THE NEWSROOM: Aaron Sorkin on Criticism, Rumors, and Tackling the (Real) News - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

THE NEWSROOM: Aaron Sorkin on Criticism, Rumors, and Tackling the (Real) News

August 2, 2012 by  

Love it or hate it, chances are if you’re watching HBO’s THE NEWSROOM, you have fairly strong feelings about it.

Creator Aaron Sorkin participated in a Television Critics Association panel about the series on Wednesday and he tackled criticism, gender issues, rumors, real-life news, and more…

Yes, Sorkin knows some people didn’t like the show, but it won’t change what viewers see in season 1.

“Well, for sure, we all know that there were critics who did not enjoy watching the first four episodes, and there were critics that did,” Sorkin admitted. “But I think that and, obviously, you’d prefer that the praise for the show be unanimous, but I think that anytime people are talking this much about a television show, it’s good for television. It’s good for people who watch television. It’s good for the people who work in television…One of the lucky things one of the nice, sort of, unintended consequences of working for HBO is that the entire season is written, shot, and locked in the can before the first episode airs. So even if you are tempted to try to write a little bit differently to please the people or change someone’s mind, you can’t do it. The season is done.”

One of the loudest — and most frequent — criticisms the show has received so far has been of its portrayal of female characters. Sorkin, however, disagreed that the women are unequal to the men or come off as stupid in comparison to their male counterparts.

“I completely respect that opinion, but I a hundred percent disagree with it,” he said. “I think that the female characters on the show are, first of all, every bit the equals of the men. I think that they that they are not just talked about as being good at their job; we plainly see them being good at their job beginning with the first episode. The only reason the show is happening is because MacKenzie comes along, grabs everyone by the throat, and says, ‘We are going to do better.’ And then we see her thrust into a breaking news situation, which she handles beautifully.”

“When we meet Maggie, she’s one of the few people staying behind,” he continued. “Why? Loyalty to Will. When we meet Sloan, we are told that she could be making a lot more money working on Wall Street, but we see her get offered a job in primetime, which is a great career step up, and her first reaction isn’t, ‘Yippy, I get to be in primetime.’ It’s, ‘I think this is fantastic that we are going to be doing more in depth economic coverage in primetime. Let me give you a list of my teachers who are better qualified to do this.’ These and many, many other qualities of caring about things other than yourself, of reaching high, of being thoughtful, curious, plainly smart, of being great team players, those, to me, are what define these characters. And by the way, I’d say the same thing about the actresses playing them, and that once you’ve nailed those down, you can have them slip on as many banana peels as you want. That’s just comedy.”

Was the writing staff fired?

Several weeks ago, rumors spread that Sorkin had fired his writing staff for the show’s upcoming second season. But Sorkin claimed that story was incorrect.

“A couple of weeks ago, an unsourced and untrue story appeared on the Internet,” Sorkin said. “That then got repeated all over the place. So I want to be as clear as I can possibly be about this: the writing staff was not fired. Just seeing that in print is scaring the hell out of the writing staff. They are acting very strange. They are coming to work early. They are being, I don’t know, like, polite to me, and I want the old gang back. I love the writing staff. I thought that we did great this year, and it’s a fantastic group of men and women to come to work with. We have a ball.”

But with that said, that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes.

“With series television, at the end of each season, you get together with the producers and with the department heads, and you talk about ways that you can get better,” he said. “And so a couple of staffing changes were made that included promoting our two writers’ assistants, Dana Ledoux Miller and Michael Gunn, from writer’s assistant to story editors, skipping over the rung of staff writer. But even more important, other than that, the writing staff was not fired. And I’m looking forward to coming back to work with them in a few weeks. Even more important, I want to stand up for Corinne Kingsbury…In this same unsourced, untrue story that came out a couple days ago, she was incorrectly identified as my ex girlfriend. She is not. I do not have an ex girlfriend in the writers’ room or anywhere on the show. I don’t have a current girlfriend in the writers’ room or anywhere else on the show, and…I think she’s at the beginning of a very exciting career, and I would hate for this rumor or implication that she somehow got where she was for any reason other than merit to have to follow her around for the rest of her life.”

One thing that will be different next season? There will be paid consultants.

“And I’ll tell you at this time, too, really, the major change that we are making to the staff is that [for season 2] we’ll have paid consultants on the staff,” Sorkin said. “For the first season, it was on, kind of, a voluntary basis, and they did great. But I am hiring a range of paid consultants from television, print and online media representing every part of the ideological and political spectrum that you can imagine, and I think it’s going to be a big bonus for the show.

No, Sorkin won’t make up fake news for THE NEWSROOM.

While most shows create their own realities — whether it’s medical cases, crimes, etc. — Sorkin reiterated that he felt most comfortable using real-life events that people already are familiar with.

“The reason I did that was simply because I didn’t want to make up fake news,” Sorkin said. “I didn’t feel like we would be able to relate to that world in which not only wasn’t the news that we’re all experiencing together being presented, but a whole different world was being presented, one in which we just invaded Japan or something. I would need to be making up these fake news stories. So I set it in the past so that I could use real news.”

“I’ll tell you what reason I did not do it,” he added. “I didn’t do it so that I could leverage hindsight into making our characters smarter at stuff. And I know from time to time it seemed that way. But it’s actually not what happens. Just with the BP oil spill…no one in the episode says, ‘Boy, these other guys are so dumb. I wonder why they aren’t as smart as we are’ in real life it would be about 48 hours before the news would begin reporting that they were having trouble figuring out how to cap the well. That’s not what’s happening in the episode at all. A big light is shined on the fact that an incredible coincidence happens. Jim, this new guy who has just walked in, gets two phone calls within five minutes of each other. Nobody else at any news network had that coincidence happen to him, and that is there. The whole BP thing is there to force Will to take a risk and to show the excitement of breaking news and to show how competent MacKenzie is at doing all of this.”

“When the thing is over, nobody is saying, ‘We got them. We’re two days ahead of everybody else,'” Sorkin continued. “Will’s reaction, when Will asks Tom Sadoski’s character, Don, ‘What did everybody else run?’ and when he’s told that they didn’t cover the story the way he did, he’s terrified. He thinks that they’ve blown it. This is a risk averse guy, and they think that he’s blown it. There’s never a moment on the show where, if our guys do something right like Gabby Giffords, for instance. If our guys do something right, there is never a time when somebody else didn’t do it right too. We may point out MSNBC saying that she was dead, making that mistake, but there will always be other networks that got it right too.”

Which means the series will never be current with our real time: THE NEWSROOM will be “anywhere between 9 and 18 months behind” Sorkin said.

Have you been watching THE NEWSROOM?

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