with Hamish McKenzie
Aaron Sorkin's golden run may be coming to an end. The acclaimed writer (above) of The West Wing, The Social Network and A Few Good Men has built his reputation on high-energy, voluble dramas that bend the arm of the world's moral compass to fit his paint-by-numbers liberalism, from the portrayal of righteous political leaders down to monochromatic depictions of greedy white boys who corrupt the world with a vapid website.
No one was expecting anything different from Sorkin's latest, The Newsroom (HBO, Wednesdays at 9pm), a series set in a cable television newsroom headed by reformed anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels; Pleasantville), who has suddenly decided that it's time to 'speak truth to stupid'.
The Sorkin mechanics are familiar: speedy, sharp dialogue; power-walks as action; breathless monologues with transformative effects; and fist-pumping moments of ethical rectitude. This time, though, we are subjected to pontificating speeches about how the news is broken - and not in the right sense - and how there has to be a way to present it with integrity, so that viewers will still tune in, without having to patronise them with the populist tripe and whizzy banners of CNN and Fox. Those networks obviously make Sorkin despair so much, he has invented a world in which a true and just and sexy and exciting news organisation not only exists, but can also afford Aeron chairs for all.
Actually, Sorkin's moral outrage is well placed. TV news - especially in America - is awful to the point of intolerable. Fox and CNN frequently let democracy down. The latest example was when they both utterly botched the Supreme Court's ruling on health care, getting the news totally wrong in an effort to be the first to broadcast it. But in The Newsroom, Sorkin lays it on so thick - the main characters quote Cervantes, for God's sake! - that it's hard not to feel like we're being lectured by a crotchety old man who remembers what it was like when America was 'great' and the news was boring but always 'right'. And his pathetic disdain for 'the internet', and especially YouTube and Twitter, reveals him as not just out of touch, but also naive about the realities of information sharing.
Still, we're going to keep watching. Of course we are. Journalists love to hate shows about other journalists.
The rest of the world will probably be more interested in the orgy of lycra and limbs that has descended upon London. The Olympic Games can be seen on free-to-air TV. TVB and ATV are sharing the broadcast of the Games, with a programming schedule that covers all the live events, starting from yesterday and going through until the closing ceremony, on August 12. TVB Pearl will be giving live coverage between 4.30pm and 7.30pm, and then again from 11pm to 2am. ATV World takes on the coverage between the hours of 8pm and 11pm, and from 2am to 5am.
Highlights in Cantonese will be screened daily on ATV Home (7.15am-7.45am; 12pm- 12.30pm) and on TVB Jade (Monday to Friday, 7.30pm-8pm; Saturday 11pm-11.30pm and 3.30pm-4.30pm; daily, 12am-1am). An extra-condensed recap of each day's events can be found on London Express, which is being screened on TVB Jade at 10.30pm every weeknight, 9.30pm on Saturdays and 9pm on Sundays. You might want to make sure your clock isn't fast for that one.
One of the salient features of this year's Games will be the sponsors. The International Olympic Committee has already taken flak for allowing McDonald's and Coca-Cola to continue sponsoring the Games despite a worsening global obesity epidemic. And that's why comedian Alex Riley's show about our obsession with brands is so well timed.
In Secrets of the Superbrands (BBC Knowledge; starting Wednesday at 10.55pm), Riley presents three episodes that explore how some of the world's most powerful brands trick us into thinking that they're wonderful. Riley (above right) looks at the usual suspects in fashion, food and technology, but the most interesting is Apple, one of the few companies that can afford to occupy two floors of the IFC Mall in Central. That might in part be explained by the grip the computer brand has on an important part of our minds. In the show, Riley finds that Apple actually stimulates the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in those of people of faith.
But that, of course, is ridiculous. God is far less popular than Steve Jobs.