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April 23, 2014

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The Cold Open

by Bob Sassone, posted Sep 25th 2006 10:57PM

Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford(S01E02) If it's possible, this second episode was even better than the first.

Where the first episode took a lot of time introducing all of the various characters (it had to, with such a large cast), this one jumps right into the action, and the episode is borderline brilliant. It's Monday morning, three days after the events of the first episode, and Jordan McDeere starts her first full day as the new president of NBS by holding a press conference to introduce Matt and Danny.

Of course, things don't go as planned...

As Jordan takes questions from the audience, most of them about Wes' on-air meltdown that she refuses to answer, Matt and Danny are backstage waiting to be introduced. They're talking about why Danny sent Matt home for the weekend, and why he sent Jeanie home with him. Danny explains that Matt was in no shape to be alone or to work (those painkillers), but Matt tells Danny that Harriet doesn't know that he and Jeanie used to date.

(Side note: people who want to write TV scripts should record this scene and study it closely. It's amazing how much information that Aaron Sorkin packs into the scene, how many storylines and characters he talks about, amazing how he sets the tone and mood of the episode, and it doesn't even remotely seem forced.)

Matt and Danny do really well at the press conference, until the last question, from a reporter for Rapture magazine. Jack asks if the Rapture is what he thinks it is, and it is. The woman asks about the "Crazy Christians" sketch that Danny wrote years ago and was cut from last week's show, whether or not it will be in the show this week. When Matt tries to say he doesn't know yet, Danny says that it will definitely be in. Oh, and this is after Danny told the crowd about his cocaine problem and Jordan guaranteed the show this week will be fantastic and will bring NBS to the top again.

They have a lot to live up to.

Matt has to come up with a "cold open," the very first sketch that opens the show. He meets with the writing staff, but none of their ideas click. He finally gets an idea from something Cal says, and with the help of Simon and Tom and Danny, he has the cold open (I won't give it away here, but it involves a symphony orchestra, white tuxes, and WS Gilbert).

To explore further what I said above, Sorkin's writing is beautiful. Sure, his characters always know the right thing to say, but I like watching smart, funny characters on television (there's already enough of the opposite on TV). And it's amazing how every scene is a little gem, yet fits into the flow and structure of the episode as a whole. You find out more about the characters (why Simon is mad at Danny, the reasons behind Matt and Harriet's break up, etc) than you do in a whole season of other shows. There's a fantastic moment where Jack (Weber) shows some humor and humanity. I won't say what the line is, but you have to know a little TV sitcom history to get it, and it made me smile.

The only part of the episode that rings false to me is the TV blogger bashing. And, no, I don't say this because I write for a TV blog. The blog in question is "Bernadette's Blog" (hmmm...is it based on any real blog? Kristin over at E Online? Television Without Pity?). Simon (Hughley) advises Tom (Cordrry) not to read the internet because Bernadette "is writing it in her pajamas" and "has a freezer full of Jenny Craig and five cats." Now, I think those are funny lines, but it seems like something someone would say about the web circa, what, 1999?

But that's a minor quibble, because this is the best new show of the year, easily. It's truly entertaining, smart, and well done in all ways. Every bit of the hype was justified. I just hope the audience sticks with it.

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James

Luv luv love the show, but enough said, others have covered that. However: can Nathan Corddry be doing more of a Josh Lyman impression? Every time he opens his mouth I expect to see Toby throw a Spaldeen into the frame.

September 28 2006 at 12:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

I love this show and all the little hidden gems it contains. I wonder how many get the reference Jack makes to Jordan just before the start of the show? I did but then I guess I've seen a lot of classic television.

My fear is that masses won't understand "Studio 60" and it will turn out the be one of those shows that are just too good for Television. Sure hope I'm wrong about that!

September 27 2006 at 1:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary

I have purposely not read any of the other comments on this thread because I don't want to get my blood pressure up from negativity. I think this show is going to prove to be one of the best since, God I don't know, NYPD blue or something. People need to be patient. The exposition is almost over and the best is yet to come. Sorkin may be as left as the most right winger is right, but he's not going to be afraid to p*** off the liberals, and he's too smart and not lazy enough to simply bash the right wingers. PLEASE, hang in with this show, folks, you'll be patting yourselves on the back in a few months saying, "I knew it all the time."

