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Studio 60 needs a makeover, according to Robert Bianco

by Richard Keller, posted Oct 23rd 2006 2:50PM

Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet of Studio 60I thought it was just me.

I've tried to get into Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip like I did with Aaron Sorkin's two other network creations . . . The West Wing and Sports Night. I wanted to like Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford in their roles as the saviors of a long-running, comedy sketch show. I really did. But, there's just something missing; a last piece of the puzzle that would make this show very enjoyable. However, I thought I was the only one who felt that way.

Fortunately, I'm not. Not only do many of you feel the same way, but we also have Robert Bianco, USA Today's television critic, in our court as well.

Bianco says the problem lies in how Sorkin is presenting the program. Instead of the setting being a jumping-off point for reliable workplace stories (like it was for Sports Night and the current Tina Fey comedy 30 Rock), Sorkin seems to be delving even more deeply into the intricacies of the television industry. I definitely agree, after watching last week's episode, which seemed to focus more on prepping for broadcast and showing how Sting could play the lute. Bianco goes on to say that the self-righteousness and self-reference that were seen in the pilot episode have become the dominant tone of the series. As Robert puts it, Studio 60 has become one giant ego stroke.

Bianco does offer a few suggestions to put Studio 60 back on track. For instance, drop the sketch comedy portions of the show. Robert says that Sorkin is witty, but not a sketch writer. Other than "Science Schmience", which I found mildly amusing, I tend to agree. Another suggestion is to stop implying that the world stops to watch both versions of Studio 60. My suggestion is to have more interaction between Matt and friend/executive producer Danny Trip (Whitford). We saw a good portion of that in the first two episodes, but its been non-existent since then.

For more on what Robert thinks should be done for Studio 60, go to the USA Today website. For what you think should be done, wait right here for the comments to begin.

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After a very bad slow start the show is getting btter. Amanda Peet needs to stop acting like a robot!!! I never thought I'd like D L Hughley in a drama. I never really thought I'd like this show. I'm only watching it because my wife likes Matthew Perry. But I stuck with it and I especially liked the scene in the comedy club when Hughley and Perry watched the black comedian look bad and then they had qa few drinks and found the bad balck comedian on stage and gave HIM the job. THAT WAS KEWL!!! I thought was a GREAT moment in the shows history so far. An ensemble show has to take time getting its show off the ground sometimes and a show like this has to with all its characters. I have. So let it take it's time. But I think it has taken off. But give Amanda peet an oil can so she stops acting like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. P U

October 27 2006 at 11:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love this show BUT YET i agree with what Robert has to say. I'm watching it because I was sick and tired of all the reality tv i watch, not because I am some Sorkin groupie-I never heard of him, nor have I ever seen West Wing, etc.

October 26 2006 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with you that the show is missing something and the Columbus OH reference was weird when I heard it too. If it was the 150th ranked city, maybe. But back to what's missing or the problem. It's Corny for the lack of better term. That Simon thing about the hood and taking people out of it, while noble, is so trite TV and unoriginal writing. I thought they were recruiting that horrible comic for a tour on The Unit. It was also delivered poorly and unbelievable of the character. I was waiting for Simon to say he was a cousin of the Charlie from West Wing. He's from Sorkin's hood too. What a coincidence.

Another thing: Harriet is not funny and they keep saying she is. Jordan was stunning the first episode living up to the execs billing, but now looks so pregnant and beat down in the following episodes you wonder what happened to her. Did we miss a storyline (Peet is still pretty though)? The set is so dark.

The irony is the show is supposed to be about a place that is supposed to be hip, funny, edgy. I think. Instead it's corny, formulaic, predictable and unbelievable. I like Sorkin (West Wing was hot stuff) and want to like S60, but a makeover is sorely needed. And not stuff like the studio is under a terror attack or anthrax or a PA is bunning a producer. Do something that is enlightening with all this "star power".

