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Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: K & R

by Jay Black, posted Jun 8th 2007 1:44AM
After tonight, I only have to think of someting clever to write here three more times!(S01E19) In the spirit of tonight's episode, I'd like to start my review with some dramatic irony. The following dialog took place between me and Aaron Sorkin in March of 2006:

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?

3. Like the trinity! Hey, remember Carrie Anne Moss? Wow she was hot in the matrix..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.

(Studio 60 - S01E19) How do you rate this epsode?
1 - The worst13 (5.5%)
213 (5.5%)
320 (8.4%)
421 (8.8%)
552 (21.8%)
675 (31.5%)
7 - The best44 (18.5%)

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Neal G

I couldn't agree more with Mike M. This episodes rings with Sorkin-isms. It put people first, and show second. The heart of a Sorkin series is the people. Look at West Wing, and Sports Night. People! and how they interact within their environment. And their dedication to that environment (situation).

Personally, I don't care much for how a show is put together, except when it's in the background, and not the main focus.

Why did it take possible (???) cancellation to have good episodes.

Another Television paradox.

June 15 2007 at 9:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

CONGRATS TO STUDIO 60! Banff winner for best drama!


Hopefully the episodes airing now will get nominations next year! It's great to see the wonderful work of Sorkin, cast, crew, Shoe Money and Warner Bros. recognized.

June 13 2007 at 9:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Best reason to keep Studio 60 on is Aaron Sorkin, Tommy Schlamme, Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry, Timothy Busfield, etc. With that intelligent writing (although I don't always agree with the content) and that acting, give the show a chance with another season and maybe a different time slot. It keeps me thinking and on my toes and makes me laugh a lot. Surely tons of folks prefer this to most of the other reality crap out there. Too many shows with incredible potential cancelled without giving them a chance to find the mature, intellectual audience out there who is desperate for good tv and not silly, mindless reality stuff. Surely it's not too late to reconsider and come back mid-season with another shot at must-see tv. NBC doesn't seem to have a lot else going for them. A ton of us tv-aholics will stick with you and appreciate the efforts.

June 12 2007 at 10:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Actually mostly liked this episode... you mentioned the notable dislikes in this one as well... Harriet going down on her knees for prayer and Mary's K&R hoopla. Just some of those "what is this randomness?" moments. Continuous flashbacks were kind of annoying but agree w/you on the Matt, Danny, Jack conversation!
To answer the question of the week: I'm sure my friends don't understand my continued devotion to Studio 60 but they don't ask about it and probably aren't completely aware of it! I don't mind, go Studio 60!

June 12 2007 at 5:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
john boyle

Ok, ya'll have moved me to post my first and last entry on this space.
Who continues to watch a show they obviously don't get? Fake, no chemistry, ham-handed!.... It's fictional dramatic television, created by one of the most talented,
compassionate and open-minded writers in the medium.
Regarding the flashbacks... non-linear storytelling makes television more like literature and we could all use a little more culture in our entertainment diet.

To truly absorb this show, one should be open to a willing suspension of disbelief. Of course it's fake! Are you aware of how things on TV are made? A more engaged viewer is a more satisfied viewer.
I think you critics need to watch as much Sorkin, Chase and Miltch as you can.

Finally, WAR and RELIGION are the most important issues of our times, and if you can learn more about both sides of these issues and be moved and entertained at the same time, that has to be a good thing, right?

P.S- Sorry bash, but your an idiot.

June 10 2007 at 2:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's not that I blame her for not acting good enough. There's always two in a relationship and if they BOTH have no chemistry then they are simply wrong for each other. Meaning: Perry and Whitford were set from the start to come over from "The West Wing" so the idea behind good casting is getting them somebody they have chemistry with to make it work. The other option would be re-casting them too but I doubt that was ever on he table.

June 09 2007 at 6:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think it's fascinating that Sarah Paulsen takes all the blame for ruining the show, that she has no talent, no chemistry with Matthew Perry, isn't funny, etc., and yet she earned Studio 60's only nomination for a Golden Globe. I happen to like her a lot, and I can't understand why other people hate her so much. Sure, Sorkin doesn't write Harriet as subtly as he might, but for such an avowed atheist, he makes a solid attempt at portraying her fairly, and Paulsen does a good job of making her real.

