Monday, October 02, 2006

Studio 60: Really, I ask you, is that all there is?

"Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" spoilers just as soon as I calculate the level of self-back-patting it would take for the human spine to snap...

Okay, we're three weeks in, and if it wasn't for Matthew Perry, I would be seriously thinking of bailing. The more we see of the comedy, the lamer it seems. So, they did a Gilbert & Sullivan spoof and a Commedia Dell'Arte sketch in their first show back? And they're doing Commedia Dell'Arte two weeks in a row? Really? And this is supposed to be better than what Beavis and Hack-Boy can come up with? Pimp My Trike? That's the sort of thing I imagine Dave Chappelle throwing out in a writer's meeting, then immediately saying, "Nah, I'm just messing with you." Science, Schmience? Potentially funny in concept, not remotely in execution.

This show is just so unbearably smug and self-important, and those things could probably have been said about the good ol' days of "The West Wing." The problem was, on "West Wing" I liked and believed in the smug and self-important characters, and here I keep wanting to punch them in the mouth and say, "Hey, until you can write material of a significantly higher standard than 'Bear City' and 'I'm Carol!,' please stop condescending to the world at large."

And the show gets a 9 percent bump over the rubber-necking audience for the Gilbert & Sullivan episode? With that noted ratings magnet Rob Reiner as host? I would make a joke about wanting some of what Aaron's smoking, but I'm afraid he would write an entire subplot lecturing me for being unfair to him in his times of public humiliation. (The only saving grace of that drunk driving subplot was the look on Amanda Peet's face as she contemplates the champagne flute.)

Perry is really, really good, and I'm warming to some of the supporting characters, but the more I see of the show within the show, the less I want to see of the whole endeavor.

What did everybody else think?

51 comments:

~CW~ said...

My roommates and I really enjoyed it for the third straight week, but probably because we're naive to the inner-Sorkinisms that drive you and the LOTT5MAers mad. Ignorance, at least in relation to Studio 60, is true bliss.

Dan Coyle said...

Ricky and Ronnie are coming off far more sympathetic than Sorkin probably intends.

Perry is brilliant.

Harriet is becoming more and more unlikable. Get rid of her. Or at least call Chenoweth, Sorkin, and talk things out.

Sars said...

"Ricky and Ronnie are coming off far more sympathetic than Sorkin probably intends."

Isn't that Carlos Jacott as one of them? Was that casting a mistake? Because it looks like one to me.

jim treacher said...

I think Prison Break is the only thing I need to Tivo on Monday nights.

Devin McCullen said...

See, I actually thought "Pimp My Trike" was a good idea for the show to use, because it's the sort of joke where the idea is funny, but if they actually did the sketch, it would be lame. But for a 10-second shot, it works.

OTOH, the "Science Shmience" sketch didn't make sense and wasn't funny, so that's a problem there. And who used to do not-Weekend Update, if not the show's Big Three? And then there's the bear bit, which they never bothered to show us when it was actually funny.

On another note, was I the only one who noticed the shots in the opening scene where Jordan's facing towards Jack and away from the camera? Her lines were obviously dubbed in, because Amanda Peet or her stand-in was not moving at all when she was supposed to be talking. (And I never catch stuff like that.)

Still, it's reasonably entertaining and there's nothing else on then that I want to watch.

Steven Rubio said...

So far, Sports Night is still the best show Sorkin has ever done.

undercover black man said...

I third the motion that Matthew Perry is fantastic. Him and Whitford together... a weekly clinic on how to play Sorkin's words.

Apart from them, the show-within-a-show is the reason I WILL keep watching. As a student of sketch comedy, improv, stand-up, all that good stuff, I gain insights into the Art of Funny while enduring Sorkin's ten-thumbed attempts at hip conceptual humor.

"Science Schmience" was a walking death, but it's interesting to ponder why. On paper, it mightn't seem much different in concept than "Hugo Chavez Political Roundup" on SNL the other night. But SNL at least zeroed in on specific targets, while Studio 60 went after a generic Orthodox Jew, generic Muslim, Christian fundamentalist, etc., which made it seem (off-puttingly) like an attack on religious faith itself. It was flat-footed and called attention to its own self-serious agenda. Whereas even Dana Carvey's "Church Lady" never felt like an attack on religion per se, and was always played with a light touch.

