Last night's viewing - The Newsroom, Sky Atlantic; Twenty-Twelve, BBC2

 

On YouTube, there's a video called "Sorkinisms", which at the time of writing has been watched well over half a million times. A home-edited string of clips from the work of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, it demonstrates just how often he recycles his own dialogue, re-using identical phrases from one film or TV show to the next.

If you've seen his 1995 romantic dramedy, The American President, you'll know it shares its setting and half its cast with The West Wing, first broadcast four years later. Turns out lines from The West Wing also crop up in Sorkin's next series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and even in his Oscar-winning screenplay for The Social Network.

According to the notes below the "Sorkinisms" video, its creator intended his supercut not as a critique, but as "a playful excursion through Sorkin's wonderful world of words". However, it also sets the scene for the writer's latest primetime drama series, The Newsroom, which is nothing if not a stream of familiar Sorkin tics. Like Studio 60, and his other short-lived series, Sports Night, The Newsroom is set behind the scenes at a live TV show: in this case, an evening news programme called News Night. Sorkin's protagonist, and News Night's anchor, is Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels): affability itself on camera, cranky git off it – a reverse-Paxman.

The pilot opened at a university debate, where two politicos from either side of the ideological divide were arguing about Obama's policies across a bemused, silent McAvoy. Our hero, it implied, is the calm voice of reason in a nation gone mad, which may or may not be concomitant with Sorkin's own self-image. McAvoy, finally cracking under the strain of neutrality, delivered an angry tirade about America's flaws, mourning its former greatness: "We stood up for what was right," he cried, "We fought for moral reasons!" Slavery, the A-bomb and Vietnam went conveniently unmentioned, for The Newsroom is a show about nostalgia, conducted via hindsight.

Its opening credits feature archive footage of Ed Murrow and Walter Cronkite over swelling piano music, and Sorkin plainly idolises the great news anchors of the past. McAvoy's boss, a bow-tie-sporting Sam Waterston, claimed, "In the old days, we did the news well… We just decided to." And simple as that, McAvoy and his team decided, between bouts of screwball banter, to do the news "well". The episode, it emerged, was set in 2010, and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had just exploded. Unlike the real-life news networks, News Night quickly spotted the corporate and governmental failures at the heart of the story, and aimed straight for them.

The final act's live broadcast sequence was as spine-tingling as the best Sorkin set-pieces. The Newsroom is wish fulfilment for news junkies, just as The West Wing was a comforting fantasy for liberals under the Bush administration. But if McAvoy and co hit the right notes every week as they report on the recent past – healthcare reform, the Tea Party, the economic crises – it will surely come off as smug, not to mention cheating. This is how a newsroom ought to work, not how a newsroom actually works. And, in the long run, the latter might have been more interesting.

Twenty-Twelve, by contrast, is a worst-case scenario. In the first of a new run of the Olympics mockumentary, the hapless Games organisers were – as usual – struggling to fix a series of semi-consequential problems with signature incompetence. It's the same jokes all over again, and, like the most worn-out Sorkinisms, they become less and less funny with each repetition. Still, in spite of myself, I chuckled at the Nathan Barley-esque names for the employees of PR company Perfect Curve: "Senior Trend Analyst, Coco Lomax; Information Architect, Barney Lumsden; and Viral Concept Designer, Karl Marx."

Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?