Critics may be hammering Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom, called "bad," "lousy" and "the worst"—in the same review—but audiences have embraced the new HBO series.
A look at how the cable-news drama managed that Nielsen trick:
1. The True Blood Boost: HBO's vampire hit had a big Sunday night, averaging 4.7 million viewers in the 9 p.m. hour before leading into, yes, HBO's Sorkin series in the 10 p.m. hour. True, the new show lost more than half of True Blood's audience, but its 2.1 million viewers represented a solid sampling. HBO said it was its third-most watched drama premiere since 2008.
2. The Sorkin Factor: He wrote Sports Night. He wrote The West Wing. He won an Oscar for The Social Network. Who are viewers going to trust on whether Newsroom's worth watching—the man who brought them all this and more, or members of the certifiably hated press?
3. It Had Its Audience at "Jay Leno": If Newsroom's viewers are anything like Girls', which, per New York's Vulture blog, is mostly watched by people who are not twentysomething (or female, for that matter), then the new show is playing the HBO subscriber like a violin. After all, if there's one subject matter (other than sex) that remains of great interest to people who are not twentysomething, it's AARP-skewing TV news.
4. It's New to You: If you didn't see the one-and-done Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, then you'd never know the before-the-credits, plot-spurring rant by Jeff Daniels' Newsroom anchor is not unlike the before-the-credits, plot-spurring rant from Judd Hirsch's TV Studio 60 producer. (But wait there's more: Vulture compiled a list of 14 Sorkin talking points that got talked about—again—in Sunday's pilot.)
5. Dan Rather Liked It: "With all due respect," the former CBS anchor told Gawker of the Newsroom-trashing news media, "I just don't think [reviewers] 'get it." Rather, however, did allow that he might be wrong, which would mean that PBS' Gwen Ifill, heretofore unheralded for trash talk, might be right. ("zzzzzz," went a tweet from Ifill to a fan who asked her for a review of the show.) Still, Rather's support proves that it only seems like everybody hated Newsroom.