Other problem with that sketch: too many words. It was stuffed with information. In general, when it comes to jokes, Sorkin lets the words get in his way. The one bit that made me laugh during the whole montage of the show-within-a-show was the goofy golf guy, who did nothing but yell "Get in the hole!" over and over again. Beautiful in its simplicity.

Otherwise, the commercial for "30 Rock" was funnier than the comedy in "Studio 60."

Carrie said...

Pimp My Trike would have been funny, two or three years ago. That's my main problem with the sketches -- all of the humor that is put there for "the masses" (and not the smarty pants) is just old and stale. I also think undercover black man hit the nail on the head with the "too many words" thing. All of his jokes have too many words for sketch comedy, which needs a sharper and more succint rhythm to work.

I really think they should never show us the sketches again. They are terrible, and every time they are onscreen it completely takes me out of the show. Otherwise, though, despite the preachy tone and the smarter-than-you stuff, I am enjoying the show very much. I'm pretty sure this is 99% because of Matthew Perry.

krystle said...

The first two ep's were really dissapointing for me, but i really like this episode.

I don't know, maybe my expectations were too high (Being huge fan of pretty much all of sorkin's work) and i have sub-conciously lowered them since last week or if this weeks episode was just remarkably better.

The only problems i had with this weeks show was i) The ex-husband book deal story line (just a little to predictable) and ii) at the end when Jordon told the guys about the ratings she went to tell Harriet (How many studio execs would actually know cast members, esspecially after only being on the job a week? Not many at the TV Co. that i worked for!)

Just my two cents

CM said...

I missed the beginning last night, and haven't seen it before. From what I saw, it seems like everyone is stressed or angry all the time. Aside from a few grimly delivered jokes, I didn't notice any moments of levity to break up the tension. But they're producing a TV show -- it's not like ER, where there's a good reason for all the tension. I didn't care. Won't watch it again.

Anonymous said...

Here's my theory. The over-all story arc for the season (if not the show itself) is the gradual awakening from self-delusion of these people. The sketch ideas are *deliberately* stupid. We canny viewers are supposed to understand this. We are supposed to watch the spectacle of a bunch of smart people perpetrating stupid stuff for a living.

You see, the thing is, a long time ago these people would have *known* their ideas were stupid. Then they went through a phase (the period of the firing four years ago that is frequently referred to?) where they would deliberately and with professional skill craft stupid sketches. It's all about the numbers. They all realized that stupid generated better ratings than smart.

But by now time and drugs have taken their toll. Now, everyone (writers, cast, execs, crew) *thinks* the sketches are "good" because they have been pavlovianly conditioned to think so by the ratings.

We the viewers know different. By episode six or seven we will be able to see cracks in their collective facades as some of the characters begin to get a glimmer that while successful, things are actually pretty crappy.

eyebrown

Alan Sepinwall said...

Eyebrown, I think you give Sorkin too much credit. The show's default point of view is that Matt and Danny *are* making things better. In particular, last week's scene with the creation of the lame-o Gilbert & Sullivan parody used everything short of the Hallelujah chorus to suggest that this was the greatest idea of all time and that we should all kneel down before comedy god Matt Albie -- or, if you prefer, his real-life alter ego Aaron Sorkin. The focus groups love the show, and the ratings went UP after an artificially-inflated number, two things that wouldn't happen if people in this universe didn't find the new show funny.

If there's some writing in later episodes suggesting that maybe the sketches aren't as good as Matt and Danny think -- and I'm skeptical of that -- it won't be because it was part of Sorkin's master plan. It will be like the introduction of Charlie or Ainsley on West Wing -- mea culpas on behalf of a creator who didn't realize viewers would complain about something that never even occurred to him.

Luna said...

Remember when Aaron Sorkin explained how polls worked in season one of The West Wing? And then there was that plot where CJ predicted a five point bump and then really didn't want to be wrong because she thought that her job was in trouble, and then it turned out they got a nine point bump and the episode ended with music and everyone smiling? Yeah, I bet this ending was much better if you don't remember that.

I did like this one better than the last one--the cast chemistry is the biggest point in the show's favor, and it was almost enough to get me past that feeling of being CONSTANTLY lectured to--but there was nothing in that really long montage of snippets of sketches that made me laugh.

the2scoops said...

