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October 9, 2015

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The Disaster Show

by Jay Black, posted May 25th 2007 12:55AM
It's just so sad... I... I can't even write (S01E17) In the spring of 1998 my buddies and I took a trip to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia to watch Mark McGwire and the St. Louis Cardinals play the Philadelphia Phillies. He was red-hot that spring, with like four thousand homeruns in April alone, and I figured seeing him would give me a "I got to watch him play live" story to bore my grandchildren with. Parking problems made us miss the first inning and, as it turned out, the only plate appearance by McGwire that night. He was pulled after one at bat to get a shot of horse steriods into his eyeball rest. Though I had some small consolation watching a few typical Philly fans throw batteries at J.D. Drew, the evening, on the whole, was a disappointment.

Watching tonight's Studio 60, I couldn't help but be reminded about my McGwire experience nine years ago...

We've all had our problems with Studio 60. It had so much potential that it squandered! It was like a kid who, during freshmen year had a 4.0, started varsity on the soccer team and was elected king of the freshmen dance, and by junior year he's dropping acid in the parking lot with Bender from the Breakfast Club. You just want the take the show by its collar and say, "What's your problem? You had it all! A great timeslot, network support, quality actors in every single supporting role, and probably the best pilot of the last ten years! How the hell did you get canceled!?"

The one part of the show, though, that everyone agreed was perfect, was the relationship between Matt and Danny. Even during the worst stretches of the show's short history, you could count on a few lines of sparkling dialog between the two of them to keep you watching.

Aaron Sorkin must realize this, right? With the number of references to blogs and YouTube on the show, he's got to be aware of those things and what people are saying about the show. He's got to realize that through all the problems people have had with his flawed brainchild, Matt and Danny was the one thing that we were all sure absolutely 100% worked 100% of the time!

So why... why would he give us a show where they don't appear once? I don't get it. Good as the supporting cast is (and Timothy Busfield and Steven Weber turned in their usual excellent performances), watching tonight's episode, especially after going so long without a Studio 60 fix, was like going to a Beatles concert and hearing only George and Ringo songs.

That was my only major complaint tonight in what was otherwise a very solid offering. In the alternate universe where Studio 60 is the hit it should have been, "TV Team" blogger Ray Black (he looks just like me except he has a goatee) is writing that tonight's episode was a solid 5 or 6 and while there "was really nothing outstanding tonight, it continued the running theme that has made this show so great -- the amount of effort and talent necessary to pull off the audacious enterprise of a live network television show."

But back in this universe, it's hard to write a "good, but not great" review. Because we already know the show is canceled, it's hard to get all that excited for a solid outing. I guess since it had been gone for so long and had been produced with the foreknowledge that its cancellation was imminent, I was hoping that it would come out with both guns blazing and really show the world what it was missing. Instead we got a fairly forgettable mid-season episode that is more disappointing than it would have been because of the outside baggage.

That being said, here's what I loved tonight:

-- Drunk Jack and the reference to When a Stranger Calls.

-- The unflappable Cal. Wouldn't you like to be that chipper in the face of adversity?

-- The red dress on Claire. Seriously, whoever that actress was could start another Trojan War if she wanted to. Jeepers.

Here's what I liked tonight:

-- D.L. Hughley and Nate Corddry. In the absence of Matt and Danny heroin, they make a fine methadone.

-- Robbie's friend Robby. That guy looked just like Chris Sligh from American Idol. Don't ask me why I thought that was funny, but I did.

-- Nate Torrence getting a bit more to do as Dylan. In the alternate universe's second season of Studio 60, I'm looking forward to him doing some great things on the show.

-- Allison Janney as herself. Though the events surrounding the disaster show were not nearly as whacky and farcical as Sorkin probably thought, Janney was a fine mark for all the misdeeds. Her moment with Cal at the end was pretty good too, and a nice nod to the fact that at the end of the day, it is just a funky little Friday night sketch show.

-- The wink from Jeannie and the rest of the cast that everyone was fed up with Matt and Harriet. I'm not sure, but it felt like an acknowledgment that the entire world hated that forced romantic comedy.

-- The German Shepherd that only spoke German.

Here's what I didn't like:

-- The sketches. Note to Studio 60 and Saturday Night Live: Nancy Grace is not funny. We all hate her, but her show is such a self-parody that it's impossible to spoof her. Just stop trying.

-- The aforementioned absence of Danny and Matt.

Here's what I hated:

It's a small thing, but what is it with Sorkin and crappy sitcom situational comedy? There was the silly Danny and Jordan trapped on a roof scenario that seemed like it belonged on Night Court fifteen years ago, and then, tonight, there was the Three's Company-like double slap to Simon. Maybe I'm not smart enough to get it... is he parodying these conventions? Making an homage to them? How can a writer this smart seem so intent on putting such stupid situations in his show? Someone answer me in the comments so I don't explode.

And speaking of the comments, I wonder if we'll have any at all. Is there any interest still left for this show? Back in February, I remember these reviews being among the most frothy on the site (and by "frothy" I mean "filled with rabid fans who came to yell at Bob and then me every week"). Are you guys still out there? Do you still care? Look, a prime number! Just like in Claire's phone number!I know that if I didn't have to review the show, I'd have probably forgotten to watch tonight. How about you guys?

