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

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before