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October 8, 2015

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The Long Lead Story

by Bob Sassone, posted Oct 16th 2006 11:59PM
Christine Lahti(S01E05) So let me get this straight. Sting has been around so long that he can just decide to make an album of songs based on the writings of a 15th century poet, play it with a lute (!), and get a guest star gig on a major network TV show? Nice. I can't wait for the day when Keith lets me write just about obscure game shows from the 1960s, in Latin.

I was wondering if Sting was going to play one of his classic songs after he played his new song at rehearsal. I wasn't the only one: Harriet says the same thing at the end to Matt, and he tells her that he wasn't going to but Matt asked him to play it and he did. (Oh, and curse you NBC once again for tricking us into thinking that Matt and Harriet were going to get back together. Damn previews!)

This episode revolved around Martha O'Dell's (Christine Lahti, continuing her guest spot from last week) hanging around the studio asking questions for her Vanity Fair piece. Matt is uneasy talking around her and distracted, and the rest of the cast runs around trying to cover up the whole Matt/Harriet/Darren/Jeanie/baseball bat/Bombshell Baby boot story. And I just realized that if you've never seen the show before that last sentence makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Meanwhile, a pushy British reality show producer (*cough* Mark Burnett *cough*) comes into to pitch a new show called Search and Destroy, which sounds like an unholy, creepy mix of Temptation Island, Blind Date, and Cheaters. Jordan and Jack both find it unsettling, but to Jack that just means it will be a hit. But to Jordan, it's just sick. She's not going to make a bid on it, and her contract says she has final say on projects, unless she is overruled by Mr. White. Jack suggests they meet with Mr. White and see what he says, because there's no way he's going to let another network have this surefire hit (not sure if it would be a hit though - who knows with reality shows sometimes).

Lauren Graham is the guest host on the show this week, and she's seen in several sketches, but did they even introduce her or mention that it was Lauren Graham? I didn't catch it, though she's on it next week and has a bigger role.

Jordan and Jack meet with White (great to see Ed Asner again - and I thought his pilot role was only a one-time thing), and though Jack gives an impassioned bottom-line based plea to get the show on NBS, White defers to Jordan and says "If you're going to let me shop for groceries, you should also let me cook the meal," or something like that. I'm not up on my Bill Parcells wisdom. After White leaves, Jack informs Jordan that Parcells hasn't won a playoff game in nine seasons.

The show goes off well again. Another great Nicolas Cage impersonation by Simon Helberg, and didn't anyone find it stunning that Studio 60 would have a Nancy Grace sketch after Saturday Night Live had one earlier this month?! But the sketches are secondary. It's the characters and the backstage drama I'm interested in. And it struck me that, little by little, without anyone even noticing it, Aaron Sorkin has created a world here. A continuing storyline that everyone is already referring to and building off of. The Matt/Harriet relationship, why Matt and Harriet both became successful on the show at the same time, and the backgrounds of the supporting cast are coming to light piece by piece. And that's a great feeling watching a TV show, when you get involved with the characters and you honestly care about what's going to happen to them. I hope that there are people at NBC like Jordan McDeere, who understand what they have on their hands here.

At the end, Martha isn't even sure what type of story she's going to write, even though she knows everything that has happened. And that moment between Matt and Harriet? Yeah, they almost kiss, while Sting plays "Fields of Gold" on his lute, but it's more of a hint of things to come, as Harriet's going to meet Darren for a date and Danny is trying to hook Matt up with a model.

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Sting's music is not 15th century (1401-1500) but late 16th to early 17th century, the same time as Shakespeare. It was written by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dowland John Dowland (1563-1626), who was not a poet, but a composer and performer on the lute.

Everyone here seems to be pretty quick to judge the show. I'll just say that I can think of quite a few shows which when they began weren't nearly as good as they later became. And also that "funny" wasn't the point of either the White House or the sports show Sorkin dealt with before, so with this show he has to more or less invent a new way to work as he goes. I plan to keep watching.

October 28 2006 at 8:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So, here's a question for Sarah Paulson is miscast/has no chemistry crowd. Does Harriet have chemistry with other characters on the show?

I think the answer is yes. If you don't, rewatch the interview with Martha from last night. I think there was the appropriate amount of tension and mutual admiration happening there that made the scene absolutely brilliant. And Harriet's reaction and response to Martha's last question ("In what way do you differ from your mother") was spot on.

