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October 7, 2015

D. L. Hughley discusses why Studio 60 failed

by Jay Black, posted Aug 15th 2007 9:14AM
Overheard during this picture shoot: The Onion's AV Club has an interesting interview with D. L. Hughley discussing, among other things, why Studio 60 failed to live up to its potential.

Hughley says that despite the pilot being some of the "most well written television" that he had ever seen, the show "became too aware" and started "taking [itself] too seriously". Hughley compared the drama to a "number one draft pick" that "crumpled under the weight of expectations".

I find the interview interesting for three reasons...

1) His analysis is pretty pedestrian in the sense that if you read any blog while the show was running, you'd find about four million comments saying the same thing. What sets it apart, then, is not what he's saying but that he's saying it as someone who was a main cast member on the show. Either he was a) reading the blogs or b) thinking the same thing that everyone else was thinking.

It makes me curious what the prevailing mood on the set was. Did all of the cast members feel that way? When Nathan Corddry got the script where his brother was captured in Iraq, did he put it down and turn to Sarah Paulson and say with a sly smirk, "I thought we signed up for a look at a comedy show, not The West Wing lite" only to have her reply with, "at least you have something interesting to do, the whole world hates me and I'm stuck trying to foist a Holly Hunter impression on Bradley while the love of his life might be dying!"

2) It's amazing to me that this show still holds interest for people so long after it's been dead and buried. What is it that keeps people coming back to Studio 60? Is it the arrogance (perceived or otherwise) of Sorkin? The expense to put the show together? The giant Emmy-heavy cast? The expectations set by the pilot? The unquestionable super-awesomeness that is Busfield? What?

3) The interview was contentious as hell (more so, even, than my interview with Taylor Hicks from a few months back). White interviewer Sean O'Neal kept pressing Hughley as to whether or not he feels bad for perpetuating racial stereotypes on his new show S.O.B. or in his repeated comments regarding the (ahem) attractiveness of the Rutgers Girl's Basketball team. Go ahead and read the last third of it and tell me if it doesn't read like the two of them were talking through very strained smiles.

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Regarding #2: Two words - "Ishtar" and "Waterworld".

Two of the most famous movie bombs ever, and yet I believe just about everyone here immediately recognized the reference. This, despite a decade or two since they were released.

Studio 60 is a classic television bomb. On paper it had everything. But the execution of it - or should that be the lack of execution - will go down in history.

August 15 2007 at 8:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It failed because it was patently UN-funny. Even a good drama needs some humor. They just took themselves too seriously.

August 15 2007 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you want to look back and catch up with the episodes go to tv3o.com - they have full episodes from all nbc shows. (http://www.tv3o.com/program.php?id=1946&p=20)

August 15 2007 at 3:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

Actually, Karen, Hughley didn't say anything that I disagreed with. Evan Handler made the same observations in an interview last week.

Studio 60 started out fantastic, got really shitty in the middle (a couple of episodes were some of the worst TV I saw this past season), and then ended strong.

August 15 2007 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jay, bless you for being the one to report on this, instead of Bob Sassone. I wonder how he'll rationalize one of the cast members saying the same thing that all of us haters were saying? "Poor Hughley," Bob will say, shaking his head, "he just didn't GET it."

August 15 2007 at 12:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

D.L. came off like a jerk. Did he really compare himself to Pryor, Foxx and Carlin...twice? Hughley is a good comic, but I've seen comics on Last Comic Standing who are funnier. He's certainly no Richard Pryor.

As for Studio 60, I stopped watching when the show got way too preachy. Somehow, I could stand and even enjoyed the preaching on West Wing, but it seemed out of place on Studio 60.

The last straw was the episode where a character's disapproving parents from Indiana came to visit him. They were ridiculously stereotypical midwesterners who were clueless about, well, everything. They'd never heard of the "Who's on First?" routine?!? Yeah, we don't get TV, radio or movies out here in the midwest.

August 15 2007 at 11:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
scott mclendon

David said it all

August 15 2007 at 11:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When I first heard the premise of the show, I thought it would be fantastic, like Sports Night was. Instead, we got The West Wing set in a TV studio -- a studio that, to borrow D.L.'s "pedestrian" observation, took itself too seriously.

Good riddance to Aaron Sorkin and Studio 60. 30 Rock turned out to be 10 times better.

August 15 2007 at 11:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The "this is important" BS in the show made it unwatchable. Can you imagine people at SNL took that job as seriously as the overly self-concious a-holes on Studio 60? It was about a comedy show and yet the creator and writers felt these people were ground zero for a culture war. When was the last time an SNL skit caused controversy? I'm thinking it was the nudist sketch way back when dana carvey, dennis miller and lovitz were on the show and they said penis like 37 times. SNL and shows like it are not lightning rods anymore and really no show is.

August 15 2007 at 11:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't know anything about the site or the interviewer, but the questions at the end seemed way over the top. Good for D.L. for sticking to his guns and concentrating on what's important -- his job to make people laugh.

August 15 2007 at 11:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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