I’ve been keeping up with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip since its premiere. If you haven’t been watching it (and you’d fall into a distinct majority on that one), it’s a drama about Saturday Night Live. More specifically, it’s the AARON SORKIN drama about Saturday Night Live.
Studio 60 has had trouble finding an audience, consistently losing half or more of the visitors delivered unto it by cult hit Heroes. Maybe that’s because of the show’s massive flaws. Studio 60 is supposed to be like SNL or Mad TV, only smart like The Daily Show, but we see little evidence of this on screen. Likewise, Harriet Hayes, one of the main characters, is supposed to be an immensely talented comedienne, but we’ve never really seen her do anything funny. Oh, and try as I might, I simply do not care about Amanda Peet’s character. It’s taken me seven weeks just to remember her name. It’s Jordan, by the way. Jordan is her name.
These are minor quibbles compared to the show’s most egregious faults. Again, this is an AARON SORKIN production, and if you missed the opening credits all you’d have to do is close your eyes and listen to a few select scenes to figure that out, because Sorkin seems to think he’s still writing for The West Wing. Characters debate politics and religion with the same quick witted fervor of the Bartlett administration. Rapid fire repartee about gay marriage feels right at home on a show about the White House, but has absolutely no ducking place on a show about show business, well written as such “dialogue” may be. It comes off contrived and terribly self-indulgent, with the characters reduced to little more than mouthpieces for Sorkin’s political beliefs. The recently aired “Nevada Day” two-parter was a great story featuring a lovely guest appearance by John Goodman, but the gay marriage/bigotry/religion plot felt totally out of place.
Studio 60 takes itself much too seriously, which is a shame. They’ve got a proven comedic powerhouse in Matthew Perry, and Bradley Whitford is oddly hilarious for someone who doesn’t get billed as a comedian. Also, the show is supposed to be about a comedy, and actually being funny would certainly help there. When the show lets itself be funny, it’s really funny, but when it goes for drama it comes off stilted. To have characters reacting to sketch content and production gaffes as if the fate of American thinking rested on them is preposterous. It strangles the life out of what could be an entertaining show. The Daily Show resonates with American politics in part because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
My advice, not that anyone would take it? Tone down the politics and let your comedians practice comedy. Aaron, you sleep now. NBC, please stop using each week’s promos to insinuate that This May Be The Week Where They Get Back Together. The show hasn’t been on nearly long enough for that kind of ploy and it’s getting tiresome. While we’re here, also please stop pretending that every episode of ER is A Television Event.
While rumors of Studio 60‘s imminent cancellation have been swirling for weeks, it’s good to know that they’ve been given at least enough time to finish out the season. I like the show, I really do. It’s good, but could be better. Say what you will about AARON SORKIN’s style, he certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt here.