Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Studio 60: I hate snakes

Spoilers for "Studio 60" coming up just as soon as I figure out why NBS would allow its "flagship" show to feature so many plugs for NBC series...

Wait, I'm confused: was it Sorkin's dream to write for "SNL" or to write for "Three's Company"? Because between the Two Dates On One Night and Locked On The Roof, all the episode was lacking was the Misunderstood Overheard Phone Conversation where Matt started to believe that Harriet was pregnant. Doesn't matter if you have Danny comment on the hackiness of the roof situation; it's still hacky, and no amount of highbrow name-dropping can disguise that. Commedia Del'Arte, this ain't.

I'll go with the cell phone issue, as the latest TCA press tour was held at a top LA hotel where you could only get reception in the strangest of places, and being outdoors wasn't always a help. But Tom lying to Lucy about the dinner was the most idiotic of Idiot Plots, a decision made for no reason except that the plot wouldn't work without it.

(Speaking of both TCA and Tom's lie, I don't think I've ever been at a dinner where they had the actors wait tables, but Jimmy Kimmel once cooked burgers for us and I once ordered Martha Stewart to serve us all lunch, so there's at least a little precedent.)

And the fact that Sorkin has stretched Harriet's dinner across three episodes makes all the telegraphing even more painful; any viewer who's intelligent enough, in Sorkin's mind, to watch this show would be intelligent enough to see every single plot development coming at least twenty minutes, if not an entire episode, in advance. The trip to Pahrump didn't need two episodes, and this story sure as hell doesn't need three.

Aside from Snakes On a Soundstage, every storyline was just dragged along from last week, so I don't have much new to say. Of course Jordan is starting to warm towards Danny now that he's backed off even a tiny bit, of course Hallie's awful reality show idea that no one in 2007 would actually want to watch is moving full-steam ahead, and of course Simon is still acting like a complete jackass towards Darius.

And with so much story carryover, I've realized a problem that goes far deeper than the unfunny sketches, or the score-settling writing, or the condescending, factually innacurate vibe: I don't like any of these people. Well, I like Jack sometimes, and Cal is amusing enough in his limited doses, and Matthew Perry has enough personal charm that I can enjoy him sometimes in spite of the negative chemistry levels between Matt and Harriet, but there's no one I care about, no one I feel affection for, nobody who's so compelling that I don't care if he or she makes awful decisions.

Sorkin has said that his backstage world is so much more squeaky-clean than what we know of "SNL" because he likes to write about characters working together to achieve a common goal that the audience can root for. And I don't want to root for these characters.

What did everybody else think?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. Jack, Cal and sometimes Matt are the only ones I like. (and Masi Oka too) That is probably more of a function of the actors than the actual writing, because in Perry's case, he is given some of the most annoying character traits, yet is able to make Matt Albie somewhat human.

I hate Simon right now. He needs to shut up because what he is doing to Darius is harassment. Is he supposed to be a delusional jerk or is DL Hughley just playing him that way?

The good news is that Danny slightly redeemed himself from being a complete creepy stalker. However, the contrivance to get Danny and Jordan together to "talk" was so obvious that I am suprised someone with Sorkin's "genius" would stoop to use it. And now Jordan is going to start to like him? Like that hasn't been used in every other Harlequin romance novel.

The Tom and Lucy conflict was so horribly done, that the only couple to root for has now been destroyed.

I didn't watch Sorkin's previous efforts, so needless to say Studio 60 has not instilled me with any confidence that this man can write credible female characters, black characters, Christian characters or any non "Hollywood writer" character. In fact, this series is so badly written that had it been submitted by anyone else, it would have been cancelled by now.

Dear NBC : The Emperor has no clothes.

Heather K said...

I believe Tom would be dumb enough to take the terrible advice Simon gave him. It is pretty likely he is that bad with girls.

Strangely I am liking the romcom aspect of the show more then I liked the show before them, but that may be more a symptom of the show only having room for me to like it more not less.

Matt Hunter said...

I've been trying to avoid the sky is falling mentality that seems to follow this show but even I have to admit that this was a pretty bad episode.

I hope Sorkin's got a decent endgame in mind for the Simon/Darius thing because right now all it's doing is making me hate Simon. To paraphrase a character from a better Sorkin series, who made Simon the champion of all things Black?

Matt said...

