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Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Breaking News

by Jay Black, posted Jun 1st 2007 1:12AM
There should be a giant clock ticking in this picture.(S01E18) If this review is, quality-wise, something less than what you're used to regarding my contributions to TV Squad, please don't blame me. I've been having some personal problems lately and because of them, I've developed a crushing addiction to Flintstone Vitamins. I keep them in a Percoset bottle so no one knows my horrible secret. Sometimes I'll pop two or three just to get through a night's review. And when the web-ratings come in? It's just me, a bottle of Jack, and my best friend Bam-Bam.

Now that I've laid all my cards on the table, on with the review...

A few notes before we begin (there's about 500 words to follow regarding some relatively random thoughts about Studio 60. For those of you who find long, rambling blogs "boring," you might want to just skip right own down to where the actual review part begins).

1) I've been noticing that Studio 60 seems to attract an abnormal number of "If you don't like the show, don't watch it"-type comments each week. While I would never tell you guys what to post, it seems to me that this kind of comment really isn't all that helpful. It feels a lot like telling war-protesters that when it comes to America, you can either "love it or leave it." Isn't it possible to love something and wish that it were better? I mean, I'm just going on personal experience here, but when I tell my wife that she shouldn't be mad at me because "she knew I didn't do housework when she married me," it doesn't end the argument. In fact, it actually makes the argument worse. So can we maybe, possibly, accept that most of the people who check this site each week (including your humble reviewer) love the show, but can't help but be cognizant of some places where it needs improvement? And you know I feel strongly about this because I just opened up the door to my wife reading this review tomorrow and using this paragraph to forever justify her nagging my faults ("see, I love you, I just see places where you can improve!")

2) Has anyone else felt that watching the show since it returned is kind of... weird? Since I know that the end is coming no matter what, it makes my relationship with the show complicated and detached. It kind of feels like when you live with a girlfriend and you decide to break-up, but there's still 6 weeks left on your lease, so you try to stick it out till then. Inevitably, you wind up having alcohol (or Flintstone vitamin) fueled sex and wake up the next morning feeling weirded out about the whole thing. At the same time you're trying not to get too excited about it, you're trying to enjoy it because you know that it's going to go away soon. (You have to believe me, this comparison made so much more sense in my head).

3) I pose this question to all you commentators: has anyone, ever, in the history of show business, gotten more mileage out of an impression of Nicolas Cage than Simon Helberg? Near as I can tell, he does nothing else on the show but Nicolas Cage. Is there a record for this kind of thing? Is he approaching the "Famous for being able to impersonate one person very well but for no other reason" Hall of Fame along with Frank Caliendo and Vaughn Meader?

4) I'm losing track of how "meta" this show is becoming. Let me get this straight:

a) It's a TV show about a TV show.

b) The fake network on the show is very similar (down to the call letters) of the real network that the real show is airing on.

c) The main character of the show is very obviously a stand-in for the writer and producer of the show. Oh, by the way, that main character recently started a pill-popping addiction just a wee-bit similar to the writer of the show's own addiction.

d) The West Wing, probably the most famous work by the writer and producer of this show actually exists in this world's universe (as witnessed by the Allison Janney appearance last week). That means it's conceivable that Aaron Sorkin himself also exists. Which means that the final episode, a la Breakfast of Champions, could quite possibly be Sorkin and Matt pairing off for one final philosophical showbiz discussion. I'm not saying that this is the way it will end, just that it could.

e) One big knock against the show is that the sketches aren't funny. Tonight's show pretty much said to the audience, "hey, guess what, we know that the sketches aren't funny! It's a plot point! Take that! Nyah!"

f) Studio 60, the fake show inside the real show, is suffering from ratings problems almost exactly identical to the ratings problems that the real show is suffering from. You have to wonder how many of the panicky discussions about shares and demos and red-states that aired tonight were simply recorded word for word from the actual Studio 60 set!

The show is so meta, I think that if Aaron Sorkin were to sit at home and watch this show air, it has to look a hell of a lot like the scene in Being John Malkovich where John Malkovich climbs into his own head and the whole world becomes a bunch of John Malkoviches (Malkovichi? Damn, where's one of those Spelling Bee kids when you need one?)

All right, now the review. If you skipped right here, you probably did yourself a favor.

Stuff that was good this week:

-- Matt and Danny return! Yay!

