Six weeks into its life on HBO, “The Newsroom” has become to this summer what “Girls” was to the spring: television’s lightning-rod show, dissected for every perceived misstep and off-base character portrayal.
And to a certain extent, creator Aaron Sorkin doesn’t mind that: “We all know there were critics who didn’t enjoy watching the first four episodes, and there were critics who did,” Sorkin said Wednesday (Aug. 1) at the TV Critics Association press tour. “Obviously you’d prefer praise for the show to be unanimous, but anytime people are talking this much about a TV show, it’s good for television.”
Since Sorkin (along with “Newsroom” star Jeff Daniels and director/executive producer Alan Poul) was facing some of the people leading that discussion at TCA, the room was expecting some fireworks. That didn’t quite happen, but in a polite but fairly contentious session, he defended the show and his portrayal of its female characters and shot down reports that he had fired several writers ahead of the show’s second season.
Sorkin says he “completely respects” the opinion that the show’s women are portrayed in a less flattering light than its male characters, “but I 100 percent disagree with it. I think the female characters on the show are every bit the equals of the men. …
“Caring about other people more than themselves, [being] thoughtful, serious, plainly smart, being great team players — those to me are what define the characters, and by the way, I’d say the same thing for the actresses who play them. Once you have that down, you can have them slip on as many banana peels as you want. That’s just comedy.”
A couple of critics noted that Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) has been slipping on a lot of peels since the first couple of episodes, and on the whole the show’s female characters seem to be show goofing up because they’re more frivolous than the guys. Daniels came to Sorkin’s defense, saying, “One of the things I love about Aaron’s writing … is all these characters, men and women, have flaws. … We come on with these big warts and flaws.”
Sorkin also believes everyone is punished for his or her mistakes: “We present Will’s [Daniels] mission to civilize as something, first of all, for people to roll their eyes at, and second, something that blows up in his face. Hubris is always punished. … These very smart people do screw up in roughly the same way.”
Sorkin also refutes reports that he sacked several of the show’s writers after production on the season finished. “The writing staff was not fired, OK?” he says. “… I love the writing staff. I thought we did great this year, and it’s a fantastic group of men and women to come to work with.”
There were a “couple of staff changes” made at the end of the season, he says, but they included the promotion of two writers assistants to story editors.
“The Newsroom” has been picked up for a second season, and Sorkin said Wednesday that it will return in June 2013.