Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
(SPOILER ALERT! This report outlines news events that are covered in Season 2 of HBO’s The Newsroom.) Creator-showrunner Aaron Sorkin took the wraps off a chunk of the forthcoming second season of his controversial HBO journalism drama tonight as a gift to voting members of the TV Academy, hoping that a little sneak peek will help win them over just as Emmy balloting gets underway. During an event at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Sorkin described that clip of The Newsroom as the first 15 minutes of the new campaign. “When I was wondering which clip to show, our costume designer said, ‘Well, you know nothing ever really happens in the first 15 minutes of everything you write’,” Sorkin quipped. That convinced him that he wouldn’t be leaking too many spoilers in what the packed house saw. However, it did reveal one or two.
SPOILER ALERT! The new season kicks off with a present-day deposition involving the lawyer portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden in a guest turn and features Jane Fonda returning as the CEO of the show’s fictional network parent company. It then flashes back to Aug. 23, 2011, and the beginning of Mohammar Gadhafi’s fall in Libya. If possible, the pacing is even faster rat-a-tat-tat and adrenalin-infused than it was in its inaugural season. Sample dialogue: Lawyer: “Fourteen months after you went on the air, you called the Tea Party ‘The American Taliban.’ What happened?” Anchor: “The Taliban resented it.”
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Sorkin — appearing onstage with cast members Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Thomas Sadoski, Sam Waterston, Alison Pill, Olivia Munn, Dev Patel and John Gallagher Jr. — admitted right off the top that everyone was feeling “a little bit punchy” because they had just wrapped principal photography on Season 2 some 48 hours earlier. The season, which premieres July 14, will be framed by a lawsuit indicated by the deposition seen at the beginning of the clip, which is “our version of the present day.” The time frame covered in the second season will be Aug. 23, 2011, through Election Night 2012 — about 14 1/2 months.
Sorkin had said during a PaleyFest event in March that the events being tackled in season two would include “the Tea Party/American Taliban; the general election including the primaries and conventions; Trayvon Martin; the Affordable Care Act; and drones.” And with the season ending in November 2012, there would be no coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy. SPOILER ALERT! But another real-life news story that will be covered slipped out courtesy of Mortimer, who praised Sorkin’s “incredible foresight” in having one of the season’s main themes surround chemical weapons warfare. Of course, it came out just this week that Syrian government has been charged with using exactly that in their conflict. “It’s frustrating because Aaron wrote that months ago,” Mortimer said, “but it will now seem as if he was simply following that story.” Sorkin emphasized, however, that the show is “hardly ever driven by a news event, anyway.”
At one point, a debate erupted among the panelists – spurred by castmate Sadoski – regarding the occasional irresponsibility exercised by real-life news organizations. Sadoski’s beef was specifically with CNN for early on misidentifying the Boston Marathon bomber and failing to apologize for it. “Is there any consequence for getting it wrong?” he asked “I certainly haven’t heard an apology that felt remotely sincere.” Sorkin chimed in, “And in the name of what? Being first? I’ve never gotten a good answer to the question of what the value is in being first, other than bragging rights.”
But at the same time, Sorkin denied that he has any sort of anti-journalist agenda on The Newsroom, despite what many journalists and critics have written. “I know there are real journalists who feel the show is an attack on them,” he said, “but that’s the last thing that’s intended.” He added that there’s an episode during season two that is “an absolute love letter” to the job reporters do. “I’m as infatuated by what reporters do as I am public servants,” he said.