By Sarah Bennett

How Aaron Sorkin became Woody Allen, and why The Newsroom sucks.

In a 2005 Vanity Fair profile, Peter Biskind described the many ways in which Woody Allen is a longtime creature of habit: for starters, he has the same breakfast every day, down to the same number of banana slices on his Cheerios. Of course, you can see his reliance on habit in his films, since he often uses variations on the same characters, scenarios, and plots — although lately he's broadened his cinematic geography beyond the Upper East Side while chasing financing in Europe.

The people and problems he's been writing about since the 1970s are no longer Allen's interpretation of a certain sector of society; the rest of the world has moved on, so his movies take place in a universe that now only exists in Woody Allen's mind. His characters all speak with that Allen-esque vocabulary and cadence, they're wealthy or middle-class and living in apartments that haven't been affordable to the middle class in decades (or, if they're poor, they're either cartoonish or sinister), and they generally behave in ways that cannot easily be found in nature. It's Woody Allen's world circa 1972, we just don't live in it.

Of course, if you love planet Woody and don't go to his films expecting anything different or realistic, then his long-distance relationship with our world isn't a problem. Then again, his habitual use of the same plots and characters could wear down even the most dedicated fan after almost 40 years (that and the whole daughter-fucking thing, but that's neither here nor there).

Like Allen, TV auteur Aaron Sorkin has developed a signature style, complete with endlessly recycled characters, plots, and even key phrases. Because he puts out a full season of television every year instead of just one movie, Sorkin's habits are much more obvious, and they're made worse by his insistence on writing nearly every episode of his shows himself. (He has a writing staff, but they seem to exist mostly to give him story ideas.) Nobody is more deserving of the supercut than Aaron Sorkin. And given how many sayings and anecdotes he reuses, no supercut could be more time-consuming to edit together.

Let's look at a few common sights of the Sorkin-verse: in three out of four of his television series, he's had a woman storm into a room and chew out an ex after he hooks up with another woman considered off-limits (the tirades on Sports Night and Studio 60 feature some of the same insults). Every show he writes involves a love triangle, usually with two men fighting over the same woman who is career-brilliant yet semi-autistic when it comes to her personal life (see: Gordon / Casey / Dana on Sports Night, Matt / Harriet / Luke [and at least one other schmuck] on Studio 60, Will / Mac / who cares on Studio 60). Both The West Wing and Sports Night feature lectures about the mystery sinking of the racing ship Orion. And on his three shows about television, there's always a battle with network executives — a plotline so exhausted at this point that even casting Jane Fonda as the network foe on The Newsroom can't even make it compelling.

So, after hundreds of episodes without much change to his creative input, Sorkin, like Allen, is now writing stories and characters that exist more in his mind than the real world. You could scour most of planet Earth and be hard-pressed to find humans who talk, react, or treat the opposite sex the way his characters do.

I can buy that in some parallel universe, a patronizing asshole like The Newsroom's Will McAvoy is worshiped by his staff, and Rachel Maddow never got a show and there is no other educated liberal voice on cable news, and news anchors get inundated with adoring fans and paparazzi on their way out of the building like Patti Lupone emerging from her stage door on Broad-way. But in our universe, where even Keith Olbermann realizes he's hard to work with, Rachel Maddow is a lefty hero, and Brian Williams can probably make it from 30 Rock to a waiting car without an ice skating tourist giving him a second look, The Newsroom is fairly ridiculous. 

If Sorkin would just allow other voices and opinions into his orbit, a lot of these problems would go away: men might treat women the way adult humans actually do, lectures would be delivered more artfully (and they'd range beyond the invention of television and the Orion), and plot points would be conveyed in more organic and original ways — unlike, say, making a woman who's repeatedly called "brilliant" less technologically competent than a elephant who can use a paintbrush. Even Woody Allen is doing some side acting and collaborating with other writers these days, and he made one of the greatest movies ever, Crimes and Misdemeanors (and then made it again with accents and gross baby oil sex scenes and called it Match Point, but let's ignore that).

The Newsroom's second season doesn't start until June. There's still time to bring Sorkin and his show closer, not just to earth, but relevancy. Woody Allen reached out to Louis CK to star in his next movie; all Aaron Sorkin has to do is use his staff, and then maybe he'll reach his audience again.