Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sitcoms by the numbers

I'm taking this week off from the paper, but I wrote this review of "30 Rock" and "Twenty Good Years" before I left. On "30 Rock":
People in show business tend to be narcissists by trade, which is why there have been so many movies and TV shows devoted to the inner workings of Hollywood. Problem is, nobody in the real world is ever as fascinated by deal-brokering, craft services and the struggle between art and commerce as the people in LA think they should be.

Here's an inside-show-biz story for you: A couple of years ago, Tina Fey started writing a sitcom loosely based on her experiences on "Saturday Night Live." Then she got pregnant and shelved the project until the next development season, only to learn that NBC had outbid several other networks for Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" -- which, on paper, sounded exactly like her show.

After some nail-biting, NBC decided to put both shows on the fall schedule, but before Fey could enjoy the moment too much, she had to deal with the demotion (not that anyone will admit that's what it is, even though it is) of best friend Rachel Dratch from a major role to a series of glorified cameos, and then...

I'm sorry. Does anybody have a drool cup?

On "Twenty Good Years":

Watching John Lithgow in NBC's new sitcom "Twenty Good Years," I was reminded of that line from "This Is Spinal Tap" where Rob Reiner explains of the group, "They've earned a distinguished place in rock history as one of England's loudest bands."

There's a school of thought in entertainment that if a song isn't interesting enough or a joke not funny enough or a movie scene not scary enough, all you have to do is push the volume up to 11 and you can create the illusion of something better.

Lithgow wasn't exactly the model of subtlety on "3rd Rock from the Sun," but as a surgeon whose imminent mandatory retirement has forced him to rethink his whole life, he's so loud that NBC may have to distribute ear baffles to all its viewers or risk a class-action suit.

To read the full column, click here.


Joel said...

Hey, Alan... no word on last night's Gilmore Girls?

Oh, and on a side note... is your All TV partner Matt coming back full time any time soon? I noticed that the last column only had your picture on it, and was kind of surprised. He's been through a lot lately, I'm sure, so I could understand if he went on leave for a while...

Alan Sepinwall said...

I've been a bit busy today, but I'll try to squeeze in a Gilmore mention tomorrow morning.

Joel said...

Cool. Thanks. And, I understand why you're reluctant to answer the other question. I hope he's doing well.

Anonymous said...

The New York Times made a great point in that "Twenty Good Years" would probably work better if the leads reversed their roles. When I first heard the pitch for the show, I assumed that their roles were reversed from what they actually went with.

Do you think that would've made the difference Alan?

Also, do you think not having a laugh track would make a difference as well?