The first season of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama “The Newsroom” was solid with viewers (averaging 7.1 million a week) and divisive with critics, maddening many with its didactic tendencies, hindsight-enabled righting of the poor journalistic practices surrounding real news stories and writing of its female characters. The series returns for a second season on July 14th, and to prepare for the return of the “News Night” crew, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Lacey Rose has a cover story in which she pays a visit to the “West Wing” creator’s second season set. There are plenty of interesting details, including the tidbit that Sorkin has MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, former Bush adviser Mark McKinnon and reporter Kaj Larsen on board as paid consultants, and the fact that he shot two episodes of the new season before asking the network if he could go back and start over. But the article also contains quotes from Sorkin, executive producer Alan Poul and HBO president Michael Lombardo that are a reminder of why the series can be so infuriating — mainly in their suggestion that the major criticisms of the show are just personal or utterly off base. Here are five:
- Regarding the complaints that the show’s female characters are written as flighty, incompetent and at the mercy of their emotional impulses, Sorkin says “It doesn’t mean that [the critics are] wrong, it just means I don’t see it that way… In every episode of the show, if you believe that the show treats women badly and that the show is sexist, you can find evidence to support your theory. I just think you can find a lot more evidence that contradicts your theory.”
- The main thing stopping TV news from being as idealistic and noble as what’s portrayed in the series is not the increasingly self-defeating structure of being commercially supported and ratings-dependent is cowardice, according to Sorkin, who asked various news division figures what a utopian news show would look like and what was stopping them from creating one: “The answer to the second was always some form of guts or courage.”
- Addressing the criticism of the series in general, Lombardo suggests it’s just born of spite: “He had just won the Oscar, and unfortunately when people are riding high, there is that wanting to take them down.”
- Later he added that the media felt threatened: “[The show] very clearly had a comment to make about the state of news and journalism, and that’s provocative to people who work in the media space.”
- Poul seconded that read by saying “Aaron was very gracious about saying that everybody should just realize that this is personal and had nothing to do with the work that any of them had done, but it didn’t ameliorate the sense that there was something more going on. The extent to which some people were just waiting with knives out was a little bewildering.”
The whole story can be read here. The second season will have a larger single story tying it together in addition to tackling Occupy Wall Street, SOPA, Trayvon Martin and the Affordable Care Act Supreme Court’s decision. We’ll have to wait until July to find out whether it will attract the same mixture of media frustration and praise as it did in its first season, but until then Lombardo in particularly isn’t going to soothe anyone by arguing that the criticism is just coming from a petty desire to tear a successful person down.