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Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: K&R, part 2

by Richard Keller, posted Jun 15th 2007 10:01AM

Studio 60(S01E20) Program Note: Tonight, the role of Jay Black will be played by Rich Keller.

Aaron Sorkin in a creature of habit. If you watch one of the shows that he's produced over the last decade or so you see a lot of stuff that's familiar between them. For instance, the patented walk-and-talk, the fast banter between characters, and the recycling of actors from one show to another. He also likes the flashback. Correction, he loves the flashback! Especially when they take place during a dramatic turning point in the show's storyline.

Thinking I'm just a hater of all things Sorkin right now? Well, I have proof. I present as evidence the first two episodes of the second season of The West Wing. Those were the episodes right after President Bartlet and Josh Lyman were injured during an assassination attempt. While both characters went into surgery the other members of the West Wing staff began to recall how they joined the Bartlet for President campaign years before. What happened next? Flashbacks!

Now here we are, many years later and on a different show, with another set of dramatic circumstances. When one of the characters recalls something that happened to Matt and Danny six years prior, they cue the flashback. But, why are we focusing on Danny and Matt and how they got fired for writing a 'non-patriotic' sketch right after the events of 9/11? Since most of the main focus of these last two episodes has been on Tom and his kidnapped brother shouldn't the flashbacks be focusing on him? Maybe it would be better if we saw how Tom made it onto Studio 60 and his relationship to his brother at that time.

For me, the Matt and Danny flashbacks are uninteresting and don't fit into the current storyline. Yes, I'd like to know how they got fired, but all I see in the flashbacks is more of Aaron's heavy-handedness in exhibiting how he feels about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think it's safe to say that, after a full season of Studio 60, we all know what his opinions are -- like them or hate them. He's entitled to all of his beliefs. I just wish that he's write some articles or a book on them rather than have them drag down the show he's producing.

Having said all of that, I thought the episode as a whole was enjoyable; much lighter in tone than last week's episode even with all of the drama taking place. In keeping with Jay's review format over the last two weeks, let's review the good and bad of Studio 60. First the good . . .

-- Less annoying Harriet. Of course this would happen as the show is ending its run. During the scenes in the hospital she was actually quite funny and caring with Danny. There's something else I realized about Harriet this week: when she's together with both Danny and Matt she is the perfect foil.

-- The return of Matt and Danny. Man, when these two are on the screen together and in conversation things just click. Their scenes in the hospital and when confronting the Standards representative were what we were looking for throughout the series. I really liked the conversation they had about Danny's engagement to Jordan and how Matt was pissed that he winged it rather than waiting for his pre-written proposal.

-- Tom's reactions to his brother's kidnapping. Tom Jeter is probably the most down-to-earth and realistic character in the show. I've been feeling his frustration through the screen at not being able to get any further information about how his brother is holding up.

Good, but cliche:

--Danny and the ID. Danny needs a ID bracelet to see Jordan's baby and the snippy nurse won't give him one. Harriet talks to the nurse 'woman-to-woman'. Danny watches their silent conversation through the glass. Harriett comes out and says that Danny needs and ID bracelet to see the baby. Its been done on a thousand sitcoms previously, and you knew it was coming, but it was cute.

Now the bad (I'll keep it short):

-- Less show. Is it just me, or does it seem that there are longer commercial breaks in Studio 60 than on other NBC programs? It felt like a five minute break between the opening sequence and the next scene. For a show that was canceled it seems like a lot of companies want to advertise on it.

-- The way that the Standards representative was shown. Again, Aaron Sorkin reaches into the stereotype bag to pull out the characterization of the Standards & Practices wonk. Maybe Aaron has met people like that in his past, but are all S&P people like that? There have to be some out there with a bit more personality.

-- Why isn't Lucy up there with Tom? Before his brother's kidnapping Tom stated he was truly smitten with Lucy. So, if they are so close why isn't she up in Matt's office helping to calm him down? It's not a family-only issue since Simon was with Tom. Personally, I would like to see more of the Lucy and Tom relationship. Not only because it's the most realistic on the show, but because I think Lucy Davis is cute.

