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Friday, December 08, 2006

Don't Be Stupid, NBC!

There is a rumor going around the net that NBC might cancel Aaron Sorkin's latest smartass liberal project, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." While I often get the urge to pull Sorkin's soapbox out from under him and beat him like a dead horse (an act that Sorkin himself is no doubt familiar with), I will say that "Studio 60" is a great show that demonstrates a potential for brilliance. After eleven episodes, it is not quite there yet. Give this fledgling program a chance to finish out the twenty-two episodes season before you pull the plug, you corporate goons!

"Studio 60" follows the adventures of a sketch comedy show (similar to Saturday Night Live) in Los Angeles as the program and the network both go through a regime change. Wes (Judd Hirsch), the head producer and father of "Studio 60" has a Peter Finch inspired meltdown on the air and is fired for criticizing the "lobotomized" programming and telling his audience to change the channel. Matt and Danny (Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford) are brought in as head writers. At the same time, the network, NBS, has a spunky new president (Amanda Peet) who is, of course, at odds with everyone, including NBS chairman, Jack (Steven Weber). She wants to Sorkinify the network, putting on intelligent programming (including an hour long drama about the UN called "Nations"). Of course, the network would rather have reality shows that will make them lots of money. Philistines. The cast of "Studio 60" (including D.L. Hughley, Sarah Paulson and Nathan Corddry) is genuinely funny and talented. Like SNL, many of their sketches are only marginally funny, with the occasional spot of brilliance. Their "Santa: to catch a predator" sketch actually made me laugh to the point of choking. Oh, and the "Meet the Press hosted by Juliette Lewis" sketch deserves its own hour, by the way. Some viewers have complained that the sketches aren't funny enough--personally, I think if they were any funnier, the show would not be realistic.

I avoided "Studio 60" at first because I was doubtful. While I loved "Sports Night" and miss it dearly, do we really need another show-within-a-show? Meta is getting kind of old, isn't it? What Sorkin knows, however, is that the metashow is one of the best ways to critique out popular culture and the medium of television itself; not to mention that he knows that world so well that he could write snappy backstage dialogue in his sleep. The acting is strong, the casting is great and the writing is good enough to make seemingly boring storylines interesting. Everyone in this show has, at some point, carried another show. That can be dangerous, because everyone associates them with their previous starring roles. The characters on "Studio 60" are strong enough to avoid this pitfall, however. What results is an incredibly strong and talented ensemble cast with a chemistry all its own. My biggest beef with the show is its depiction of women. don't get me wrong, I think Sorkin writes well for both men and women, but "Studio 60" has a tendency to put women in servile, objectified positions. The male characters act like juvenile jackasses and the women sheepishly smile and laugh that "boys will be boys." Besides this annoying characteristic, however, "Studio 60" is pretty awesome, and I hope NBC decides to keep it around for another season.


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