March 3, 2013

THE SKED @ PALEYFEST2013: “The Newsroom”


“You can’t fake smart,” Aaron Sorkin noted about his cast of THE NEWSROOM at tonight’s PaleyFest session, and that, along with the presence of real-life cable infortainment host Piers Morgan as moderator, seemed to set the tone for an unusually thoughtful evening.  Morgan appeared to be more interested in seeking guidance from Sorkin, Executive Producer Alan Poul and the cast about the state and future of TV news than about the series itself, and although the actors sometimes seemed startled to be posed questions as though they actually lived the parts they play (it’s doubtful that anyone asked Sam Waterston to prosecute murder cases when he was on Law & Order), they did indeed prove themselves intelligent and well-spoken enough to step up their game.  (That even applied to the audience:  Sorkin and company gave their own ovation to a clever attendee who turned Newsroom‘s pilot question “Why is America the greatest country in the world?” back against Jeff Daniels.)

It all left a limited amount of time to discuss Season 2 of The Newsroom, but the evening did begin with what appeared to be the first public glimpse of a 10-minute chunk from the series’ summer premiere.  Based on that, the show seems to be exactly as remembered, with a power failure and an erroneous soundbite causing havoc in the control room, fallout from Will McAvoy (Daniels) comparing the Tea Party to the Taliban last season leading to an unspecified lawsuit (with guest lawyer Marcia Gay Harden), News Department head Charlie Skinner (Waterston) reluctantly weighing the network’s business interests against principle, and the show’s designated douchebag Reese Lansing (Chris Messina) being humiliated.  Additionally we learned that the timeline of the season will begin in August 2011 with the revolt in Libya and continue at least through last fall’s election, although Sorkin (who’s still writing the scripts) is trying to decide if it should extend to the Newtown massacre, which is much on his mind but which he fears mishandling.

As for actual Newsroom storylines, next to nothing was said, although there was a broad hint that the relationship between Sloan (Olivia Munn) and Don (Thomas Sadoski) would be significant, and Sorkin’s strong avowal that the show wouldn’t be ruined if Will and MacKenzie McHale got together romantically suggested that it was more than a possibility.

Naturally, everyone praised everyone else grandly and at length, although with all that wit on stage came a little tartness:  after Munn passionately argued the case that women characters on TV should be able to be both beautiful and intelligent, and noted that because of this, she had insisted that Sloan wear form-fitting outfits that didn’t hide her body, Alison Pill (who plays Maggie) noted that oddly enough, no one had ever objected to Munn wearing form-fitting outfits.  It was also made abundantly clear that when you work for Aaron Sorkin, you read exactly the lines that Aaron Sorkin writes.  The polarizing features of The Newsroom–the way its women are depicted, its purported sanctimony and smugness–were mentioned but never discussed, with Sorkin merely saying that he hopes anyone who dismissed the show last season will give it another chance when it returns.  Sorkin also noted what a relief it was to be doing a show for a network that cared about passionate attachment rather than sheer ratings numbers, and it didn’t sound like he has plans to return to broadcast TV anytime soon–which is part of the reason, of course, that broadcast TV drama is in its current state.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."