Monday, February 05, 2007

Studio 60: Wrong is right

Spoilers for "Studio 60" coming up just as soon as I escape this meatlocker I'm trapped in...

Okay, so the new thing that drives me most nuts about this show -- more than the sketches, or the smugness, or the awful writing of women -- is how Sorkin just grossly miscalculates where the audience's sympathy is going to be -- or, at least, how he consistently presents such an awful argument for the side he wants us to be on.

Simon? Condescending, revisionist historian, bullying jackass. He had somewhere between Jack and Squat to do with Darius getting hired, save that Matt was tagging along with him at the time. And even if he was, even if he had discovered Darius entirely on his own, gone and pled his case to Matt, maybe even sacrificed a favor or twelve to get him the job, it still wouldn't give him the right to talk down to him in that way. And yet the way the story and its conclusion are written, we're clearly meant to believe that Simon has been right all along, and that Darius should be grateful for the opportunity to write horribly-dated underwear commercial parodies.

Danny? Arrogant, preening stalker. But it's okay, apparently, because we now know that Jordan wasn't really upset by the inappropriate phone calls, or the refusal to take no for an answer, or the potential public humiliation that could come from the letter-writing campaign. No, Jordan was upset because she didn't think Danny was attracted to her for the right reasons! And now that she knows his motives are pure, all the rest is forgotten! Like the booze ads say, brilliant!

Matt and Harriet? Well, here I'm in a bit of a pickle, as I can no longer tell who I'm supposed to feel sorry for, or care about, or like, or tolerate the presence of in any storyline involving the other person. But every time Matt spoke to Harriet, I felt like he was wrong, and almost every time Harriet spoke, I felt the same thing -- though the latter is largely because Harriet has an uncanny knack for allowing her opinions to be swayed wildly anytime a guy tells her what to think. This whole burning-down-the-house breakup scenario is the kind of thing a show has to earn after multiple seasons, and here we're being asked to invest based on things that happened long before we started watching. (Next week's flashback seems like an attempt to correct that, but putting a backwards baseball cap on Matthew Perry doesn't make him look seven years younger; it makes him look like a suburban dad who has some painfully misguided notion of being the cool father on the block.)

As usual, the best stuff involved Steven Weber, and I will give Sorkin credit for recognizing how good he is in the role and re-calibrating the writing on Jack just enough to make him human without robbing him of his appealingly jerky traits. Don't know that I liked the revelation about Kim's dad speaking English this whole time; either it's such an unguarded secret that it would have come up in any serious kind of due diligence on this mega-billions deal, or he guards it so closely that he would never reveal it to someone like Jack, even under such relatively intimate circumstance. Felt like a forced punchline that didn't fit the previous material.

What did everybody else think?


SJ said...

Horrible. Just plain horrible. I was planning on watching this show for at least a full season, but I think I'll give up. Maybe I'll keep watching for the train-wreck qualities.

I think I hate almost every character (except for adorable in that dress). The Matt and Danny characters have been destroyed, Simon is really annoying, Harriet was always annoying and now all of a sudden Jordan is crazy about Danny? So cliched and derivative.

And what was up with the snake/ferret storyline? Does it really require 2 episodes? This show has just gotten worse and worse.

Anonymous said...

Made it eleven whole minutes before turning the tube off. Got some reading done.

Anonymous said...

I think I liked this episode, at least more than last weeks. The two things that I can pin down as liking in this one are any and all scenes with Jack, and scenes involving Cal. Tom's scenes I also liked, somewhat, but it was more because of the likeability of the actor rather than the actual scenes. Hmm, the one where he told Lucy why he didn't expect to see her at the party was decent.

But like you pointed out Alan, it's just plain weird the sense of entitlement Simon is feeling. From what I remember, the did bring Matt to the club, but that's pretty much where his involvement ended. I don't know why, but it almost felt like Simon was a producer on the show or the like rather than just an actor.

I partly agree with what sj said above, though for me it would be that the character of Danny and Jordan are the ones most "destroyed", and Harriet has never been high enough (even in the pilot which I still consider an amazing hour of television) merit a mention. It's Danny that has me the most disappointed of all, but mainly because of the fond memories from The West Wing. Hopefully when Josh Malina joins the cast it should add some of the old Sorkin charm and wit back into the equation.

One thing that got me. If you're going to be ripping up the floor, wouldn't you usually take a circular saw to it first, rather than just going in with picks?

That and when will we get to see the new stage?

Anonymous said...

I think what Sorkin is trying to do with all these "reverse sensibility to normal sympathy" plays is force the audience into seeing the world as he sees it. One where the case for unmitigated arrogance (Simon), lecherous behavior (Danny), smugness (Matt), and preachy righteousness (Harriet) are argued to be traits that are just "misunderstood" and should be admired instead of reviled. That way, the whole world can see that Aaron Sorkin, who seems to posses all these traits himself as expressed in his writing, can be seen as the greatest human being ever, and if you don't see that by now, then it is YOUR FAULT, you who are unseeing of how the world should be. After all, since these are characters written by Aaron Sorkin, master of the human condition, they are by default shining examples of what humanity should aspire to become. He created Jed Bartlett after all.

