Aaron Sorkin is well aware that critics had a lot to say about The Newsroom's first season. Whether he plans to do anything differently with regard to the many complaints is a different story.
"As far as criticism goes, there was a lot, so it would be hard to address this and not that," Sorkin, the show's creator and executive producer, told TVGuide.com at Sunday's PaleyFest panel. "There are plenty of TV critics I respect, and I read them and I think about what they're saying. But when it comes time to write, you really got to go in and do your thing and not have too many voices in your head."
So while it sounds like it's a safe bet to expect News Night executive producer MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) to still slip on banana peels and accidentally send staff-wide e-mails, there are plenty of changes ahead for the drama as it heads into its second season this summer on HBO. Sorkin, executive producer Alan Poul and the cast teased what's ahead:
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Flash-forwards!: Although Season 2 will pick up just a week after the first season finale, the second season will take a page from Damages' playbook and flash-forward to a major, season-long story line every few episodes. "You'll understand if you watch the season from the beginning," Sorkin said. Poul went a bit further and revealed that the story will involve a lawsuit brought against News Night for, and Marcia Gay Harden a high-powered attorney who is hired to represent the show. "It involves news. It involves all of our characters and that is something that the details of which will unfold gradually as the season progresses," he says. "It will put them in jeopardy." When asked what inspired the idea, Poul said it was about keeping the show fresh for fans. "What we did last season, which was every episode, once you found out what date it was taking place, everyone would try and guess 'Oh, what is going to be the breaking news?' — that paradigm worked really well," he says. "If we just repeated that, it would begin to ... lose some of its excitement so we just wanted to up our game a little bit."
Hit the road, Jim: After (finally) sharing a long-awaited kiss with Maggie (Alison Pill) in the season finale, things will obviously be a little awkward when Jim (John Gallagher Jr.) hears about her and Don (Thomas Sadoski) moving in together. So how does he deal with a broken heart? By leaving town and heading to New Hampshire to replace News Night's embedded reporter on the Romney campaign bus. "Jim had lots of personal reasons for wanting to go away for a couple weeks," Poul said. That storyline will introduce new faces including Constance Zimmer and Grace Gummer, both of whom play characters working for the Romney campaign. Added Sorkin: "He sees a whole new world there."
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Speaking of the love triangle: It's going to get even more complicated, natch. "It becomes a hexagon," Poul said. "We just keep adding more sides to make it interesting." Although the cast was tight-lipped about the dynamics this season, Pill did reveal that Maggie's now-ex-roommate, and Jim's on-and-off girlfriend Lisa (Kelen Coleman) will be back. When asked if Jim will be getting a new love interest this season, Poul answered with a coy "maybe." As for Don and Maggie, Pill said things will be "different and not different enough" between the two once they start co-habitating. "It seems to have settled into a nice easy place, certainly at the beginning," Sadoski said.
Odd man in: Now that Don and Maggie have moved in together, look for News Night's ex-executive producer to also feel more at home with McAvoy's entire team in the office as well. "I think he's been integrated back into the group a little bit more," Sadoski said. "As per Charlie's wishes, the two shows are now working together in tandem and that integration is felt a little bit more in this season."
Breaking news update: In addition to the presidential election, Sorkin revealed during the panel that The Newsroom will also cover the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the Trayvon Martin case and the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Although he said on the red carpet that Hurricane Sandy would also be addressed as a big factor complicating the team's election coverage, he is unsure whether the show will address the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, Conn. "If the only ways I could think of a story would reduce it, I wouldn't do it," Sorkin said. "Looking down the calendar at Sandy Hook, that's my fear there. ... You really don't want to do a disservice to that story."
The Newsroom's new season premieres this summer on HBO.