September 26 2006 at 6:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dk

Well at least I'll be agreeing with someone when I say episode 2 sucked. I really wanted to be a fan but if it wasn't for DVR I wouldn't be watching the next one. I think the problem here is that Sorkin's Newt Rockney style of win one for the Gipper writing is most adept to a West Wing where he can tug at patriotism and get us all emotional. I could care less if they get a good stand in for the White Stripes it just doesn't translate for me. Oh and Red Staters relax. So at times you're the butt of his joke but if they did do a crzy chrisitans gag they would get protests and cancelations. It's ok. Problem here is I can't see it getting better. I mean what's next weeks problem going to be "Trouble with the Opening Monologue," Followed by "Wardrobe Malfunction." I'm calling it now, season finally featuring Christian Conservative militant taking a shot at one of the cast giving way to a full episode of flashback to when Chandler and the blonde first met. Hey, I wish them luck and hope to be surprised but I wish the WW was still on. BTW Hero kicked ass. That show looks like it's going to be fun.

September 26 2006 at 4:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dorv

Hell, Hessian, I live in the fly over states (Kansas), and I'm a conservative, and I wasn't offended. Everything I got was that she wasn't going to be held hostage by smaller markets. She didn't say those people were stupid.

Lets pop in "20 Hours in America" into our DVD players, and see how Toby and Josh get derailed for having the exact sentiment everyone thinks Sorkin implies here. Wait... Who wrote "20 Hours In America?"

(That's an episode of the West Wing, for those who are new to Sorkin)

September 26 2006 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kel

Hessian -yes I did, that's why I asked. Thanks.

September 26 2006 at 12:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cinesister

Thanks Bob. I was under the impression that Sorkin worked in the writer's room with the team, then farmed episodes out to various members of his writing staff, and then once written took them back in and edited them to his satisfaction. That's what I heard the process was, but I could easily be mistaken. :) I guess I didn't want to underestimate the rest of the writers on the show who I'm sure work just as hard and never get any credit! lol

September 26 2006 at 11:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

Cinesister: Sorkin wrote the show last night, and writes most of the episodes of his shows.

September 26 2006 at 11:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cinesister

"(Side note: people who want to write TV scripts should record this scene and study it closely."

Absolutely. I'm a scriptwriter and I also read scripts for a number of companies, and watching last night's episode I was just blown away at the technical prowess displayed by the writer (I know Sorkin doctors most scripts, but was he the credited writer on last night's episode? I forgot to look...). It makes me feel vastly inferior. :)

In the early scenes, the way the writing managed to get information across to the audience without being clunky or awkward was remarkable, something a lot of other TV shows fail to do on a regular basis (I'm looking at you, 24 and Lost...). It's an inherent difficulty with the medium, but still, some do it better than others. And to me, Sorkin and his team were flawless in last night's episode.

I can't quite understand why people tend to label Sorkin's work as 'intelligent' television - he's pitching his writing at exactly the right level, it's the other shows who're too dumb and should be trying to raise their games to meet him. It's only seen as smart because television has allowed us to forget how to think.

More of this, that's what I say.

September 26 2006 at 11:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tucker

Oh man, I'm saying this a little early, but this show looks like it's going to make a place on my favorites list. The scene with the clock ("yeah, but how did it *know*??") was hilarious. I haven't really watched a lot of Sorkin - and I'm pretty sure this is one of his signature things - but I found the long cuts absolutely outstanding. TV and movies have become so seizure-inducing with their quick cuts and angle switches that it's sad when a nice, long, unbroken scene stands out so much. Props to the director, I was very impressed with the cinematography, and that's something I typically don't even think about when watching a TV show.

I almost want to not like the show in the face of all the overwhelming praise it's gotten, but very rarely does a show completely live up to the hype. I'm kind of miffed about being on the bandwagon and all about the "trendy new show everyone's talking about," but I am - it's just too good to dislike out of spite.

September 26 2006 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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