Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Studio 60: The need for speed(ing)

Spoilers for "Studio 60" just as soon as I figure out how long it takes Sorkin to write an episode set in Lake Titikaka...

Congratulations, everyone who had "Tom was speeding to see his little brother before he had to go stand IN THE MIDDLE OF AFGHANISTAN!" as the reason for this entire wheezing mess of a farce. Because there's no way Tom could have been speeding just to be speeding, no way Judge Goodman could have taken these people out of their world of pain without realizing the guy in the Jesus suit had a brother fighting abroad, no way we could have gone for something remotely subtler or more interesting, is there?

Last week's episode felt like it was dragging things out to save all the good stuf for the conclusion. Apparently, "the good stuff" got lost somewhere on the way to and from Pahrump. (See? "Pahrump." It's a funy name. Like "Turd Ferguson." Just keep saying it over and over, and apparently it just gets funnier.) Because after feeling only bored and ambivalent about the show last week, I was back to cringing, "Mommy, please make the bad man stop" with this one.

In particular, that last scene with Matt and Harriet was appalling in a way that I didn't think was possible outside of an Endemol-produced reality show. "Oh God, Matthew. Are you crazy about me or just crazy?" That's an actual line of dialogue? One that Sorkin thought that any actress in the history of space and time could deliver? And all that back and forth about whether gays are the same as blacks and "judge not lest ye be judged" and on and on to the point where I wouldn't want either of these yahoos as the spokesperson for my point of view?

Phil Rosenthal -- "Everybody Loves Raymond" Phil Rosenthal, not my friend Phil Rosenthal -- once told me about how often his wife Monica would watch a "Raymond" episode featuring a story inspired by one of their arguments, and when Ray would give a big speech apologizing to Debra and explaining what he did that was so wrong, Monica would always punch him in the arm and complain, "How come you understand it for television!" Not having been a fly on the wall for any of the Sorkin/Chenoweth relationship, I can't say how much of this series is therapy, how much is apology, how much is Sorkin trying to get the last word, but I think it's safe to say that no matter what it is, Aaron still doesn't understand.

Meanwhile, I remain both impressed and amused by how the cast of the faux-"Studio 60" are the most supportive, least competitive group of comedians of all time. Like the non-Big 3 castmembers wouldn't be clawing and scratching each other for the chance to replace Simon for a night? I know that Harry Shearer couldn't stand to appear on Weekend Update during his first "SNL" stint because Lorne wouldn't let him do it in character, so on that level I can understand Dylan's discomfort. But why weren't the other three all running to Matt to argue their own case? (And who the hell was anchoring the news before Danny put Simon and Harriet on it? Wouldn't there be someone in the cast who A)Has experience behind that desk, and B)Is just a mite resentful at being replaced?)

Sorkin continues to wildly overestimate the interest anyone would have in the love life and personal opinions of a network entertainment president, but God do I love Jack Rudolph. Weber almost makes me wish Sorkin could take his carpet-cleaning idea and really do it, but only bring along Jack, Matt, Tom, Cal and maybe Lucy (and that's only because I like watching Lucy Davis cry). Because I'm all for any excuse to eliminate the deadweight characters, get away from any discussion of The Culture Wars and keep Sorkin from ever having to pretend that he can write sketch comedy.

What did everybody else think?

25 comments:

J said...

$60 socks?! ROFLMAOWSMITF!!! Oh, Mr. Sorkin, where do you get this COMEDY GOLD?!

dale said...

I've been a big defender of this show, but my wife & I almost had to bury our heads during the big "reveal" of why the character was speeding.
Not to mention Pam from The Office being reduced to such a stereotype.

Sorkin certainly could write about powerful women better in his West Wing days, but Jordan & Harriet are doing zilch for me now. Just because characters are conflicted doesn't make them interesting- specially when they're having the same exact conversations over & over again.

Bg Porter said...

Here's what I'm banking on with this show. I'm hoping that Sorkin's inspiration for this is David Foster Wallace's gargantuan novel "Infinite Jest" -- 1600 pages of dense, footnoted text. Through the whole thing, you have the sense that you get where he's taking things, and there are many boring chapters but no boring sentences (as one reviewer put it), but the pieces don't fit together until you not only make it all the way to the end, but also loop back and re-read the first chapter again.

I'm hanging my hopes on this because otherwise Sorkin's just shooting blanks.

Roper said...

