Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: K & R
Aaron Sorkin: You know, I think that the brilliance of this show is going to be that I'll open it with the promise that it'll be about the creation of a network TV show, but by the 19th episode it'll be almost completely about the war. And also, religion!
Me: Aaron, I smell a hit. That's exactly what America wants.
Aaron Sorkin: You know what else I think? Paris Hilton will never go to jail, and Pluto will remain a planet forever. Now sit down. My good friends Michael Richards and Don Imus are coming over to discuss race relations.
Me: Good choices, AS! Those guys are as racially sensitive as anyone!
Aaaaaaaaand scene. Now, on with the review...
I think there's something particular to Studio 60 fans in that we really, really want the show to be good. Being a Studio 60 fan is a lot like dating a girl that's unpopular with your group of friends. Every time you go out with them, you feel the need afterwards to justify why you're still dating her. "No, no, you guys just don't get it! I know she keeps bringing up religion at inappropriate times, but she's such an intelligent conversationalist!"
I'm prefacing my review this week with that so you know that I really want the show to be good. I'm not a hater. I'm not watching each week twirling a mustache and cackling. Yes! Yes! That's right, Mr. Sorkin, make a left turn into a dramatically unsatisfying kidnapping of Tom Jeter's brother! Yes! Now flashback to 2001 for no reason whatsoever! Ah, yes! Now I get to go on TV Squad and write a bad review! And then, afterwards, maybe I'll eat some almonds... evilly!
That's not what I'm doing. I sit down every week hoping that the show will be good. I hope this for two reasons: 1) because I'm sticking out the remainder of the episodes to review it and I want to be entertained in that time, and 2) I've been reviewing on this site long enough to know there isn't a fanbase more rabid than Studio 60's. Each of your comments gets sent to me as an email and I have crushingly low self-esteem even by stand-up comic standards; 50 "get a clue <expletive>, I wish that someone would jam a <expletive> in your <expletive>" emails is not my idea of a fun Friday.
So that's why it's with a heavy heart that I must report my dislike of this episode. The second Harriet went down to pray in the opening sequence, I thought the show went off the rails. That, combined with the meaningless (and I mean absolutely meaningless!) flashback, the silly K & R conversation, and the crass Jordan pregnancy scare (more on this in a minute) and we were left with a pretty bad 60 minutes of television.
Let's get the bad over with first:
-- Harriet praying. I'm not a religious person, but every week I pray that Harriet and Matt don't talk about religion on the show. Is that irony?
-- The flashback. Sorkin can get pretty ham-handed with his "messages," but even I thought the "This war will be over with by dinner time" comments were being laid on a little thick. Why not just have a character hold up an iPod and say, "what the heck is this thing? An MP3 player? Yeah, right, like that'll ever catch on." Yeah, Aaron, we get it, the war has dragged on a lot longer than anyone ever expected. Remember when this was a show about a TV show? I thought the exploration of trying to be funny in the face of war and 9/11 was a particularly rich vein (remember Giuliani and the firefighters at the first new SNL after the attacks? "Can we be funny again?" "Why start now?"). Too bad this was ignored for... I don't even know what the flashback was trying to accomplish!
-- Jordan's pregnancy scare. Here's a question for you: when a show is struggling in the ratings and the show within said show is also struggling in the ratings and one of the characters very crassly suggests that the way to save the show within the show is to have someone on that show deal with a pregnancy crisis (as it's an easy way to manipulate the female audience) while those very characters are DEALING WITH A PREGNANCY CRISIS, how are we supposed to care for those characters? I mean, it's almost as if Sorkin is saying to us, "All right, jerks, you're not watching, so here's something that'll make the women weepy." I'd like to believe that it's just an ironic wink, but I really didn't feel that way tonight. I found the whole thing insulting.
-- Tom Jeter's brother. I'm sorry, I'm just not buying this. Like the flashback, there's an interesting story about the consequences of political satire ("Mohamed the Thin Skinned Prophet" and how a Muslim extremest group might deal with it) buried underneath about thirty layers of faux-drama. Instead we're treated to Tom Jeter asking angry questions.
-- "Pray with me. I'll show you how."
-- The lack or promos! NBC isn't showing them anymore. They promise "more Studio 60 after this" and then just show ads for other NBC shows (and to answer your question NBC: yes, age does matter. Now stop asking me!) Am I missing something or did you guys get the promos for next week cut too?
Now, all that being said, there was some good stuff tonight. Sorkin's too talented to turn in a complete clunker. A Sorkin misfire is like getting divorce papers served to you at your favorite restaurant. Sure it was a bad night, but at least the food was good!
So, the good:
-- No Simon! I like D.L. Hughley, but let's face it: there's nothing for him to do anymore. His disappearance was the first of the cost-cutting absences that actually improved the show.
-- The return of Cal! Yes, like a lot of you, I'm attending Timothy-Busfield-aholics anonymous. Mostly the meetings involve just watching Little Big League all day long as a reminder that the man is not infallible.
-- Danny proposing to Jordan. It was romantic and moving and funny all at the same time.
-- Danny ribbing the doctor. As a man with a wife who is eight months pregnant myself, I, too, want some Reed-Richards temple-white on my doctors. Something about a baby-face treating my baby-to-be irks me to no end.
-- The Ask.com commercial that aired during the first commercial break. I'm not sure if it was national, but back me up if you saw it... that commercial was saying, basically, if you want to find the freaky porn that you're into, come to Ask.com, right? If I'm not mistaken, that was the first pro-internet-pervert commercial in the history of network television! I kept expecting Chris Hanson to walk out and arrest the guy.
-- Jack. Last week he was in full-on stereotype mode, this week he's Mr. Sharp-Suited-Super-Shark-With-a-Soul. Not sure why the characterization keeps oscillating, but when Jack Rudolph is good, he's really good.
-- In keeping with that, the Matt and Danny and Jack conversation in the flashback was the only part of it that I liked. It seemed like an outtake of the show that I was promised by the pilot: smart, creative people trying to put together a TV show in the face of network needs, global crisis, and personal problems.
Question of the week: Do you find your continued devotion to Studio 60 to be something that your friends don't understand?
I'm really sorry gang. I'd love to give the show a six or a seven and sit back and watch all the happy comments roll in, but I can't do it. I have to give tonights episode... 3 meaningless flashbacks out of 7.
|1 - The worst||13 (5.5%)|
|7 - The best||44 (18.5%)|