Before the first episode of “The Newsroom” aired, expectations were sky high for one reason: Aaron Sorkin. This was going to be the new show from the mind behind “The West Wing” and Oscar-winner who penned “The Social Network,” and moreover, it was going to tackle the thorny world of cable news. But the results were far from satisfactory. Wildly uneven, and sometimes more polemical than dramatic, the show still managed an average of 7.1 million viewers per week, though critics were divided, particularly when it came to show’s on-the-sleeve politics. Fox News program “The Five” host Greg Gutfield recently called the show a “left-wing loon bin” and while the hyperbole is amusing, it does speak to the sometimes naive nature of “The Newsroom,” especially as Sorkin drives the narrative to tackle ripped-from-the-headlines topics, usually putting conservatives in his gun sight. So for season two, the stakes are high — so high in fact, Sorkin pretty much scrapped the first two episodes.
THR has a must-read behind-the-scenes look at the show, but the biggest takeaway is Sorkin’s determination to get it right… even if he gets in his own way sometimes. With a crippling writer’s block that usually finds him delivering scripts at the 11th hour and a bullheaded attitude that sometimes causes him to block out opinions from anyone else, this combination led to the second season’s first three episodes getting massively overhauled. After the first two episodes had been shot, and while in the midst of writing the third, Sorkin realized he had written himself into a corner and needed to change direction.
“I doubt HBO’s going to be happy with my telling you this, but I got off to a false start with season two,” he said. “With my hat in my hand, I went to HBO and said, ‘Would it be all right if I started again? I know it’s going to cost time and it’s going to cost a lot of money.’ Other networks would have said no.”
The result? Big chunks of the first two episodes were re-shot, the third episode was rewritten and season order dropped from ten episodes to nine. And while Sorkin won’t go so far as to admit he’s taken criticisms to heart, he does hope the second season offers a bit of course correction. “There are a great many people who weren’t just disappointed with ‘The Newsroom’ but really maddened by it. It was impossible to avoid hearing that,” he told the trade, adding: “I hope some of the people who were turned off by the show last year take a second look and maybe are a little bit happier. But you’re playing a dangerous game if you write to try to change people’s minds.”
“The Newsroom” returns on Sunday, July 14th. Be sure to hit the THR article for more about the show, including Sorkin’s thoughts on the charges of sexism leveled at the program.