I can't buy into the concept of the characters elevating TV and reinvigorating sketch comedy show as an artform when they show such sub-par sketches. I can't figure which was lamer, the sketches on Studio 60 or the real SNL season premiere. Funny enough, the only person I can think of to give the Studio 60 sketches more authenticity would be Tina Fey. Or better yet, hire some of the dozens of Second City alumni that must be roaming around Hollywood.
The show within a show is less revolutionary and more of a parody of what a successful sketch comedy show should be. The performances are keeping me around for another week or so, but anytime we focus on the material of the Studio 60 show I get distracted by "so this is the best they can do?"

Anonymous said...

They'd be much better off if they'd stick to the backstage stuff and excise any performance material. I could watch Perry, Whitford and Weber all day.

Jim said...

Alan, for a guy that watches TV for a living you dont seem to like too much of it.

The show has its flaws but on the whole it is enjoyable. I think too much emphasis is being placed by critics on recycled plot concepts and "the show within the show." I laughed at the Golf Skit ("get in the hole!") which was one more laugh than SNL Saturday.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Jim, in the last seven days of this blog, I've said positive things about (in reverse chronological order) Heroes, How I Met Your Mother, The Wire, Doctor Who, Dexter, Survivor, Grey's Anatomy (where my only gripe was with the last five minutes), The Office and Ugly Betty. I was mixed on The Class and Smith and negative about Studio 60, SNL and Gilmore Girls. And tonight I'm going to be awfully damn positive about Veronica Mars and Friday Night Lights, and possibly other stuff.

The show within the show is a huge problem because Sorkin tries to act like Matt and Danny are these great saviors and so much better than Beavis and Hackboy, yet the stuff they're churning out is barely -- barely -- better than what was on the season premiere of the very tired real-life SNL. I'd even go so far as to say that Bill Hader's Pacino ("Balance! Balance! Checking!") was funnier than anything we've seen in these two episodes of S60.

This is a show about talent, about comedy, about the process of creating comedy, about who's good at it and who isn't, and yet everything in these last two episodes suggests that none of these people are especially talented at comedy.

I don't even care about Sorkin recycling bits from his other shows; I just want to believe in what he keeps trying to tell me is true.

Mac said...

I like it more than you, but I agree with some of the posters above -- they need to not show the sketches or at least minimize them. What's so frustrating is that some of the ideas are actually pretty good but the sketches are very badly written, and these people can be so funny when they're not doing sketches. The sketches were actually mildly amusing at times (a smile, no laughter) -- just like real SNL sketches! -- but then everyone looks like an idiot for laughing and applauding.

Anonymous said...

Well, after watching the first two weeks, I gave them five minutes this week and they lost me for good. I just don't want to waste any more of my time on wooden characters spouting glib dialog. If West Wing was anything like this show, I'm glad I skipped it.

Lynn said...

I love Matthew Perry. And that's about all I can say that's good.

I was a huge fan of Sports Night but S60 is nowhwere near in the same league. I agree with you that the characters on S60 are smug and unlikable and I am having a hard time rooting for anyone. The Jordan character is completely unbelievable. (And who in the world would care about her 8 year-old mug shot? Nobody. She's not famous, she's a TV executive that most of the public has never heard of.)

S60 better improve soon, or I'm bailing also. And I really wanted to like it. But with the brilliant Veronica Mars and Battlestar Galactica on my schedule, along with good shows like Lost and The Office (and hopefully the Nine), it's hard to find room for this show unless it finds it way fast.

Jim said...

Alan, point well recieved.

I am not sure if anyone has mentioned it - but what about Harriet asking Matt to explain the process of focus groups. Would it be possible to her level of star on the show and not know how that works?

Anonymous said...

This show is just so unbearably smug and self-important, and those things could probably have been said about the good ol' days of "The West Wing."

I found this description applicable to the show everyone seems to love: "Sports Night".
Am I the only one who hated this show?

I thought I'd try this show since it is about my favorite subject - TV and so far (in my opinion) it has not gotten too unbearable. Here’s hoping.

DonBoy said...

Say, was Reiner's bit in the Science/Schmience sketch a reference to the 2000-Year-Old Man, in which his father was the straight man to Mel Brooks? Because it sounded like he was doing some Mel there, and the line was something like "vat, vas you dere, thousands of years ago?"

