I spend far too much time thinking about "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," a pilot in development at NBC. Usually, I don't bother thinking about pilots at all until they've made the schedule, except in rare cases where a creator has asked for an early opinion on a script. But the combination of creative talent (Aaron Sorkin is writing, Tommy Schlamme is directing) and the premise (thinly-disguised versions of Sorkin and Schlamme take over a thinly-disguised "Saturday Night Live" after a thinly-disguised Lorne Michaels has an on-air meltdown) just has my wheels spinning constantly.
I've read the script (pretty much everyone associated with the TV business in some way has), and my friend Phil and I have tried to cast this thing in our head for a few months. The process is made easier by the fact that it's not hard to spot who the characters are supposed to be in real life: in addition to Sorkin, Schlamme and Lorne, there are barely concealed versions of Jamie Tarses, Maureen Dowd and Kristin Chenoweth. The Chenoweth character is, in fact, so blatantly Kristin -- blonde, beautiful, great at both comedy and singing and a notably devout Christian -- that I figured that no one else could play the part.
Apparently, I was wrong. Sarah Paulson from "Deadwood" now has the awkward job of playing a fictionalized variation on her boss' girlfriend. Meanwhile, Bradley Whitford has joined Matthew Perry as the other lead; I think Perry is playing Sorkin and Whitford is Schlamme, but it's confusing because the director character (Whitford) is the one with the drug problem. With Steven Weber on board as the head of the network, Amanda Peet as Jamie Tarses (sadly, Melina Kanakaredes is too busy on "CSI:NY" for the part she was born to play) and D.L. Hughley as one of the show-within-the-show's other actors, that leaves one crucial role still to be cast: Lorne Michaels.
Now, you could get Mike Myers or Mark McKinney to come on in a grey wig, but that might be too campy. And even if Lorne would do it -- which he won't, since "Studio 60" is competing with Tina Fey's inside-"SNL" sitcom -- that would be distracting. But today, Phil came up with the perfect choice:
Think about it. Carlin hosted the very first "SNL," but isn't so tightly connected to the show that he wouldn't do it (or that it would be distracting), and if you read the on-air rant "Lorne" delivers, it's as much vintage Carlin as vintage Sorkin.
I'm going to be really disappointed if "Studio 60" doesn't make it, not because I necessarily think it's great -- a friend who works for the real "SNL" described it, not inaccurately, as "fan fiction" -- but just because I've wasted so many hours imagining what it'll look like that I want to see the real thing, dammit.