Aaron Sorkin hears your criticism.
The creator of “The Newsroom” acknowledges the commentary that the female characters on his behind-the-scenes drama about a 24/7 cable news channel are written as smart, yet functionally incompetent. He just doesn’t have the same opinion.
“I 100 percent disagree with it,” Sorkin told reporters gathered at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Wednesday. “I think that the female characters on the show are, first of all, every bit the equals of the men. We plainly see [women] being good at their job beginning with the first episode. … The men and the women screw up in roughly the exact same way.”
Once their intelligence has been established, Sorkin says, he likens his character’s screw-ups to slipping on banana peels. “That’s just comedy,” he said. “These are people reaching unrealistically high, and they’re going to fall down a lot. Those are the things that I love writing, writing romantically and idealistic, and it’s by no means a review of how the news was done.”
Star Jeff Daniels, who plays news anchor Will McAvoy, stood by the creative decisions made by his boss. “We come on with these big warts and flaws,” Daniels says of Sorkin’s characters, “and I love that about his writing. Emily [Mortimer’s] character is established as smart, and then she keeps screwing up. That’s one of the things that Will loves about her.”
One thing some critics don’t particularly care for about Will is his habit of pontificating. Though grand monologues have always been a hallmark of Sorkin’s work (from “The West Wing” to “The Social Network”), the writer has been accused of using Will as a mouthpiece for his own strong opinions.
“I want to make a clear distinction between me and the characters that are in the show,” Sorkin told reporters, adding that he tends to write about subjects “I actually don’t know very much about” and citing “Moneyball,” his film about the inner workings of the Oakland A’s baseball team, in particular. “I get pumped full of information by people who do know what they are talking about so that I can find the point of friction and write an episode,” he said, admitting, “political opinions that I have are at the level of sophistication of someone who has a BFA in musical theater.”
Still, Sorkin, and perhaps more importantly HBO, is happy with the series that is currently finishing up its first season. Sorkin announced “The Newsroom” Season 2 will begin airing in June 2013, and that he is hiring “paid consultants from television, print and online media representing every part of the ideological and political spectrum that you can imagine” to boost the series’ authenticity moving forward. But, Sorkin added, he already is writing as truthfully as he knows how.
“I’ve only ever tried to write the way I write,” he said. “I haven’t tried to figure out what it is that most people will like and then give it to them. I try to write what I like and what I think my friends would like, and then I keep my fingers crossed that enough other people will like it that I can keep doing it.”
An average of 7 million viewers per episode seem to enjoy what he’s doing on “The Newsroom” — and that’s something even critics might have a hard time arguing about.