Anonymous said...

I liked it. I love Sorkins wordiness for the behind the scenes stuff, but the comedy just doesn't work. That part really should be removed as much as possible. He should do a show-within-a-show like Murphy Brown did - then they could lecture and be West Wing lite - and they didn't do much on-air there either. Or about behind-the-scenes of ESPN... oh, wait....

dale said...

How many of us would've watched the Larry Sanders' talk show?
And is it only believable it lasted as long in it's fictional universe because talk shows had become so bad in the 90's.
Some of us are being unfair to "Studio 60" by judging too harshly the show within the show.


To completely enjoy the show one must forgive the sketches for being unfunny.
Sorkin is not writing SNL.

No matter how much help he gets with sketches, they're not gonna be as witty as the those which develop under the competitive scrutiny of a dozen hungry cynical
television comedy writers.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Dale, "The Larry Sanders Show" wasn't constantly telling us how awesome the talk show was. If anything, it had contempt for the show and everyone who worked on it. But "Studio 60" is about how awesome Matt and Danny are, how awesome the Big Three are, how awesome the new sketches are, etc., and it's delivering on none of those things.

On "Sports Night" it didn't matter whether the show seemed good or not because we weren't being told every five seconds that it was this ground-breaking masterpiece, but rather a third-place show on a third-place network where the people just enjoyed their jobs and each other's company.

Brian said...

I liked last night's episode a lot, particularly Matthew Perry, who is incredible in this role, and Sarah Paulson, who's speech about attacking the big guns--the Bush administration and national extreme Christian organizations--and not the smaller targets--Eli, Missouri--was both heartfelt and sensible. The problem that I see so far is that we haven't really expanded the universe these people inhabit very much. Is "Studio 60" such an asset to the network that Jack Rudolph is involved every week in some huge way, and if so, why was it allowed to slide so much? (The same could be said about NBC Thursdays, mind you, but then that's another piece to my theory that this show is Sorkin's attempt at being way too clever--and he's doing well in that regard.) The most obvious comparison to this show is "Sports Night," which could be just as preachy and self-important as this show appears it will be but went beyond the confines of the studio, which allowed it to make better stories inside the studio and tell different stories. That's what we need here. And perhaps this is just my love of Sorkin talking, but I'm willing to give him the entire season to work out the kinks. He's earned that right.

I just hope the ratings improve. That'll be the biggest struggle.

Tosy And Cosh said...

I won't bail yet, or for a while really, since I keep finding enough good things to keep me in (Perry in general and his final moments during last night's show--the juxtaposition of the wild success and all the reveling and his seemingly expecting doom were extremely well done). But I do find all the "comedy sketch" stuff to be off, somewhat, whereas on TWW, I found the "politics" stuff to be very compelling. A lot of the early praising of TWW was that it made dry-as--dust political concepts and stories compelling - and it did. S60 takes what should be more interesting "content" - comedy and its creation - and makes it dry. I keep finding myself wondering if Sorkin should have done the same show but set at some kind of political roundtable program, or a big nightly news program. Same format and backstage stuff, but the issues that would have been at play would have been firmly in his wheelhouse.

Reeeses said...

Sorkin has always had a huge hard-on for Gilbert & Sullivan-- there are a million references to them in The West Wing, including a painful, criminal scene with Rob Lowe and his Republican collegue in her basement office (think it's in Season 1 or 2).

Sorkin uses G&S as a proxy for intellectual appreciation of a finer style of performance, but it just comes off as self-important and outdated.

undercover black man said...

I hate to dog a brutha out, but D.L. Hughley doesn't belong in this cast. A much better fit would've been Wayne Brady, Phil LeMarr or David Alan Grier. Someone you could buy as Yale-trained.

It was a little painful this week to watch D.L. struggle with his character's vocabulary. I'd wager that before reading this script, D.L. didn't know what the word "pejorative" means.

And while he might have deduced the meaning of "metamorphose" via its realtion to "metamorphosis," I'm dead certain that D.L. has never used "metamorphose" in a sentence. Nor has he ever before discussed the plot of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." It's like he was reading those lines phonetically.

I've always thought D.L. was a decent stand-up... but my man lacks a college-level vocabulary. Which is a problem on an Aaron Sorkin show. (Has Sorkin ever attempted to write a character who WASN'T college-educated?)

