Watch enough television and you’ll know that shows touted as coming from “the producer/director/creator of ...” are almost certain to fail. Or fail to meet expectations. Or meet them too well and too predictably.
The latter is the best summary of “The Newsroom” (9 p.m. Sunday, HBO). To describe it as similar to everything Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” ‘‘The Social Network”) has ever created would be the understatement of the television year.
As it begins, cable news anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) appears to be having some kind of breakdown. He’s trapped on the stage of a university forum between two talking — make that screaming — heads of differing political persuasions. He is bored, cynical and uneasy, and when asked if he has a definite political viewpoint, he declares himself a fan of the New York Jets.
Then, he either dreams or hallucinates that he sees an old lover and colleague, MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer), in the audience. Either startled or shamed by the vision, he perks up with a withering critique of American media, American society, education and public discourse. It’s around seven minutes into a new Aaron Sorkin production and we’ve already heard a noble speech about the Fate of the American Republic.
Many consider Will’s outburst to be career suicide. His staff abandons ship after his network forces him to take a vacation. When he returns, he discovers that the network’s old-school president, Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), has hired him a new executive producer. And she just happens to be MacKenzie, recently returned from dangerous assignments in various war zones.
In fairly predictable fashion, both Charlie and MacKenzie work on getting Will’s mojo back. This requires modest speechifying from Charlie and a major peroration on Journalism and the American Way of Life from MacKenzie in the pilot’s third act.
Sunday’s other highlights
• Scheduled on “Dateline NBC” (7 p.m.): Middle-class families descend into poverty.
• Melissa preps for her appearance on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” (9 p.m., Bravo).
• Original episodes of “Army Wives” (9 p.m., Lifetime) return.
• Raised to be a Southern belle, an aspiring writer explores the social fabric of her segregated Mississippi town in the 2011 drama “The Help” (9 p.m., Showtime).