I enjoyed this episode a lot. It was very funny and charming and moved the storyline along. I found the portrayal of the network execs dealing with the leak about Tom being the brother of one of the network execs fascinating, especially with Tom just being there in the middle of it all. And I liked, not the whole flashback, which I agree Sorkin has been overdoing of late, but the montage at the end of Matt & Harriet arguing. "Do you realize we have now been having this argument in TWO millenia?!" It was corny but delicious. And everything with Danny and Jordan was pretty cute. And the stuff about the K&R was interesting, and I liked that they had Matt and Cal arguing different sides of the idea.

Oh, and it drives me nuts too that NBC has stopped showing the promos for Studio 60. It's really pissing me off. And I did notice the ad for Ask.com. Thought it was kind of creepy.

And Bash, Afghanistan IS a Muslim country. It's not an ARAB country.

June 09 2007 at 12:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I might be a nice plot and there might be an overall background story but that doesn't really matter when there isn't any chemistry between the three couples we have in this series. It's simply a drag all the time. You really have to force yourself to like it over too long periods of time. Everytime this show takes on religiousness it does so in a total in-your-face way. It's like somebody putting his hand an eigth of an inch in front of my face and telling me he doesn't touch me. It's simply totally annoying. Additionally the plot devices are so absolutely unbearable. Stuck on a rooftop. Baby in jeopardy. Brother kidnapped in a war zone. This is supposed to be a show for intelligent people and I cannot allow myself to regard this show being ingenious when so many things are done in such a basic way,

And again - there's no chemistry between the lead actors. It would've been nice if the casting would've been better. I simply can't stand that blond catholic chick and I refuse to learn her name. She annoys me. And Amanda Peet acts bland. It's just totally disappointing at times when you notice how good it all could be if it simply were a little different.

June 08 2007 at 10:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Here is the writer I was referring to before, loves the show and just never got it until now! Unbelievable.


This war storyline started in episode one for Matt/Danny/Jack, in episode six for Tom. It was also featured in "The Focus Group" and at least one other episode regarding Ricky and Ron (probably "The Option Period").

June 08 2007 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The religion thing is one of the nails in Studio 60s coffing.

It's the reason why nobody, and I mean NOBODY would send nuts to NBC. Because the show is nuts. Nobody would want this show to continue.

And to argue that in january sorkin didn't know that he was working with a dead horse is ridiculous.

We started arguing whether this should would air all episodes produced back in November when "The Nine" and "Daybreak" as well as "Kidnapped" got cancelled. Those three were just as good as the stuff that aired episode 3ff. Again, back then it was all about the religion BS that was troubling. I mean when you see the republican presidential candidates talking about how they believe in god and everything and then watch Studio 60 your head starts spinning and you start to wonder IF that impression that the US is just as much a religious warmongering country as Afghanistan. I mean honestly think about what they said on this show - this is a show made by jewish people making "virtual" fun of islam and how people in the US don't even know that Afghanistan is NOT an islamic country. And what's left? Making fun of islam. I mean I commented in the thread about gawker bashing Zach Braff that I was irritated by someone pointing out that the bashing is anti-semitism. If that's the case, and if that reaction is ligitimate, then you could just as easily state that this episode of Studio 60 is anti-islam. *sigh*

And a 3 is too high for this episode. All the fake drama. Why even bother watching anymore? It's totally ridiculous. The only think that's left is Sorkin actually taking on a guestrole and looking into the camera, breaking the 4th wall. bah.

"I'll show you how to pray". It's not just that the religion stuff is idiotic. It's ridiculously idiotic. As if you need a lesson in how to pray right. That's pushing beliefs on somebody and I could NEVER tolerate somebody doing this to me and it is virtually doing it while I am watching this show.


The whole show was totally fake. Honestly after this I am not willing to watch anymore. Anybody who still likes this show would actually believe the plot of "Plan 9 from outer space". *grrr*

June 08 2007 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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