drama The Newsreader recalls many character-driven dramas based around the news while adding a uniquely Australian spin.

Like Morning Wars starring Jeniffer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, and before it The Newsroom starring Jeff Daniels, this is a unique look at broadcast television in Australia when you could lose a story because the Betamax player chewed the master tape. Before social media and even online news, it was a time when the evening bulletin was the news and had people glued to their television.

The Newsreader is a terrific ensemble piece with a whos’ who of Australian actors.

The central characters are Dale Jennings (Sam Reid), a news reporter with aspriations to being anchor and co-anchor of the nighlty news bulletin Helen Norville (Anna Torv), who represents everything Dale aspires to but wants to be taken seriously as a journalist. Norville battles the male-dominated field before #metoo even existed. She’s glamorous, poised and delivers the News at Six – alongside 30-year veteran Geoff Walters (Robert Taylor).

Off-air, though, Helen deals with the bullying, ranting, and undermining tactics employed by newsroom boss Lindsay Cunningham (William McInnes), it’s little wonder. McInnes is unrecognisable from his SeaChange days as the blowhard bully directing everyone in the newsroom.

In the maelstrom of the daily news grind Dale and Helen form an unlikely partnership that develops into romance.

It turns out 1986 – when the series is set – was a big year for news that shaped the world with events such as the AIDS crisis, the Challenger space shuttle disaster, the Russell Street bombing, Lindy Chamberlain’s release from prison, Halley’s Comet and the Chernobyl disaster. Rather than making commentary on these events though the series uses them as a backdrop for back door politics and workplace drama, all the while highlighting the sexism, sexual harassment, homophobia, and racism that was rampant in the industry at the time.

Created by Michael Lucas and directed by Emma Freedman and backed by a top-notch cast, this is the sort of prestige drama that ABC is known for.

The six episode limited series is currently airing every Sunday on the ABC and iView On Demand.

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