I read somewhere that NBC is shelving this personal condemnation of the limitations of all those peasants Aaron Sorkin must tolerate and is trying to educate to become more like him (i.e. closer to God) in favor of the show "Black Donnellys" in a few weeks. So I can't wait for follow-up episodes of S60 where all the characters rant about the soul of television being devoured by mindless crime dramas written by racists hacks that pander to stupid, low-brow brainless zombies taking precious airtime away from spiritually uplifting, yet funny and entertaining shows about shows about sketch comedy. Not that Sorkin uses S60 as his personal vendetta machine, of course.

I hope NBC banishes the remaining S60 episodes as fodder for a summer funeral run. And if there is any justice, the worst, most salacious realty tv program will be it's new summer lead in. And proceed to destroy S60 in the ratings too.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe this episode ended with Simon's attitude not having been ripped apart. Even if he was a producer, this behaviour is harassment and Darius should have kicked his ass for all those racist comments and continual taunting. While there may have been some decent debate somewhere in this mess, by then end, I could only yell at Simon to "shut up". I hate his character and not in a love to hate kind of way. If only someone else at S60 would criticize his approach, if not his reasons, so that this could just be a function of Simon's beliefs and not that of a normal functioning show.

As for Danny and Jordan, should I have been grossed out by the kiss? It was wrong in so many ways. She ignores him throughout the Christmas holidays but a heart to heart overnight clears up all his stalking behaviour? She is hormonal (and had to grab something to eat as soon as they were freed.. come ON) and he hasn't lasted a year out of rehab... what is stable about this relationship? Soap operas are more subtle in their characterizations.

I will admit that Harriet and Matt for all their fighting, were somewhere in the realm of "it could possibly happen that way". However, they will eventually be thrown together and it will all work out in happy Sorkin land.

Eric said...

Haven't watched S60 yet (might not at all) but for me the highlight of the night was Mr. Nakamura's license plate.

Yes, I am that geeky.

Mapeel said...

Harriet and Matt are in a continuous state of break-up. But break-up from what? Weren't they entirely over when the show begin.

Danny going to the roof for the circuit breakers to turn off the air conditioner is Sorkin looking for a bit of that WW magic. But he just doesn't inhabit that special place any longer.

Anonymous said...

Aw, crap, I missed that. What did it say, Eric?

Anonymous said...

NCC 1701 .
A beautiful moment for all Trekkies.

Anonymous said...

"Studio 60" has been shelved:

Anonymous said...

That shelving was planned for a while, and the show will be returning in a new time slot after The Black Donnellys finishes. I'm more concerned about Andy Barker taking over 30 Rock's time slot, but with the awards and critical praise, the worry isn't really warranted.

Anonymous said...

This is like a masterclass in how NOT to write romantic comedy.

Matt and Harriet have done nothing to convince me they ever loved much less even LIKED one another. They're not even convincingly bitter.

Jordan and Danny, a 'ship I wanted to like, is so creepy and gross that when he found that note under his watchband I cried out "OH NO SHE DOESN'T!" Just: no no no way.

And the thing with the two black characters just filled me with embarrassment for those actors.

Anonymous said...

ooda: "I'm more concerned about Andy Barker taking over 30 Rock's time slot, but with the awards and critical praise, the worry isn't really warranted."

I am too. Who would have thought that out of the two SNL-based shows, one that was highly anticipated and marketed, the other sort of background noise, S60 would turn into a disaster and 30R would transform into one of my favorites? Sweet, sweet validation for Tina Fey and her true writing skills vs Sorkin and his hype. Just goes to show that any excuses Sorkin has about why S60 is not 'supposed' to be funny is just bunk to cover unimaginative rehashing of West Wing episodes guised now as a Hollywood TV show.

Anonymous said...

When S60 comes back, can it just be about Jack, Tom and Lucy?

Anonymous said...

Anon: The thing is, even The West Wing never felt like it was pushing an agenda this blatantly. There is nothing I like more than good Sorkin (WW had me completely hooked), but this isn't it. Hopefully his next show will be a return to form, though really, it's not that he is bad, it's just that he's so ill-suited for commenting on pop culture.

But yeah, I fully expected Studio 60 to be the cream of the crop over at NBC, with it heralding a return to form. Unfortunately, it's not, and while I think it has a modest chance of a second season (NBC still doesn't want to make this look like a gigantic fuck-up, though expect a massive retooling), it still surprises me that it has turned out so poorly. Like you, I was expecting 30 Rock to disappear quickly, and with nary a whimper, but I'm liking it a lot (still not sold on Kenneth), if only for the scenes between Baldwin and Fey.

The thing is, Studio 60 deserved the hype, but it's a huge shame that it didn't capitalize on it. It's still my opinion that a Sorkin/Fey mash-up would have made Studio 60 great, but for better or worse (in this case worse), Sorkin isn't one to let anyone else take over the reigns.

Anonymous said...

it's odd. I thought I'd seen newer posts than this one, this morning (Wednesday). Did the internet eat them?

Anonymous said...

A brief thought. Would have making Studio 60 a half-hour show made it a lot more palatable? As it is, the show tends to drag on, and without the backing of interesting material as was the case with The West Wing, the lapses are quite noticeable. Sorkin's writing is renown for its pace, and by using this somewhat artificial crux, would it make the experience all the more enjoyable?

On the flip-side, would Sports Night have worked as a hour-long "dramagedy"?