I pointed this out on TWOP, but is Ayda Feld that expensive? Early episodes at least hinted at that Harriet and Jeannie were bestest buddies, yet, although the rest of the Studio 60 cast was at the dinner, Jeannie was conspicuously absent.

One thing is that the sketches (what little we're seeing of them) seem to be getting a bit better. Dolphin Girl is actually kind of funny, and "Ultra Violent Dora The Explorer Video Game" is a decent commercial parody.

porter said...

Re the cell phone reception: But I bet if you stood on the roof of the Ritz in Pasadena, your phone would work.

Can't argue with anything already said here, though I do plan to start using the phrase "you tremendous doofus" whenever I can.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it took you this long to realize none of these people are likeable. I figured that out within the first month and haven't watched since. And I've never regretted it once.

Meredith said...

I'll take your word for the cell phone reception at the hotel, Alan. However, if I understand you, it was spotty all over. The joke might have worked if they had set it up several episodes ago with bad reception all through the building. In fact, we've seen that get have fine reception inside, but then NONE outside? Too much of a contrivance.

Seriously, has someone stolen Aaron Sorkin's brain? Could we get it back please?

Meredith said...

D'oh. That should be "we've seen that they have fine reception inside."

Joel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joel said...

I ran into Ayda Field at the FOX TCA party (yes, I said FOX... don't know why she was there... probably dating someone from a FOX show), and she gave me no indication that she was off the show. And, believe me, she was in a very talkative mood that night.

When Danny and Jordan went up on the roof, the first thing I said to myself was "they're not going to get locked out, right? Sorkin's too smart to write something like that." Guess I was wrong. I think I even let out a little groan when Danny couldn't open the door.

I've determined that I watch the show for its train-wreck-like qualities, not because it's a good show. What the hell does that say about me?

Anonymous said...

I'd hazard to guess that at least half of the Studio 60 viewing audience is also watching it for its train wreck like qualities.

Paul C. said...

I'm done. I just can't take it anymore. Despite all the obnoxious characters, screeching political rants, smug self importance, and general bad writing, I hung in waiting and hoping S60 would eventually get better. After all, it took TWW some time to gets its legs under it. Arguably, it took jettisoning Mandy. Just wait, maybe they'll dump Harriett and things will get better.

But no. That is not to be. This show needs to be put out of our misery, and continuing to watch every week isn't going to help that happen. I'm grabbing one of those wooden life boats before you guys are reduced to fighting over those collapsable things that look less sturdy than the average lawn chair.

Good luck.

Devin McCullen said...

I still like Tom, it's hard to hold an Idiot Plot against the character. I was also disappointed that the missing snake thing wasn't an elaborate practical joke that Danny was playing on Cal. Other than that, Alan took care of my points.

Anonymous said...

Everything people here said was correct and right and on the nose but everyone's forgetting:

POISONOUS VIPERS? Seriously. You honestly expect me to believe that the snake wrangler brought in 24 poisonous vipers into the studio?

J said...

Second week in a row I turned it off half-way through. There's not even joy to be had poking fun at it, anymore.

Matt said...

Also, I wasn't horribly bugged by the "Heroes" plug in the promo--SNL regularly does that sort of thing when TV folks host. Matthew Fox had the extended "Lost" bit, I think Hugh Laurie's promos made reference to "House," Eva Longoria had two "Desperate Housewives" bits, etc.

Hell, in the pilot, it was established that Felicity Huffman did "two Desperate Housewives sketches and a Desperate Housewives run in the monologue."

Mel said...

Was this not also the most boring of all the S60 episodes so far? I can't believe Sorkin saw enough in this storyline to drag it out over 3 episodes. I too continue to watch mostly for its train-wreck qualities--but even the bad stuff in this one didn't interest me in all the ways bad-Sorkin often will.

Anonymous said...

Since coming back from the break, the only thing we've learned from the shift in tone from pretentious, self-serving egofest to romantic comedy for this show is that Sorkin has found a genre he is even WORSE and more unbelievable at writing. Do any of the couplings matter to anyone watching? NOPE. Because none of them are remotely believable. All of them seem like reality show couplings - hooking up determined more by close proximity than with genuine feelings (ironic since reality TV seems to be one of Sorkin's biggest peeves). The world of Studio 60 feels chokingly claustrophobic, like the men and women we've seen are the only ones that exist at all, hence all the forced couplings. I don't want to see ANY of them continue.

