Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The Focus Group
When I was a struggling writer who lived from paycheck to paycheck (when I had a paycheck), I signed up to do a lot of focus groups. They were easy, they paid $75, and all you had to do was sit around for an hour or two with a bunch of other people and talk about a product or a service. The thing is, and anyone who has gone to a focus group will admit this if they're being honest, is that they are filled with liars. Including me. They talk to you on the phone and ask you a bunch of questions about the focus group they're having, to see if they need you. Do you like Austrailian wine? Sure, I drink it all the time! Are you allergic to anything? Yup, I'm allergic to peanuts! Do you have kids? Oh yeah, I have five!
Anything for the $75.
That came to mind tonight with this episode. A focus group is shown the latest episode of Studio 60. They like the show for the first two questions, but later have a bad reaction to a complex sketch that Jeanie is in, and the group is also asked the question "Do you think the show is patriotic or unpatriotic?" The info gets out to the cast and crew, thanks to Ricky and Ron. But even beyond that, an ex-husband is trying to sell a book tells the press about Jordan's drunk driving past. She doesn't have luck with old boyfriends, does she?
The third episode of any show is always an interesting episode. A first episode is always new and exciting; the second episode is a continuation, where you wonder if the second can be as good as the first; and the third is when the viewer says, is this show going somewhere? Are they going to do something different? It's the episode where a new show either has you for good or starts to lose you. Now, Studio 60 had me at hello, but it has me for good after this episode. We learn more about the background of the characters, Ricky and Ron are more prominent, we get to see a little more of the industry stuff that shows go through. A lot of the plot of this ep, the whole thing with the focus group and needing to retain a certain percentage of the previous week's show, that could be said about Studio 60 too.
There is a balancing act that Aaron Sorkin and company have to do with this show. They not only have to write the NBC version of Studio 60, but I can sense that people are going to want to see the NBS version of Studio 60 too. They want to see them PROVE that Matt and Danny are actually helping this show. Now, some of the stuff they've shown as sketches has worked well, and some of it has been sorta SNL-ish and pretty damn bad. Maybe it's Sorkin way of showing that putting together a show like this in just one week is hard work, whether there's a power failure or not (as happens in this ep). This episode actually showed the entire week, how they put the show together, and unlike not showing the "Crazy Christians" sketch last week, we got to see some of the stuff. As I said, some worked, some were just bad ideas (the Tom Cruise reference is already out of date and lame, though Simon Helberg is a talented guy). A lot of it was clever. But I'm beginning to think, is it really fair for us to expect Sorkin and company to create two full shows every single week? NBC's Studio 60 and NBS' Studio 60? Personally, I don't think so. Give us a few sketches here and there, but make the show about the characters at NBS and what happens to them and what happens to the show.
I don't need to see an entire movie being made on Entourage to believe that Vince is a good, successful actor. I'm happy just being in that world with the characters and being entertained.
I could get tedious and just keep repeating the same qualities over and over again, that the show has great writing, a great cast, direction, etc, etc, etc. But even beyond all that, isn't it refreshing to have a TV show that isn't a reality show, a show about a woman who solves crimes and talks to the dead, or has the word CSI or Law and Order in the title? A TV show for adults?
Even people who only think this show is just so-so should still be hoping it succeeds. I happen to love it still, not just for how it does what it does but also because we need a show like this.