Perhaps the most spirited panel at the Television Critics Association press tour was the one for the HBO series The Newsroom. Creator Aaron Sorkin and star Jeff Daniels were onstage for the panel, where reporters asked them their opinions of criticism surrounding the show. Some of the questions got a little pointed, and Sorkin got a little defensive. Things were lively.
"We all know that there were critics who did not enjoy the first four episodes," Sorkin acknowledged, "and there were critics that did. Obviously, you'd prefer that the praise be unanimous."
Critics of the series have taken issue with several aspects of the show, most notably the show's portrayal of women, which some have interpreted as being sexist. Sorkin's response to critics' questions regarding the show's portrayal of women all added up to the same point: he doesn't see it that way.
"I completely respect that opinion, but I 100 percent disagree with it," he said. "I think the female characters on the show are every bit the equals of the men." Once characters are established as strong, "you can have them slip on as many banana peels as you want," he said. It's comedy, not sexism, he argued.
Sorkin brushed off an allegation that the male characters are presented as being more noble than the females. "We present Will's mission to civilize as something that people roll their eyes at, and that always blows up in his face," Sorkin said. "Hubris on this show is always punished."
He also denied criticism directed at his decision to set the show in the recent past: "I'll tell you one reason I did not do it. I did not do it so I could leverage hindsight into making our characters smarter at stuff. I know from time to time it seemed that way, (but) it's actually not what happens."
Jeff Daniels, meanwhile, didn't say much. When he did get a chance to talk, he responded that he didn't take criticism to heart. "I completely get why you do what you do," he said. "God bless you. But you don't do it for me, and you never have. It took me a long time as an actor to stop reading you." He worried that he had offended the room, but most critics present didn't respond negatively.
The Newsroom will air its next episode, "5/1," Sunday on HBO.