Aaron Sorkin's first TV series for pay TV, The Newsroom, starring Jeff Daniels, debuted to solid numbers on HBO Sunday night. In its first airing of the night, it averaged 2.1 million viewers, then added 600,000 more in a repeat. Yet to be counted are those who viewed the series on their DVRs or via HBO OnDemand. When those numbers are included, the show will almost certainly rank second only to the series debut of Boardwalk Empire as the most-watched premiere on the network sice 2008. (The 72-minute debut telecast is also available free via YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U4ZhFDFYvEt, but online viewers are not included in the Nielsen audience count.) The series, about life at a cable TV news network, has received a drubbing from many critics. Gawker.com's Drew Magary wrote, "There's a self-imposed nobility to [Sorkin] that makes me wanna throw up in my sink." At the conservative Breitbart.com, columnist John Nolte accuses HBO of "allowing lies to be told on its network to advance a political agenda." At New York magazine's Vulture.com, Margaret Lyons wrote that Sorkin, best remembered for his The West Wing series, is "grinding the same axes, repeating the same banter forumlas." At the Huffington Post, Maureen Ryan, the former TV critic for the Chicago Tribune , called the show "a dramatically inert, infriating mess." But The New York Times 's TV critic, Alessandra Stanley, indicates that the series improves around the third and forth episode, when it begins to show "wit, sophistication and manic energy that recalls James L Brooks's classic movie Broadcast News. However, she added that at "its worst, the show chokes on its own sanctimony." But former CBS anchor Dan Rather has come to the show's -- and Sorkin's -- defense. While agreeing with the critics that "it's a bit too preachy here and there," Rather remarks, "There is a newsroom authenticity to what's presented and much that gets to the heart of modern American journalism's problems." The series, he concludes, "has the potential to become a classic."