Besides the homoerotic Darius and Simon one, of course.

Also, Sorkin seems to be stuck in time. Specifically, around the Janet Jackson Boob period of TV censorship overreaction and the popularity of reality TV at that time. These topics he writes about now that so outrages his lead characters are so out of date with current times. Reality TV is tanking (maybe not competitions like Idol, but Mike Darnell-like shows that the new VP lady is always pitching (Armed and Famous)), confined to the Neilsen oblivion of cable TV. And no broadcaster in existence would try to criminalize a US Soldier for reacting under combat situations. He would be lionized as a hero instead.

Coupled with the stupid plot contrivances (no-cell phone in LA on a roof BS, of all names on the Internets, a "LukeS58" just happens to be bidding, what a coinkydink, I'm a popular actor that has women throw themselves at me, but I want to date an average looking British writer more than anything! And then lie to her right away for no reason at all!) , Cal as a wacky incompetent (Demented Santa! Throw a Coconut hard Against Table in a room full of people to open it - that makes sense to any adult living in the real world!! Wacky Snakes that no insurance company would ever allow near Studio 60?? Lets get 24 - and make sure they bring death within minutes!!!), the least attractive actors ever assembled, and the continued insular world that we are supposed to believe reflects or own, and I can't possibly see how this show can be saved. If NBC gives it a second year, it only shows how truly desperate they must be for any type of programming. They should jettison this disgrace and try to get its lasting stain off as quick as possible.

Anonymous said...

I do think the general problems with the show are legit, but it amazes me that people watch shows they detest week after week. There are plenty of TV shows I don't like and maybe even hate and I simply don't watch them.

I'll never understand why people torture themselves over things they don't like. It's like hitting your head on a wall week after week and complaining while the doctor redoes your stitches.

Stop watching Studio 60 and read a good book. I did about 30 minutes in.

Jim said...

The one thing I liked about the episode was the Heroes promo. It actually made me like Masi Oka even more than I already did. Even Harriet was kind of charming when they were recording it.

Aside from that, it was even worse than usual. Every week, I ask myself why I keep watching, but I haven't managed to stop yet. Maybe next week I'll read a book instead.

ooda said...

I know I'm clearly in the minority (at least around these parts), but I actually liked the episode. That said, it wasn't great by any means. If anything, it was the inclusion of Cal that made it worthwhile.

My main sorrow is about how disappointing Bradley Whitford is in this role. I loved him in The West Wing, where he was a plethora of energy, and didn't wait to think things out. In Studio 60 however, he is this boring middle-aged guy (the turtle-neck and sports jacket combo isn't helping). As it is, it's hard to believe his character was taking coke just a few months ago (on a side note, an episode dedicated to his coming off it could have worked out well).

I still support the show, but it's getting hard.

Tina said...

Alan, you hit the nail on the head with the likeable characters point. When I think of how much I've loved other Sorkin characters -- Leo McGarry, one of my favorites on any show, and pretty much the entire company of Sports Night -- I can't believe the disinterest I have in them. And I agree with ooda; what's happened to Bradley Whitford? Dana and her dating plan are sheer brilliance compared to what's going on with this gang.

I sorted mail and took out the trash during the show this week. I think reading a book while it runs is only a week or so away.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: "I'll never understand why people torture themselves over things they don't like. It's like hitting your head on a wall week after week and complaining while the doctor redoes your stitches."

Because watching unmitigated hubris at a level that defies even a token consciousness of living in the same world "the rest of us" live in is fascinating.

I don't watch Studio 60 for the story or the characters or "comedy". I watch it for the subtext of what happens to a person when he is rightly praised for his previous work, but it goes to his head, and now his ego is out of control. How does it effect this person's previously outstanding work? This is the kind of thing you don't get to see often because of skilled PR people who reign in the ego. When the ego starts to ignore even those pleading for a bit of humility, and convinces a network (NBC) to give him everything he wants, well I for one can't miss it.

Its sort of the reason I like to see scary movies. It's not exactly pleasant, but it is very compelling.

Dan Coyle said...

Whatever faults Studio 60 may have- and lordy, they can be pretty big faults- I'd rather watch it than most of what's on TV. It's actually about something, and tries to tackle real issues (However hamfistedly, and these knuckles have a lot more pork than usual) which is all too rare these days on the networks.

The Evacuee said...

