Take a hotel ballroom, a handful of disappointed critics and one of the most intelligent, stubborn television show writers/creators in the business and what do you get?
This afternoon's panel discussion between The Newsroom scribe Aaron Sorkin and the Television Critics Association. In a Q&A that was often tense, but never overly contentious, both sides dug in, acted as respectfully as possible... and pretty much disagreed on every issue related to this HBO series.
We've rundown some of Sorkin's more choice responses below, followed by a poll asking TV Fanatics for their take on The Newsroom so far:
On the overall feedback to the show: "Any time that people are talking this much about a television show, it's good for television... good for people who watch television and good for people who work in television."
On the divisive issue of politics: "I want to make a clear distinction between me and the characters that are in the show. I - most of the time - write about things I don't know much about. The political opinions that I have are at the level of sophistication of a person who has a BFA in musical theater."
On the criticism of how female characters are portrayed: "I completely respect that opinion, but I one hundred percent disagree with it. The female characters are the equals of the men... and we plainly see them being good at their jobs.
"We present Will's mission to civilize as something everyone rolls their eyes at and something that always blows up in his face. Hubris in this show is always punished. Men and women screw up in the same way."
On reportedly firing his writing staff: This is not the case. "A couple of staffing changes were made that included promoting our two writer's assistants to story editors, but the writing staff hasn't been fired - I'm looking forward to coming back to work with them soon."
Sorkin added that "paid consultants" across all mediums - print, online, etc. - would be included on Season 2.
On the ability to write with hindsight: "I set [the show] in the past so I could use real news. I didn't do it so that I could leverage hindsight into making our characters smarter at stuff... If our guys do something right, there is never a time when someone else didn't get it right, too."
Jeff Daniels also spoke out a couple times, at one point defending the charge that there's "asymmetry" in how the men and women are depicted by saying all the show's characters have "flaws" and also directly addressing journalists in the room:
"I've gotta be honest with you - I completely get why you do what you do, God bless you, but you don't do it for me. It took me a long time as an actor to stop reading you. You love me, you hate me ... where do I go?"
I have several responses to many points here - most notably my disagreement with Sorkin in how MacKenzie, especially, has devolved since the premiere, along with his attempt at self-deprecation by joking about his lack of political sophistication, as if he isn't well-versed in this area and as if he doesn't have an agenda (which is fine, just be honest about it) - but I have a forum for these each week in my Newsroom reviews.
So I want to hear from you: What grade would you give The Newsroom so far?
NOTE: This Sunday's episode, previewed above, will focus on the night Osama bin Laden was killed.