October 24 2006 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There's also a piece in Slate

October 24 2006 at 3:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Cut Sorkin some slack, and have some patience, please."

Thats a joke. I love Sorkin's projects but this is his worst by far, hugely bad. We are a few episodes in and they have already lost about 50% of the adience of the primere. No one is watching and the show costs a lot. That's not a premature canceled show, it's a rightfully canceled show. If it were any other show it would have been canned by now.

October 23 2006 at 8:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Studio 60 brings to mind the old saying, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard."

It also reminds me of the Steve Martin album, "Comedy Is Not Pretty".

I mention this because I think the naysayers are being much too critical of Studio 60, and possibly misunderstanding the show's intent.

First and foremost, this is a drama, not a comedy, and as such, the funny stuff should (and is) more incidental, not the forced focal point of the show, like a sitcom would be. I would agree that the sketch portions should probably be as funny or unfunny as a typical SNL sketch (and they are, imho), or at the very least stylistically different than the general tone of the rest of the show, which I believe the sketches are, and therefore "work" within the context of the show itself. Comedy is not pretty, and Studio 60 is doing a fine job illustrating that point. It takes alot of pain and hard work to make others laugh, and that is what we're shown backstage every week.

Personally, I love Studio 60. It's certainly much better than the oozing righteousness of The West Wing, and as much as I love Sports Night, that show certainly had its share of flaws, which I won't enumerate here.

I think the last episode of Studio 60 did exactly what it needed to do, and that was make us care more about Harriet, or at least understand who she is, because it's obvious that many of the themes Sorkin wants to explore/exploit are going to rely heavily on her, and the dynamic of being a conservative Christian working in the belly of the liberal showbiz beast.

When Studio 60 is prematurely cancelled, as it likely will be, I bet alot of the naysayers will be lamenting it's demise, and whining about nothing being on Mondays at 10pm but that utterly useless CSI Miami and the horrifying acting of one Mr. David Caruso.

Cut Sorkin some slack, and have some patience, please.

October 23 2006 at 5:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The trick would be to talk about the sketches, argue about the sketches, and bitch about the sketches and never show the sketches.

October 23 2006 at 5:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ABC forced Sorkin to use a laugh track in the first episodes of Sports Night. There is a marvelous and very funny account of his fight with the network execs over the use of the laugh track in Tad Friend's essay, "Laugh Riot", which was originally published in The New Yorker. The piece is anthologized in a book of essays by Friend called Lost in Mongolia. Worth your time. It was Sorkin's first real experience of what the TV suits can do to you, and I'm sure it's one of the roots of Studio 60.

October 23 2006 at 5:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The show's premise is the show's premise. It's suppose to be about the 5 minutes before and after the show. If YOU don't like it, if you watch it and dont find enough laughs, then that's your problem.

See, I dont care if the sketches arent funny. The real meat of the show is the ideas about religion vs science, free speech vs. government, liberal vs. right, black vs. white, and all the societal beliefs sorkin decides to write about.
Pop Culture as a symbol of society. And since S60 is at the forefront of culture, they will talk about it.

Harriet and Matthew dont look like a couple. One is a Christian, the other a dedicated non-believer. That's the whole point. The only thing they have in common is the dedication to the job of comedy, of entertainment, of theatre.

There's no faults with s60 other than the fact that Sorkin rushes out some parts of the script with old material. Sorkin is overseeing a movie and a tv show after all.

October 23 2006 at 4:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I actually really like this show. I'm a TV junkie and a long-time fan of SNL, even though the show has really dipped since Will F left. Studio 60 provides great insight into what really goes on in the background of the 90-odd minutes we get to see every saturday night.

May be technical and a tad bit boring to some, I'm sure - but I find this show really interesting.

I have to agree with everyone on the fact that the comedy sketches just don't cut it. The background story is intriguing enough, and doesn't warrant broadcast "of the actual broadcast"

October 23 2006 at 4:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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