Emily Mortimer, Jeff Daniels Emily Mortimer, Jeff Daniels

In an early scene of HBO's new Aaron Sorkin drama The Newsroom, a college student asks the show's hero, Will McAvoy, why the U.S. is the best country in the world.

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 It's a vapid question, to be sure, but Will's mean-spirited answer — he says simply that it isn't, and then rattles off a withering, Sorkinian litany of statistics about literacy, life expectancy and infant mortality that prove his point — is both electrifying and kind of depressing.

Will (Jeff Daniels, in his first TV series role) is a moderate Republican cable news anchor whose show, "News Night," has succeeded in the ratings because Will has played it safe, journalistically speaking. (One critic calls him the "Jay Leno of news anchors.") When we first meet him, he's in a rut, and his staff, none too impressed with his very public tantrum, has decided to seek other employment.

Borrowing from Network writer Paddy Chayevsky, who Sorkin mentioned in his acceptance speech when he won an Oscar for writing The Social Network, Will's mad as hell and he isn't going to take it anymore. But Sorkin says he's hoping to do more than spew venom.

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He's also quick to note that The Newsroom isn't trying to lambast the press either. "I am absolutely not doing that," Sorkin says.  "I think bad information, wrong information and no information are dangerous for America. ... [But] we're not doing the news; we're doing a show about people who do the news. Our set's on Stage 7 at Sunset Gower Studios — the same stage where they shot The Monkees. Our goals are no different than theirs."

The Newsroom premieres Sunday at 10/9c on HBO.