Roush Review: PBS’ ‘Press’ Often Feels Like Yesterday’s Headlines
The good news is that fake news isn’t an issue in this lively though self-righteous series from Masterpiece about a bitter rivalry between two fictional London newspapers. Too bad, then, that Press so often feels like yesterday’s headlines.
While writer Mike Bartlett (King Charles III) acknowledges the financial and social impact the internet has had on publishing the daily news, this six-part melodrama still pretends that the world hangs on every front-page decision made by the sensationalist tabloid Post and the more principled, stuffier Herald. The relentlessly noisy 24-hour news cycle we all live in makes this classic journalism rivalry seem rather quaint.
It’s no surprise, though, who’s the most fun to hang with: ruthlessly cynical Post editor Duncan Allen (the darkly charismatic Ben Chaplin), who savors every victory over the Herald while trying to woo away its esteemed but humorless developmental editor, Holly Evans (a dour Charlotte Riley), telling her she deserves better than “doing admin on a slowly sinking ship.” As younger rival reporters lower on their respective papers’ editorial food chain, Ellie Kendrick (Game of Thrones) and Paapa Essiedu bring some much-needed energy to the more episodic subplots.
Look past all of the lonely-at-the-top clichés — even Chaplin can’t enliven scenes about his broken marriage — and the finger-wagging “Our job is the truth” speeches, and there’s some juicy fun to be had as the editors and reporters wrestle with thorny ethical dilemmas in hopes of maintaining some self-respect while trying to keep the lights on. Anyone in this increasingly risky business can relate to that, but unfortunately, that’s old news.
Press, Series Premiere, Sunday, October 6, 10/9c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)