So, if the answer to the question of whether she has chemistry with other actors on the show is yes, then the next logical question becomes "is the problem of chemistry not a result of Harriet's miscasting, but of Matt's miscasting"? Hmmmmmmmm.

October 17 2006 at 4:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Malfoy R

Worst episode by far. I felt like my hour was wasted. First thing Sorkin should try: Don't mention his detest for the right in an episode. Just try it for ONE episode and see how it works out. My god its getting old.

While someone says he's getting tired of WW dialogue, I think it could use some more because this dialogue is slow and isn't keeping up to what I want. He is slowly getting the walk and talk right but has a ways to go. Someone tried to say he was just getting started and the show will get better. My problem with that is WW got it right from episode one and never slowed down tll midway in season 4.

As with most people watching this show: I thought WW was the best show was on tv. I want old Sorkin back. This new one isn't worth my time.

October 17 2006 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brent McKee

I don't find it at all surprising that this episode has Sting playing the lute - Sting has a new album out featuring Elizabethan lute music. Cross promotion is a wonderful thing.

October 17 2006 at 2:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Em (above) is so right about Jordon being miscast. Amanda Peet doesn't show any of the qualities that might make her believable as a network head. The role calls for far more balls than this Peet seems capable of portraying. You don't get to a high level of authority unless you have that authority in your persona. Peet is playing Mary Tyler Moore lite BEFORE Mary moved up to being a producer in the local newsroom. Too bad Lahti wasn't cast in the role, she would have nailed it.

October 17 2006 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A good majority of you negative posters are simply TV snobs. And that's ok, as long as you realize that you are a minority in the grand scheme of TV viewing. Is it now considered 'uncool' to like Studio 60, and 'cooler' to jump off the bandwagon and criticize it?

I am young enough to have an excuse for missing out on the West Wing and Sports Night, but old enough to appreciate that Studio 60 is entertaining, witty, and different from any other show I've ever seen. 'Re-using' dialogue including 'Sure' and 'Yeah' is a far reach, as people actually do talk like this, as well as 'talking while walking'. Of course the characters are snappy, quick thinkers full of zinger comebacks - they're in show business, where the slow thinkers are weeded out immediately and certainly don't make it to the top, as our characters have.

As some people posted above, pop culture IS important and it is relevant. Americans today are obsessed with pop culture, and we love to see it feeding upon itself as Studio 60 does. I like seeing the other side of TV and show business, and I like the microcosmic world in which the characters live. I like watching Matthew Perry, Steven Weber, and most of the cast, and I like the current celebrity hosts and artists. As for the final scene this week with Matt and Harriet, I was glued to the screen. 'Fields of Gold' is an amazing song, let alone performed live with classical instruments.

However, I'm worried for Studio 60 - it seems to have lost a large percentage of Sorkin fans (and now critics), and it's unclear as to whether it's hooked the average viewer looking for easy entertainment. Here's hoping the show finds its niche and pleases enough viewers, because a lot of us want to see more.

October 17 2006 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jeff smith

I love to hate this show. But sometimes it does entertain for a few seconds. I realized the whole problem is the annoying characters of Amanda Peete, the Harriet character, and the journalist. Peete is beyond obnoxious, the Harriet character is miscast, and the journalist, ugh, Id tell her to go away, but everyone was so "afraid" around her...how laughable. This show is not even breaking the top 25 wont make it out of this season.

October 17 2006 at 1:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"If you want her to cook, you have to let her shop for the groceries."

October 17 2006 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"It's like walking into a cloud of pretentious nausea. Since when are comedy writers and directors of late night shows celebrities?"


October 17 2006 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i think the humor in some of the sketches might be too subtle... like the nancy grace sketch, it wasnt about the search for Natalie Holloway (or even a parody of that). It was a parody of the overblown coverage some news stories get because sensationalist news media tends to do that... they just used some of the overt details from the holloway case (and grace's beating the case to death) to make the point. and yea, the commodore 64 was a great comment.

i personally think the show is plummeting in part due to its timeslot

put it up on a night in a slot where it isnt against 'What about brian' and part of the CSI juggernaut AND monday night football, and they might get more viewership. i know i watched brian, with mnf in picture in picture (side by side, really), and taped studio 60...

October 17 2006 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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