You are correct, of course, that Danny's reference to the fact that the rooftop scenario was characteristic of lame romantic comedies does not rescue Sorkin's scene from lameness. Was there anyone watching that didn't foresee that as soon as they stepped out onto the roof? Jordan asked him if he manufactured the moment, but surely a woman of her intellect would be a bit more suspicious of the situation after Danny had Scorsese sending romantic recommendation letters? Sorkin's characters are always genius level smart unless Sorkin needs them to be dumb enough to be blind to his overly transparent plot contrivances. But apart from that, though, it was an enjoyable episode. The rooftop dialogue was interesting, and I do hope they explore in greater detail the notion that Jordan believes Danny's interest is motivated by pity.

Fred App said...

Why DO people torture themselves over things they don't like? That's a good question, and I struggled to answer it. And finally I realized: I watch "Studio 60" because I want to be wrong.

It's like continuing to watch a football game even though there's only six minutes left and your team is down by four touchdowns. Your head says the game is over, but your heart is still waiting for a miracle.

I keep watching because I haven't yet admitted to myself that this show will ever be anything except awful. But I guess that sooner or later, I'll have to.

Matt said...

The other factor not to be underestimated is that programming alternatives at 10 PM Monday kinda suck. "CSI Miami?" "What About Brian?" "WWE Raw?" (although I've heard "Brian" has gotten better this season)

Anonymous said...

Without turning this into a feminist rant, I think the biggest difficulty in turning this show into a romcom is that Sorkin can't write strong women. [in this show anyway, i've heard arguements for this in his other shows, but that is for another day] Yes, he gives them jobs with fancy titles, or describes them as "genius comediennes", but when it comes to actual behaviour they are constantly defining themselves in relation whatever male is/was/stopped pursuing them and get bitchy with other women. The only exception so far is Jordan and Harriet with each other, but then again they aren't interested in the same guy [yet]. Could Jordan be more unprofessional with her staff or with Jack? And yes, it is so funny to use the tired cliche of a pregnant woman pigging out at work. So funny.
And while I agree with Jordan's reaction to Danny's stalker behaviour, it just seems to be heading toward her forgiving him because he doesn't pity her for being pregnant.

Throw in Sorkin's obvious unresolved issues with real life exes that Harriet seems to be saddled with and you have a show that pretends to be liberal, but deep down is misogynistic.

Yeechang Lee said...

I actually didn't mind the whole stuck-on-the-roof-with-no-cellphone-reception bit. But the Tom-lies-to-Lucy thing? My gosh, that was moronic. He can't keep his original plans with Lucy because he's been ordered to take a VIP to dinner by the chairman of the network Not just his boss, but his boss' boss' boss. Why in the world would Tom feel the need to lie about that?!?

jdj said...

Finally catching up on Tivo this week.....

I had the exact same "Three's Company" thought as you, Alan. I thought the episode would end with Darius & Simon getting handcuffed together and losing the key down the viper-infested air duct, leading to Simon doing the news with Darius hiding under the desk.

They should have explained the lack of cell reception on the roof of an LA skyscraper as being due to the impending Martian invasion...that would have been more believable.

Faisal said...

It seems like Sorkin hasn't found his characters, doesn't care about the ones he has, and hasn't found a reason for them to be there. Absent purpose or concern, the drift into whatever insipid excuse for an episode the writers can phone in this week. I could excuse it in earlier episodes because it always takes a while for a show to find itself (and the opening was pretty strong), but this last fiasco is just plain embarassing. After they went to get another animal to get the ferret that had gone in after the snake, someone asked what animal they'd get next, and two people blurted out "the shark they're jumping over."

One thing I won't fault Sorkin for is his ability to write comedy: the show is supposed to be a drama about what goes on behind the scenes at a comedy show. To the extent that the sketches aren't funny, it's probably accurate (at least, for a thinly veiled SNL). The problem isn't that Sorkin can't write comedy. The problem is that he can write drama, but he isn't doing it here.

Anonymous said...

Stevie G. writes.... I came to this blog and found the comfort I was looking for. The latest Monday night's episode was finally the car hitting the wall event we've all been dreading. Is Sorkin even writing any longer? Just two people listed at the end of the show and neither was Sorkin.

On West Wing they all cared about eachother and that's why we cared about them. These characters are so painfully self absorbed and contrived that I have finally given it the axe! No more pain.