I've figured out what I dislike about this show. The entire show is like the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry has the girlfriend that never laughs but just says “That’s funny”. All of the characters on this show are Jerry’s non-laughing girlfriend. It’s this quality that makes the show unbelievable. I know that comedians can be serious but at some point I would hope you could actually see these supposedly comedic actors on this show chuckle. They never laugh at script reads, or during dress rehearsals. If you’ve ever seen a SNL episode before, sometimes the funniest sketches are when one of the actors just can’t keep it together. I think I’ll give it one more chance but really just because I think Matthew Perry is the only actor making strides in his career on this show.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, the prosecutor forgetting to leave the safety on his paintball gun? All that scene was missing was Danny saying something condescending about how glad he was that that wasn't a real gun. Because, of course, all Midwesterners are armed and none of them know a damn thing about gun safety.

Sandi said...

Last week it appeared as if Amanda Peete's pregnancy was starting to show and this week she only appeared from the shoulders up. They may have to incorporate her pregnancy into Jordan's character soon. Not that I really care - I think last night's ep was my last. I'm finding hard to care about these characters. Studio 60 isn't funny, the pace of the show it too damn slow and nothing is believable.

Seeing British Pam made me wonder when "Extras" would be back on HBO. Any idea if that will return? It's infintely better than this waste of an hour.

Dan Coyle said...

The judge played by Goodman, I think, came off like a jerk. Harriet came off as bigoted if not incoherent, though Paulson is getting a handle on her character.

The weird thing is that I think Sorkin considers this acceptable behavior from the "others".

Jack Rudolph stole the episode, I thought- Weber's doing a terrific job giving this guy depth and nuance. He's the second best asset in the cast besides Matthew Perry.

Nice that they gave Dylan some depth, but you're dead on, Alan, about there being no competition. But I've accepted things making no sense on this show. I just go with it.

Dan Coyle said...

The judge played by Goodman, I think, came off like a jerk. Harriet came off as bigoted if not incoherent, though Paulson is getting a handle on her character.

The weird thing is that I think Sorkin considers this acceptable behavior from the "others".

Jack Rudolph stole the episode, I thought- Weber's doing a terrific job giving this guy depth and nuance. He's the second best asset in the cast besides Matthew Perry.

Nice that they gave Dylan some depth, but you're dead on, Alan, about there being no competition. But I've accepted things making no sense on this show. I just go with it.

kristinj said...

I really wish Sorkin could get out of his own way and tell some good stories. I know he has it in him, and I'm hoping against hope that now that he has a full season pickup, he'll use that luxury to get over the hangups that are strangling the show.

Hee, Sandi (and dale), "British Pam." During the first season of The Office US I would have been appalled. No longer!

Grimoald said...

I thought this was the worst episode for a while. My big problem was that in parts it was great, Weber, Whitford, Lucy Davis with the new writer and most of Corddry's stuff, however there was so much bad, Paulson, Peet, the contrived Afghanistan thing and the Visa sketch, OH MY GOD!!! I found, for the first time, that the bad outweighed the good.

I agree with you on the final scene, which was simply excruciating (along with the other Perry and Paulson bits). She is just so damn bad, and I am convinced it isn't entirely the writing's fault. Perry is given dialogue that makes him out to be a prick, but overcomes it because he is so damn good, Paulson just comes off as cold, shrill and unsympathetic when she is often in the right.

I have a problem with your comment about the gun thing though Alan, that is just you putting your problems with the show out there without basis. It was simply just a moment of farce, which is something Sorkin has peppered in his work throughout his career.

ooda said...

Normally I come on here after every episode and go on a tirade about how it was great, and I can't understand what everyone is complaining about.

I didn't hate this episode, but I don't really like it. I don't know if it's because I've started watching The West Wing from scratch again (half way through the first season), and I've realized how much more superior that show was, at least at the beginning (though even with the second time over, I still can't get used to Mandy). Probably the worst thing is that I remember why I love Bradley Whitford as much as I do. Sigh, nostalgia can be a bitch.

That said, like always, some Sorkin is better than no Sorkin.

jim treacher said...

This show is also Sorkin's "Infinite Jest" in that I'm putting it down after 75 pages and have absolutely no interest in picking it back up.

"That said, like always, some Sorkin is better than no Sorkin."

Are you familiar with Stockholm Syndrome? ;)

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else find it ironic that Studio 60 and The Nine, the two best reviewed and most buzzed about shows before the season started are now critical and ratings flops while Brothers & Sisters, which was labeled "troubled" for so long, is now a critical and ratings success?

floretbroccoli said...