Last week, during a "Studio 60" panel discussion at the TV Academy, Steven Weber said something clever. The actors were asked whether there's any trick to memorizing the big bunches of words in Sorkin's speeches. Weber said he takes the first letter of every word and turns them into an acronym. The audience laughed.

Then D.L. confessed he doesn't know what the word "acronym" means, and wondered why everybody was laughing. D.L. made a running joke out of this... his being amidst a bunch of people who use words like "acronym."

Sarah Paulson had earlier joked about herself as being "dumber than the material," but she carries it better than D.L.

Steve in Houston said...

I think I bailed when they invoked "commedia dell'arte" without any sense of irony.

I got close with the exceedingly precious Gilbert and Sullivan reference, mainly because I can't imagine that striking a chord with very many people these days.

The show drips with contempt for pretty much everything except the cast and the dynamic duo. Everything else - from TV executives to vast swaths of the American public - are objects of scorn.

The whole thing feels completely overdetermined. The show actively insults Red Staters, and then by some miracle, those same Red Staters end up rescuing the show (I guess because they finally learn from their betters). All signs end up pointing to how briliant the main cast is, without ever showing it, as Alan notes. The crew sure does spend a lot of time reassuring each other that they're brilliant though.

I'd like it better if in addition it took on the obvious and easy targets, it also took on sacred cows like abortion or global warming alarmism or speech codes on campuses or Danish cartoon violence, etc. But if the show did that, Sorkin wouldn't be invited to all the cool Hollywood parties. Some things you just don't joke about.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve, I bet you also would like faith-healing and Toby Keith songs, too, huh redneck trailer park trash? All with your hosts Loofah Felafel and Rush Vicodin. And all wrapped up with lots of indiscriminate Arab-bashing.

Of course, this is from someone who thinks that Shrub the Moron is the greatest President in the world. I bet you've got lots of Halliburton stock, don't you, wingnut?

And oh yes--what's your opinion of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Jews, women, gays and lesbians--as if we didn't already know?

Jake said...

Alan, I agree with most of this and most of what you've said in comments, but I have two conflicting points:
1) On Sports Night a lot WAS made of how it was a better show than its ratings/network demonstrated. That's why Quo Vadimus let them stay on the air!
2) Everything you say about the show is accurate (and I echoed a lot of it on my own blog) but I think we're getting different things out of it; for some reason, I'm still enjoying the show (though emphatically not the show-within-a-show) and have pretty high hopes for it. There's plenty of room for improvement, certainly, but I think there's a decent chance of them getting there. They just need to ditch a lot more of the the skits and the guest stars, as they did in Sports Night, and keep the focus behind the scenes where it belongs. Of course, that doesn't solve the problem of why we should sympathize with rich, arrogant, selfish celebrities and Hollywood execs... but I can suspend my disbelief on that score.

oh, and 3) I believe Charlie is introduced in the first few episodes of WW--so if the character was a response to criticisms, they must have been levied by NBC higher-ups.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Charlie was introduced after Sorkin got absolutely hammered by the critics at press tour for having such a lily-white cast in such a liberal show. That was the same press conference that inspired the insertion of the Leo and Al Caldwell scene in the pilot, an attempt to show that Sorkin wasn't trying to demonize all Christians.

And there's a large difference between the "Sports Night" characters saying that their show deserved to do better and the constant discussion of how wonderful and funny everyone on this show is. Don't have Harriet bomb with the bear joke two or three times and then tell me each time that she'll kill with it on air -- show her killing with it, or don't bother at all.

Funny Girl said...

I can't agree more with the sentiments about the show within a show. It's very unfunny and I certainly wouldn't watch it. Science Schmience was simply horrible, I kept waiting for the humour which never surfaced. Same with that choir opening number from the week previous. Simply.Not.Funny. And while I think Sarah Paulson is a an adequate actress, I simply don't buy her as someone who would be the star of a SNL-type show. I just don't see her character as being a sharp, witty woman. At all.

I love Amanda Peet but I also don't buy that an eight year old drunk driving arrest of a studio executive would be so newsworthy and that anyone would pay money for her ex husband's book. Does the average person really care about network suits? Methinks not.

Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford are stellar. They really gotta work on those sketches or just stop showing them all together, it's taking me out of the show.