-- The interaction between Danny and Jordan, especially when they decided to settle their fight. Only in the Sorkinverse can a guy say that he can't think of a single thing that he was sorry for and have the woman find it charming. Incidentally, I'd love to live in the Sorkinverse.

-- Nate Corddry. Though I sincerely doubt that the line he botched was funny regardless of whether he said "machine" or "blower" and I had serious issues with the ham-handedness with which his brother's hostage situation was handled, I think he managed to pull it off and even had me emoting a little with him at the end of the episode. He's a great and charming actor and I really hope that he finds a soft landing when all of this is over.

-- Lucy Davis's legs. I'm an old BBC Office fan, so sue me.

-- Danny confronting Matt regarding his drug abuse. It felt exactly right in direct opposition to how exactly wrong Matt's assistant's confrontation was.

-- Jenna Fischer as the host. I'm a current Office fan, so sue me.

Stuff that was not so good this week:

-- If all the stuff about the final episodes being an exercise in fiscal responsibility is true, tonight was the first time it showed up on the screen. Their after-party was on the set itself? Really? I'm sure Saturday Night Live does that all the time. After spoiling us by spending money on the front 13 like a drunken Maloof brother, the sudden belt-tightening is made all the more obvious by the previous extravagance.

-- I'm not an expert on ratings by any means, but I'm pretty sure the best way not to get any is to devote a major chunk of dialog to a discussion about ratings. Guys, I'm all about insidery showbizese, but I really didn't want to hear another word about "demos" or "shares." As Casey Kasem once complained: it's ponderous man, it's f-ing ponderous.

-- No Cal!

-- No, really... NO CAL!

-- Seriously, you had a scene in the control room, and you didn't have Cal there! That's like having a porno that ends with the two main characters shaking hands and agreeing to "just be friends."

-- Jack. Remember how earlier in the season he was a network shark that defied stereotype? Yeah, those days are gone.

Stuff that I'm not so sure about:

-- The lawyer. Is she annoying or cute? Is she delightfully and intelligently self-aware or boringly and predictably so? I don't know. I thought the line about her having a "200 IQ" was funny, but I think if someone told me that in real life I'd want to push them down a flight of steps, so I don't know where I stand with her. Either way, I think she could take Harriet in a cat-fight (and if you don't think I'm hoping for that scene to exist more than I am a good result from my MRI on Saturday, then you don't know me at all!)

Question of the week: Do you find yourself less interested in the show now that you know it's ending (so what's the point of getting attached) or more interested (because you have to savor every last bit of Studio 60 goodness)?

It's like a 4 but more.For depriving me of Cal and forcing me to sit through nine or ten thousand speeches about ratings, I give tonight's episode 5 Flintstone Vitamins out of 7.

(Studio 60 - S01E18) - How do you rate this episode?
1 - The Worst10 (3.7%)
211 (4.1%)
315 (5.5%)
424 (8.9%)
555 (20.3%)
695 (35.1%)
7 - The Best61 (22.5%)

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Brooke Thorington

Since we know the show is not renewed, this is kind of like reading a book after a loud mouth says "it's so sad when she dies at the end." Or it can described as watching Titantic, we all know what happens in the end.

June 07 2007 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ronnie P

I just dig this show, its witty, well written and the characters are mostly all likeable. Well that Harriet is on my last nerve sometimes but I think they want it that way. At least she easy on the eyes. Quit over-analyzing this show and just enjoy it! SEEE YAAAAAAAA

June 03 2007 at 10:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

2) Has anyone else felt that watching the show since it returned is kind of... weird? [plus the whole ex girlfriend section]

I totally get you! On one hand I'd like to stay friendly to the series, on the other hand I feel like screwing it over and not giving it the after-hiatus chance it might deserve.


June 03 2007 at 5:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agreed with all those who said the baby being in danger is trite and lame. If that kid ends up being born in an elevator while they're stuck in a blackout, I'm going to have to mail Sorkin a "Saved by the Bell" collection with a note that says "Your show is now officially on the same level as this."

The thing that really bugged me about last night's ep was, why would Tom's parents call Harriet for info on Tom's e-mail? He and Simon are pals and he doesn't seem to have a ton of interaction with Harry. The whole set-up for the hostage situation just fell flat, from Harry insisting on telling him to the interruption of the dramatic "the baby's not kicking" moment. Nate Corddry saved it with his acting when Tom was told.