Whew! I give Jay credit for writing the reviews he does. Reviewing Studio 60 is hard work because there are so many levels to it. Jay will be back next week to finish up the first and only season of the show. Until then, I give this week's episode of Studio 60 a rating of

Why do you think Studio 60 was canceled
Aired on the wrong night211 (37.1%)
Subject matter wasn't interesting35 (6.2%)
Not enough Matt and Danny84 (14.8%)
Too much Harriet Hayes59 (10.4%)
Aaron Sorkin's ego got in the way of good programming179 (31.5%)

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You ask shouldn't the flashbacks focus on Tom, uh no! The entire premise of the series is a DRAMA about BACKSTAGE at Studio 60, of course the focus is Matt/Danny. Since the pilot the story of how they got fired was planted; it was nursed the whole way through ie, The Focus Group when Danny says, "After what you did for me, I'm not going to let it happen again!" Tom's entry into the storyline in The Wrap Party, was a way to bring the plot to the present storyline, but what could Tom's past have to do with the show?
No offense meant, it's not just your review. I've read so many reviews where the writer just doesn't understand or follow the show, I've been amazed. Feel better these guys got kicked around a lot worse. Especially the woman who doesn't even realize she is being called an idiot (she has edited her article a few times to improve it and doesn't post what she realizes are negative comments!).



June 21 2007 at 12:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't think any of those answers are right. All the answers to the question assume NBC was acting in a rational manner.

MASH did miserably its first season but went on the a huge run and produced the most watched TV episode in history (Goodbye, Farewell, Amen).

Fine wine needs to age. You can't judge it until it does. All the criticisms so far seem to suggest that there is "not enough" of something--a particluar character or story line. The answer to that is more air time.

June 21 2007 at 7:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Flavor of love is a hit, but not Studio 60? I thoroughly enjoy Studio 60 and it should remain on tv until Aaron runs out of ideas. Just because something does not make the top 20 doesn;t mean its not any good or worth watching. It only means the lemmings are too busy voting for Sanjaya or Joey to seek out intelligent, witty, entertaining, well-rounded and well-written TV. I give up, and may just roll my tv outside ala Poltergiest. Or just watch British TV and "Keeping up Appearances" because they seem to get it.

June 19 2007 at 7:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

im still counting on jack being the father of the baby
but now im thinking oh no, is she going to die? i know a lot of people here would have liked that earlier in the season-the women were the weak link in this show
i want to see more of matt perry on tv! i will miss him!

June 16 2007 at 9:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think it's fascinating that the storyline with Bradley Whitford and Amanda Peet is EXACTLY what happened to his character on ER in his 2-ep appearance 12 years ago, down to the placenta accreta, the disseminated intravascular coagulation, etc. It's almost like some kind of inside joke.

June 16 2007 at 12:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So what was the rating you gave this episode?

June 15 2007 at 9:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm guessing characters are disappearing for entire episodes to keep costs down? Matt & Danny were gone two weeks ago, Simon was gone this week, and Jordan and Jack this week. It wouldn't be unusual if they just weren't involved, but in every case they're being mentioned as if they're still around but just don't ever appear.

June 15 2007 at 6:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
matthew m. barnes

actually, Studio 60 didn't get cancelled for any of the reasons listed in the poll.

Studio 60 didn't have great ratings, but it didn't have horrific ratings either. (other shows with lesser ratings were kept alive.) however, it had a HUGE budget of something like $2 million an episode.

so, for a show that costs so much money to stay alive, it has to have great ratings. in the end, the huge, elaborate (and expensive) sets and the large number of big names (with big price-tags) are what cost Studio 60 its life.

sad, huh?

June 15 2007 at 1:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wish the whole series had been as good as the last few. Studio 60 is much better without trying to write or perform the show. That was a drag. Dealing just with the personal interactions of the characters is always what was needed. If these last shows had led the season, and the rest were as strong, it would not have been cancelled. Matt and Danny are great together.

June 15 2007 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Lucy wasn't with Tom because Tom wanted her to stay
away...so he wouldn't take anything out on her. Per Simon in the writer's room - got to watch the Sorkin stuff multiple times to get the details.
Sorkin should try a different premise (something not so personal for him) - maybe that U.N. show?

June 15 2007 at 1:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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