Jake said...

That bear joke was abominable, no question--and the show gave us no reason to think that Harriet was capable of boosting it to the level of mild humor. Sorkin's a gifted writer but he has weaknesses that require an equally gifted cast to bail him out on occasion. I think it remains to be seen whether that'll happen on S60, but it seems pretty clear that they're going to have to figure out a way to cut out a lot more of the "Studio 60" telecast/rehearsal stuff.

And thanks for the info about Charlie. I can't imagine what that show would have been like without him (and without the apparent guilt that got Sorkin to introduce additional characters beyond the white liberals he's most comfortable with writing).

Luna said...

The biggest differences with Sports Night are as follows: we were supposed to care about SN-the-fictional-series because of the people on it. We're supposed to care about S60-the-fictional-series because it is Important For TV, not because we don't want to see our family split up. Consider that our new heroes, Aaron and Tommy--whoops! Ace and Gary--whoops! Matt and Danny! Yeah, that's it--they had to be blackmailed into even taking the job. We don't have any emotional stake in their success. As of yet, it doesn't matter to them enough to matter to us by default. Whereas from the first day on Sports Night we understood that these characters cared like crazy about their show, and the New Guy on his first day displayed a desire to be there that lured the audience in with him.

Not to mention that, as Alan has pointed out, a big chunk of Sports Night's audience probably doesn't really watch a lot of Sportscenter and so will take on faith that SN is smarter and funnier, because we are watching smart, funny characters. Whereas we're all qualified to judge whether a sketch is funny, and it looks by these comments like we're voting no with our laughter.

I am seriously watching this show all season just to be critical about it, a faculty I did not have when I was swoonily in love with the first two or three seasons of The West Wing.

Anonymous said...

Smug and Self Important says it all. I can't help but feel put down by every episode I watch. I feel like the characters are screaming "We are better people than you!" throughout the entire episodes.

The acting by Perry and Whitford is fantastic. The writing is witty, but the overall plot is, I don't know... demeaning somehow.

I feel like they look down upon the audience, and it makes me uncomfortable as a viewer.

Rodney said...

The ratings are tanking. Week one: 13.4 million
Week two: 10.8
Week three: 8.9
That's 34% drop in three weeks. Not good.

Staley said...

"Smug and self-important" sums it up pretty well for me. The swelling background music is way out of proportion to what's actually going on onscreen. I agree that the "comedy" they show us is really lacking, too, though I don't think we can seriously expect it to be too good--if it was so easy to make excellent comedy as a plot element of a dramatic series, it would be a lot easier to make the real SNL funny all the time--and they clearly can't do that.

The additional problem I have is that I can't figure out why people think Matthew Perry is so wonderful. He's not funny, likable, or believable. He's just irritating.

filmcricket said...

Luna makes a really good point that with Sports Night we were asked to care right away about the show; the whole point of the pilot is How Casey McCall Got His Groove Back. And I also agree that Wayne Brady would have been a good choice, particularly if we have to see so much of the show within the show; at least Brady can do impressions (and sing and dance, etc.)

I've seen a lot of criticism of Paulson and I quite like her (especially given that Harriet is based on Kristin Chenoweth, whom I can't stand). I do feel, however, that the Holly Hunter impression may be the extent of her sketch-comedy talents, and the bear thing wasn't funny either time.

I adore Bradley Whitford and am consistently impressed with Perry, and am also very much enjoying the small contributions that Nate Corddry is making. Peet still does nothing for me, and I don't see how a president of an entire network can continue realistically to be such a big part of the show unless she gets put in a relationship with Matt or Danny, which would be unprofessional, irritating and probably badly written, given Sorkin's uneven history of writing romance.

All that said, I will keep watching. But Sorkin's got to either let real comedy writers write the sketches, or, preferably, do away with that aspect entirely.

Anonymous said...

You'd think a show so bent on telling people they're too dumb to appreciate highbrow humour would know how to pronounce "commedia dell'arte." "Arte" has two syllables, and not one of the characters got it right last night.

mel said...

