Aaron Sorkin Stares Down Critics of HBO's 'Newsroom'
BEVERLY HILLS, CA—Aaron Sorkin isn't afraid to take the heat.
The Emmy- and Oscar-winning screenwriter (The West Wing, The Social Network) closed HBO's sessions at the TCA press tour Wednesday by defending his new drama The Newsroom. It is a show that seems to have split the room: some critics don't like the way women are portrayed on the show, or how characters tend to speak in preachy rants. Others nitpick at the way journalists are portrayed. Others think the show has problems, but they like crusading news anchor Will McAvoy, played with zeal by Jeff Daniels.
The fact not everybody likes The Newsroom is cool, says Sorkin, who is used to being a critic's darling. "Anytime people are talking this much about a show, it's good for television."
What he didn't like were a couple of "untrue and unsourced" Internet rumors he felt besmirched his good name. He denied reports that he has fired his writing staff. While there were a few changes, for the most part, "I want the old gang back," he says. He did say consultants are being hired to keep the series honest about how actual TV newsrooms operate.
Another untruth out there: "I do not have an ex-girlfriend on the writing staff," he insists.
Daniels came to his boss' aid a few times during the 30-minute session. "I completely get why you do what you do," he told critics. "God bless you. You don't do it for me, and you never have. It took me a long time as an actor to stop reading you."
Daniels wondered if he might have gone a little too far. "Did I just offend all of them?" he asked Sorkin.
Sorkin admitted his writing tends to be romantic and idealistic. That's where he is coming from. He added that "hubris on this show is always punished."
There were tweets aplenty during the lively session. Afterwards, in the post-session scrum, Sorkin admitted that HBO, at one point, wanted to bail on this Newsroom panel, but he insisted on coming. "I don't want to have an adversarial relationship with the press," he said. "I get that there are people who don't like the show, and who are writing honestly about the show...I've always had a great relationship with TCA."
He also talked about the YouTube "Sorkinisms" mashup video where he is shown to repeat lines of dialogue on his different shows ("You think?"). Sorkin says he loves the seven-minute clip, thinks it is well edited and heard from the person who put it together. "He was mortified," he told Sorkin. "He meant it as a tribute" and then saw it get turned against the showrunner in the wake of the mixed reviews for The Newsroom.
Asked why he repeats certain snippets of dialogue, Sorkin said it was because "I have a very limited imagination."
HBO has already ordered a second season for next year. The seventh episode airs Sunday at 10 p.m. ET.