I like this show, but this episode reminded me of why it was cancelled. I'll still be buying the DVD though, so I guess it doesn't matter.

June 02 2007 at 11:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The female lawyer is obnoxious. What would possess Aaoron Sorkin (who is usually godlike in my view) to jumpstart a new relationship on a show that has, oh, two episodes left? Also, isn't it a little ironic (in a bad way) that the lawyer handling the studio's sexual harrassment suit is hitting on Matt in such a creepy way?
The belt-tightening is obvious, which is a shame. So is the fact that we're supposed to believe that Jordan is only 7 months pregnant 9 months down the line.
I'm going to miss the show. Even Sorkin's worst writing is better than a lot of other show's best stuff.

June 02 2007 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

With regards to the meta-ness of the show, I loved the opening to last wk's "Disaster Show" epsiode. Sorkin managed to both recap the first half of the season as well as acknowledge all the criticism. I'm thinking that episode was filmed most recently (hence the missing stars and plot lines).

June 02 2007 at 2:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved this episode.

Okay, now that I've been all but written off as a lunatic fan that says that same phrase after every episode, I should say the show was slipping terribly out of control. I've watched that last handful of episodes, but not really enjoyed them. I've Tivo'd them, not watched them live. However, next to the Pilot, this last episode was by far my favorite. After that episode, I'll be impatiently waiting on my couch counting down the minutes to watch next weeks episode.


June 01 2007 at 9:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In response to the "if you don't like it, don't watch it" commenters, I would include this excerpt from a review of the returned show in Philadelphia Weekly: "Yeah, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is a bad show, but it’s a fascinatingly, mind-blowingly bad show. It’s an entire TV program fueled by one man’s stubborn, egotistical belief that you should bow down at his feet, for he’s a freakin’ genius. Never has something that sucked so hard been so riveting."

Now THAT'S why I watch.

Likes from last night:
--Suzanne confronting Matt (although I thought it went on too long). Also that she told Danny.
--Some of the meta. Seriously: I appreciated hearing that Aaron Sorkin recognizes that his show is getting suck-ass ratings, and that the writing's been bad (as Matt confessed to Danny). Unfortunately, that realization hasn't resulted in better writing.

And hates:
--that lawyer. What a tool. Are we really supposed to find her sexy?
--Harriet, who's supposed to be such a professional, believing (twice!) that it's a good idea to tell an actor in the middle of a live broadcast that his brother may (only may!) be missing (isn't that really his family's job, anyway?)
--Sorkin's exploitation of the war, which is every bit as cheap as that done by the people he decries. Seriously--Tom's brother isn't just missing, he's captured? He's not captured, he's on film on al-Jazeera? He's not just on al-Jazeera, he's been beaten and hoodedby axe-wielding terrorists? Geez, overkill much? At least Garry Trudeau handled it in "Doonesbury" by having a character suffer the more believable--and more widespread--IED injury and amputation.

Studio 60--totally the show I love to hate.

June 01 2007 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the relationship with West Wing is still confusing me... there's the Bartlet For America poster, which makes you think this is in the same 'universe' as WW... but Allison Janney shows up and they refer to her show, so it's not in the same 'universe'... but the lawyer works for Gage Whitney, the same one that Sam worked for in WW, so it is... oh well - we should treat it like a scifi show and just shrug it off.

i figured out what i think is missing from Danny's role in the show - he needs something more compelling to deal with than a romantic interest with a baby on the way. the character is way too interesting to reduce his level of emotional conflict to handling a whiny young pregnant executive that he's in love with.

June 01 2007 at 12:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I do find this show a little weird now, knowing it is definitely coming to an end.

And that gf-apartment analogy was dead on...dead on. Described it perfectly...like you can see it coming, it has a time limit, but you still wanna have a few more go-rounds before you say goodbye for good.

And I'd just like to echo the complaints of a lack of Jenna Fischer. It was a terrible mistake to use her so sparingly, but only because I'm pretty much completely in love with her and want every minute I can get with her on screen.

I ways did find Albie and Tripp to just be an extension of Aaron Sorkin on-screen, and now with the pill-popping addiction, pretty sure that's actually true.

June 01 2007 at 12:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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