For a solid outing sans my two favorite parts of the show, I give tonight's episode 5 "mehs" out of 7.

(Studio 60 - S01E17) How do you rate this episode?
1 - Worst36 (10.7%)
214 (4.2%)
327 (8.1%)
445 (13.4%)
591 (27.2%)
687 (26.0%)
7 - Best35 (10.4%)

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This episode was spot on perfect! I loved it from start to finish.

Before now, with all you nuts talking about the genius of Busfield when he was only in each show for about 5 minutes, I'd just chalk it off to the fact that you all just had a Busfield jones. Now that he's been given a show to run on his own, I can fairly say that he was great. That chemistry between him and Janney from TWW was back and in great form.

Again, I thought that this episode was of the high quality that has been apparent all season. So the show did not catch on. Most all of my friends who watch the show also agree that the show was great all season, but that it simply just did not catch on. That's it.

When the show goes, I will truly miss it. Most of the commentors on this blog will just miss being able to bitch about it.

June 04 2007 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree - how can you have an entire show without Matt & Danny??? I was left thinking the actors were probably off filming some other show and couldn't be bothered.

Tonight's show was better - some themes coming to a head, dramatic tension, a reason to watch the next one...

I hope that Matt hooks up with the lawyer and leaves the Harriet disaster behind. If it's that hard to make something work, stop trying!!!

I love the Tom Jeter character! He's so believable.

While I loved the West Wing, the relationship between Janney and Busfield did not make sense in the context of the show. The banter made me miss WW and made S60 seem like a sad parody.

May 31 2007 at 11:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lysa Musial

Thank you NBC. It wasn't the greatest episode but I love this show. At least there is finally something to watch besides "reality" T.V. and "legal/Gore" T.V. I find Studio 60 a welcome relief each week. I wish it could go on another season and give people a chance to catch on.

May 29 2007 at 9:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Super Ninja Rock Star

RESPONSE TO Aaron with post #34:

Yes, I caught it and loved it!

May 29 2007 at 3:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Super Ninja Rock Star

This is my first time on this site. I found it whilst searching for the Neilson ratings for this episode because I still cling to the hope that with these last 5 episodes of Studio 60 in the Thursday time slot that maybe, just maybe the show could get a second season. It really is the best show on TV besides Entourage and 30 Rock. I really don't like all the game shows and crime dramas in prime time.... AT ALL. I just took a look at the fall 2007 prime time TV schedule and it looks like all I'm going to be watching is 30 Rock and The Daily Show during the week. Thanks, major networks, for bungling this. Sure hope the Bionic Woman is fun. I'm guessing not. Sarcastic high fives all around.

May 29 2007 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Your review was pretty good. While I missed Perry and Whitford, it was nice to see some of the other characters get some air time. Particularly Busfield. Two thoughts about the reason why the show didn't live up to expectations. Even though Sorkin had been away from writing TWW, he was gone for health reasons. Maybe his energy is back yet. Also, with so many great actors and characters, there just isn't enough time in a one hour show. Maybe if he had just focused on the production teams and had the "talent" on briefly to show that there was an actual "show" it might have worked better. But then what do I know, I'm just a mom from Wisconsin.

May 29 2007 at 9:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved it and will miss this show very much. For gosh sake, why be so picky when all else on TV is so bad?

May 29 2007 at 9:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The show worked, I finally watched it on NBC.com, which is probably the smartest thing NBC has done with regards to Studio 60 since they signed it on. It wasn't exceptional, but it was decent. Which is a lot to say with 3 main characters missing. Why wasn't the Matt/Danny/Jordan trio present? Hopefully next episode!

In the meanwhile, the show should get picked up by another station. It has potential, and is one of the smartest shows that I have seen in a very long time. In this day and age where TV is filled with reality shows, it was refreshing to be able to watch a show without feeling like you are losing valuable brain cells watching it.

Come on Studio 60- if you must finish, finish strong!

May 29 2007 at 3:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This episode was actually written and shot last. In fact, the last shot of Busfield snapping his fingers and saying, "We're out." was the very last shot ever shot for the series.

Whitford, Perry and Peet were benched this episode because of an arrangement made between Warner Bros and NBC to cut costs on the back 9, including cutting each major star from one episode. I actually think that what Sorkin did was clever, cutting the 3 out of this episode and letting Busfield and Janney run with it. Yeah, it got a bit strange between them (and us, by extension) but it was swallowable meta. Janney and Whitford would have been just a bit too much. Remember, Busfield was a reocurring guest star on West Wing. Whitford, like Janney, was a regular. Imagine Janney saying to Danny Tripp, "You know, you look an awful lot like the guy who played Josh Lyman."

It was a fun show, nonetheless, (though Simon has never interested me as a character - he's too pompous). 5 more episodes to go and I suspect we'll get some serious meat thrown to us to rally behind.

May 28 2007 at 5:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Glad the show was back on (finally).
Timothy Busfield was great but where were Danny & Matt?

I hope they will be back & Jordan too for the remaining episodes.

May 28 2007 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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