Poor Kristin Chenoweth! She has said publicly that she is in favor of same-sex marriage. But I'm sure that, after this, she'll be thought of as a kind of gay-basher.

Anonymous said...

>Does anyone else find it ironic that Studio 60 and The Nine, the two best reviewed and most buzzed about shows before the season started are now critical and ratings flops while Brothers & Sisters, which was labeled "troubled" for so long, is now a critical and ratings success?

Actually, I was thinking it was Six Degrees (good buzz) vs. Brothers & Sisters, but....

I'm really enjoying watching Calista. I thought it was just David E Kelley's writing, but apparently, I like the actress, herself, apart from DEK. Sally Field not playing Bipolar is also nice (been watching too many ER reruns lately)

--Pam

ooda said...

"Are you familiar with Stockholm Syndrome? ;)"

Haha, consider me severely affected.

On a side note, Brothers and Sisters I can understand being a success, yet what boggles the mind is the success of Jericho. I mean, I watched the first episode, as it is a good premise, but the show is filled with such bad acting and so many cliches it just distracts from the whole experience. Though it has turned out to be a modest hit, so maybe that can explain why B&S is doing well, as there is still a decent market in the US for family drama.

Side, side note: Viewer wise, Studio 60 was up! (7.79m)

Matt said...

The reason Jericho is doing well is because there's NOTHING ELSE ON. Two nets have gone with disposable reality (ANTM and DWTS), one has a good sitcom and an immensely crappy sitcom that got a late start, and that leaves Jericho and Bones, and Jericho isn't a generic procedural.

DonBoy said...

I was all set to theorize that Pahrump is part of Sorkin's Gilbert and Sullivan mania, possibly appearing as a chanted lyric in some march or other, and then I discovered that it's real, although not the joke of a small town that we saw.

Matt said...

Pahrump is actually very well-known. It's the first town across the Clark County line from Vegas, and hence, the closest place to Vegas where you go can go for legal brother services. (Brothels are only legal in counties with a population below a certain number, meaninig that you have to leave the county Vegas is in.)

Bill said...

What are we, 8 or 9 weeks into the season? Still don't know where they're going with this show. It's about a show within a show, its about how flyover country has interesting people if you stop and listen, its about how Hollywood exists or doesn't exist, but certainly has militant gays who confront actresses outside their studios.

Who the hell knows.

Its a hectoring mess that somehow found enough folks to keep watching for NBC to give it the full season. Even my wife is growing impatient, and she is a true-blue Sorkin fan.

RE: Jericho, presumably the writers mapped out at least the first season of action, which makes it a welcome counterpoint to Lost. Skeet is a bit much, but at least they introduce and then answer their mysteries on a regular basis. Makes me feel like I'm actually leasning something about where the show is headed.

Of course, it should just run for 2-3 seasons before it ends, but I'm sure it will be run into the ground instead.

dez said...

I watch Jericho because I like Skeet and some of the stuff that happens is interesting. Some of it is dreck, however, which is why Jericho is one of my "background" shows (like Las Vegas, it makes good background noise with occasional sightings of a hot actor [Josh Duhamel in LV's case]). I don't have to pay total attention to it (except tonight because D.B. Sweeney is on again, yay!) to keep up with it.

TomV-Piscataway said...

In the words of Kathy Griffin - "SNOOZERS"!!! I'm starting to feel like I'm forcing myself to watch this show.And that Matthew Perry gay marriage speech - oh please....

Anonymous said...

I think this show is great. I think the writing is smart (maybe over your heads?).

I enjoy the politcal/religious conflicts and the constant dig at the LA/network insiders.

Matthew Perry doesn't come off as a jerk or a prick - he lacks confidence, he needs reinforcement. How refreshing for Perry after his obnoxious Chandler.

Although I have watched this weeks episode (only saw the last few minutes while getting ready for bed) I have no doubt it will be entertaining.

dez said...

"I think this show is great. I think the writing is smart (maybe over your heads?)."

That's it exactly! Thank you for your genius insight!

Anyway, does anyone know the demographics of Jericho's viewership? Besides being the only thing watchable in its timeslot, Jericho's also heavy on soap opera elements and since it's a lot better than many of the daytime soaps, perhaps it's drawing the same sort of viewer demographics?

BF said...

Last week it appeared as if Amanda Peete's pregnancy was starting to show and this week she only appeared from the shoulders up. They may have to incorporate her pregnancy into Jordan's character soon.

The whole "I don't like kids" plot is laying the groundwork for the big reveal. And just like everything else on Studio 60, it's as subtle as a shotgun to the face.