‘Masterpiece’ makes a full ‘Press’ with newspaper drama

New ‘Masterpiece’ offering examines the journalistic world

Charlotte Riley is among the stars of “Masterpiece: Press,” which begins Sunday on PBS (check local listings).

The power of the press is a subject that remains timeless, whatever challenges the business of journalism may face at any given time.

Fresh evidence is supplied by the new “Masterpiece” drama “Press,” which begins its six-part PBS run Sunday, Oct. 6 (check local listings). Written by Mike Bartlett (“King Charles III”), it casts Charlotte Riley and Ben Chaplin as the editors of competing British newspapers, with Priyanga Burford, Ellie Kendrick and Al Weaver as reporters for the publications. David Suchet, familiar from television’s “Poirot,” also stars as the owner of the more sensational of the two papers (a character clearly modeled on certain famous figures).

Journalistic pursuits long have been fertile subjects for drama, and here are several prime examples of movies that have confirmed that fact over the years.

“Citizen Kane” (1941): The enigma of “Rosebud” is just one of many classic elements of Orson Welles’ saga of a tyrannical publisher, rightfully one of the most acclaimed attractions in movie history.

“Sweet Smell of Success” (1957): One of the nastiest – and that’s a compliment in this case – movies yet made, this searing drama has the aroma of New York nightlife as a desperate publicist (Tony Curtis) seeks the favor of, and favors from, a powerful and unforgiving columnist (Burt Lancaster).

“All the President’s Men” (1976): The Oscar-winning dramatization of Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein’s (Dustin Hoffman) probe of the Watergate break-in remains every bit as compelling as when the film first was seen almost 45 years ago … when it was in close proximity to the real events it depicts.

“Absence of Malice” (1981): An innocent man (Paul Newman) craftily turns the tables on those who have targeted him for investigation, including an ambitious reporter (Sally Field) and a brigade of local politicians, in director Sydney Pollack’s excellent drama.

“The Year of Living Dangerously” (1982): Unrest in mid-1960s Indonesia is covered by an Australian journalist (Mel Gibson) who becomes involved with an embassy official (Sigourney Weaver) and a somewhat mystical local (Oscar winner Linda Hunt) in this fine film from director Peter Weir.

“The Insider” (1999): Michael Mann’s great, somewhat underrated drama boasts top-notch performances by Russell Crowe as a tobacco-industry whistleblower and Al Pacino as “60 Minutes” producing veteran Lowell Bergman, who fought to bring the man’s story to public attention. Also notable in the cast is veteran columnist Pete Hamill as a journalist who helps Bergman.

“Spotlight” (2015): Oscar’s best picture for its year, this true drama of a Boston investigative-journalism unit’s fact-finding on the sex abuse committed by a shocking number of priests offers a superb cast led by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber and John Slattery.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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