The show is trying to do too much and is therefore succeeding at too little. I keep watching this because of Perry and to a lesser degree Whitford and their chemistry together. I also enjoy the mood and pace which is very West Wing (Lite). The musical montage of the "show" was horrible--Sorkin needs to let go and try not to let us see any of the show within a show (the mystery might be good in the long run). The process, the dynamics of what goes on behind the scenes between the writers, actors, with the network heads, etc. should be the focus--it has the potential to be the most compelling part--the rest will always disappoint. This is inevitable because we will always expect it to be the funniest thing we've every seen. And what are the chances that Sorkin or anyone can produce that week after weeK?

BF said...

So far the show has an insurmountable problem: it's hard to write superior, cutting-edge sketches for the NBS Studio 60 when the NBC show Studio 60 is being filmed months in advance. By airtime, nothing is topical (and therefore funny) anymore. Heck, even Grandpa Whitford's assessment that Bush's approval ratings are down to "7 guys in Tupelo" is contradicted by W's ever-so-light uptick back to the 40s.

PS: Let's see: we've insulted Terre Haute, Little Rock, and Tupelo. Who's next? Montgomery? Starkville? Shreveport?

PPS: Was that Pam from the British Office sitting in on the Science Schmience rundown at the beginning? Will she be a reoccuring character?

Louis said...

This show just plain sucks, and everyone involved in it should be slapped. Sorkin twice.

Mark J. said...

That was Lucy Davis--her name has been on the front credits every week so far, but I think this is the first time she's got a line. Still assume she is a regular.

Lyle said...

One poster on TV w/o Pity wondered why not just set the show on a soap opera instead. That struck me as having more dramatic potential considering how the format is dying slowly, has the rabid fanbase but is also filled with big fish in the small pond.

Thinking further, they might've been able to convince me that the bear joke would work if they started presenting it in a way that would play in our imaginations... talk about the visuals to accopany or some guy in a bear suit or something that tells us they'll have tools to make it work that we're not seeing. As it was, we saw the line delivery suck every time and it didn't look like they expected to have any more than that.

Pimp my Trike worked for me since it was a quick visual and I didn't see how they expanded that into a whole sketch. It was good for a chuckle and I thought it didn't wasn't on screen long enough to demand more than a chuckle. When we saw large bits of Science Schmience, it was too wordy to be funny but I liked the one line from Corddry that ran by.

BTW, speaking of Lucy Davis, I saw a YouTube clip of her outside the BAFTA awards talking up Ugly Betty. Anyone know how she became a part of the Betty buzz build? At first I hoped she would be part of the show, but now I'm wondering if its a Ricky Gervais connection.

Brian said...

A few things.

1. Hasn't Sorking acknowledge he's not an expert at writing sketch comedy and recruited people to help him with that? I specifically remember reading about some guy from "Kids in the Hall." If so, then give the show a few more episodes, because their effect won't be felt for a few more episodes.

2. Perhaps Amanda Peet's character is a celebrity on the level of Donald Trump, who is known for his businesses and for his television program. If that's the case, then a tell-tall book, while certainly limited, would be a big deal. The show just needs to do a better job of establishing this part of her past.

3. He also needs to expand the universe of the show. That's what they did on "The West Wing" and "Sports Night." It worked very well. We need to see, for instance, Jordan working on other shows besides "Studio 60."

4. Once again, there's a strong possibility of Sorkin being way too clever. Remember at the end of the episode, when Matthew Perry's face showed that he was upset at something. Perhaps, like someone else suggested, he realized his show didn't deserve all of the acclaim, and Sorkin, realizing that many would feel early on his show didn't deserve all of the claim, chose to represent it this way. And if that's the case, we can expect to see the show get better and the show-within-a-show get better, over time. Or so I suspect Sorkin has plans like this.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Brian, the KitH alum in question is Mark McKinney, who has been on Sorkin's "writing staff" since the show began. The problem is that, as on all Sorkin shows, the other writers don't really get to write; they're glorified researchers who just give Sorkin memos. He honestly believes he can write sketches better than a guy like McKinney (who was also a part of the real SNL for a couple of seasons, and wrote for the superb Canadian backstage dramedy "Slings and Arrows").

Lyle said...

Ah, yesterday's Ugly Betty answered my Lucy Davis question. I hope that wasn't a one-off appearance.

Matt said...

Agree with you on the smug. I thought the first episode was good, mostly because of the acting, but it's been downhill since then. For example, why would anyone care about a network executive's years-old DUI arrest? Would that even make the news?