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Sorkin's TV news is such a turn-off

To paraphrase Euripides, "Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first grant rave reviews." Aaron Sorkin, the man behind HBO drama The Newsroom, which began on Sky Atlantic this week, has had a generous share of raves in his time.

Viewers and critics loved The West Wing, which starred Martin Sheen as the best President of the United States that the United States never elected.

Sorkin's screenplay for The Social Network won an Oscar last year. He also got a nomination, although not a gong, for this year's Moneyball.

Though Sorkin's 2006 series Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip was cancelled after a single season, he was still regarded as TV royalty; the golden boy nobody else working in American television could catch sight of, never mind catch up with.

He appeared to have a licence to do anything he wanted, in the absolute certainty it would get the green light. What he chose to do was The Newsroom, a behind-the-scenes look at a television news programme called, by pure coincidence, Newsnight.

Now comes the destruction.

The Newsroom has received some pretty bruising reviews in the US. The New Yorker lambasted it, saying: "In The Newsroom, clever people take turns admiring one another. It makes the viewer itch."


The New York Times was marginally kinder. Acknowledging that Sorkin's heart is in the right place, it said the series -- which reflects its creator's liberal standpoint -- was saying the right thing about the decline in the standard of television news in America, but "saying it in the wrong way".

Entertainment Weekly was more blunt, calling the series "repetitive and self-righteous". The review might have added that it's also ponderous, pompous, hectoring, condescending to the audience and way, way too pleased with itself.

The Newsroom has a lot going for it, not least an exceptional cast that includes Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer (pictured), Sam Waterston and Jane Fonda. The problem is they're all playing idealised stereotypes.

Daniels' character, a cranky anchorman who rails against the dumbing-down of the media, is so saintly he should be a plaster statue in a church. Sorkin's vision of what television news should be like is anchored (pun very much intended) in the 1950s and Sixties golden age of Ed Murrow and Walter Cronkite, when the reality is Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity frothing at the mouth on Fox News, while Piers Morgan pockets obscene amounts of money over at CNN.

The Newsroom is set in the more recent past, 2010, which means the characters can conveniently pontificate about stuff that's already happened, as opposed to the more important stuff that's happening right now. It's a bit of a cheat, frankly.

Sorkin seems to have taken the old maxim that you should write about what you know to extremes. He knows the way the media works and is clearly fascinated by it.

What he's forgotten is that people who work outside that arena find the subject as boring as I find a plumber describing how to fit a tap.

> white

elephant: It was dubbed "EastEnders in Spain", it cost a packet to make and it was yanked off screen after just a year, amid widespread hoots of derision at the lousy dialogue, terrible acting and boring storylines.

It was, of course, Eldorado, the BBC's disastrous 1992-3 soap opera about British expats living in an apartment complex (custom-built for the programme) on the Costa del Sol.

The BBC was so chastened by the experience that it vowed never to produce another soap from scratch.

Now, unbelievably, it's been reported that a dedicated band of BBC staff are lobbying hard to have Eldorado resurrected, possibly as a reality show. And before you consult your calendar, no, it isn't April 1.

> sweary satire: Few television stories have got us as excited as this week's news that Armando Iannucci's The Thick Of It is to return to BBC2 in the autumn.

Never mind a week being a long time in politics; it's been almost three years since we've seen foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) on the small screen and a lot has changed in the real world.

The new series will reflect this, with Tucker and his party now finding themselves in opposition and facing a coalition government. If this doesn't sound topical enough, Iannucci has hinted that the characters will find themselves caught up in a Leveson-style inquiry. Now THAT'S how you do satire.