Monday, September 25, 2006

Blogging Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Updated as show progressed. Wrap-up added below on Tuesday morning.

Opening. This is a show about a comedy show, right? I counted 16 lines that were meant to sound like jokes. I counted one joke.

Does this mean that this is a drama about writing a comedy show?

Pretty girl with full lips who played the Pinkerton/Governess on Deadwood to skinny girl: I wish my body looked like yours.

Skinny girl: I wish my talent looked like yours.

Is the Pinkerton/Governess talented enough to carry the burden of that line?

Josh Lyman or whoever he is: You raised the bar a little high.

Amanda Peet: I raised the bar a little high?

Chandler or whoever he is: A little high, yeah.

Amanda Peet: Clear it.

We're meant to take that seriously? That's a sign of her faith in them, her high standards, what the business requires? Bad sports metaphors?

Seconds after first commercial break bloggers get dissed.

"Bernadette is writing in her pajamas surrounded by cats."

We get dissed with a five year old joke.

Aaron Sorkin has been in suspended animation since he left West Wing. Given their ages, half the "cast" and many of the writers would have their own blogs and websites. A character who went around insulting bloggers and being dismissive of the Internet would be picking fights with his co-workers.

Benefit of the doubt: Maybe that's supposed to be a part of D.L. Hughley's character.

I am not in my pajamas. I am not surrounded by cats. I am the cat's pajamas.

No, I am the walrus.

The cat's in the cradle with a silver spoon, the little boy laughed with the man in the moon.

Love triangle. Governess/Pinkerton still carrying torch for Chandler. Sexy chick in black tank top is sleeping with him. This is news to Governess/Pinkerton. They played this straight.

Sexy chick might be skinny chick from earlier. Can't tell. All the brunettes in the "cast" and among the writers look and dress alike.

Back from second commercial break. Governess/Pinkerton is showing a lot of cleavage for a supposedly uptight Christian type. Not that I'm complaining.

Chandler and Governess/Pinkerton have had the first of what I'm afraid will be a weekly event: The big scene in which they come close to kissing!

Twenty six more lines that sound like they were meant to be jokes.

I did like it that Chandler's afraid that Phil Donohue can beat him up.

"Seriously, he's a big Irish man."

What's Charlotte's husband from Sex in the City doing in the writers' room? He must be important because he's Charlotte's husband from Sex in the City but he hasn't said anything yet that explains why he's important. Somebody explain please?

Christians are on the march against the show. Terre Haute won't air it if the Crazy Christian sketch is included. Amanda Peet stands up for her guys. Was there ever a doubt?

Steven Weber's afraid for his job? Who's his boss?

Aaron Sorkin remembers when Steve Martin returned to Saturday Night Live and promised to restore the show to former glory in a big song and dance number. Inspiring rock music rising on the soundtrack as Chandler sits down at his laptop and starts to create tells us that he will write something as funny and brilliant as Steve Martin did. Fade to commericial.

Ok. Hard to go wrong with a Gilbert and Sullivan parody.

Steve Martin's song and dance number was funnier and they moved through the studio.

Is the whole point of Governess/Pinkerton's character to prove that gosh darn it some Christians are nice folks and like to laugh just like we godless liberals?

I think I'm going to like Steven Weber's network exec best.

Are we ever going to get to see the Crazy Christians sketch?

Do you think someone will tell Aaron Sorkin that the reason it was fun to watch the writers at work on the old Dick Van Dyke show was that they were funny? Their lines were written by comedy writers! Buddy Sorel was played by a comedy writer!

Rethinking the Gilbert and Sullivan parody. It was a song full of inside jokes about a phony comedy show that's the subject of a TV drama full of inside jokes about television. Sorkin made up an inside and then made jokes that were only funny if you were inside the inside of the inside. Is that hip or what?


Wrap-up: I'm going to give Studio 60 a couple more chances. West Wing made me grumpy like this for the first few episodes---and there were things about it that I never stopped being grumpy about---but I was glad I stuck with it. I stuck with West Wing for Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe. I'm sticking with Studio 60 for Steven Weber and Matt Perry, who so far, seems to be the only character on the show who understands that comedy is harder than dying.

I hope the can't live with you/can't live without you business between Perry and Sarah Paulson starts being played for more laughs. It's probably Perry's ranginess and the fact that he's playing a comedy writer, but I couldn't help being reminded of Dick Van Dyke and that got me thinking, What if Rob and Laura had met later, after Rob was successful? Laura was an awfully conventional girl, even for the time period. Imagine her having to compete for Rob's attention with actresses, writers, etc. after he had gotten used to dating actresses, writers, etc. Paulson's character is apparently a bit in the same boat, because of her religion and her conservativism. She doesn't really fit in Perry's world, and her challenge is to make him see how he might fit and be happy in hers.

But if it's true that her character is based on Kristin Chenoweth, then I wish they'd cast a Kristin Chenoweth type. Paulson is willowy and fragile, she doesn't just wear her heart on her sleeve, she is one long exposed vibrating nerve. How can Perry not see how much she loves him? How can he let her be hurt like that? Chenoweth, who looks like a cartoon character brought to life, is tough, brassy, and a bit abrasive. If they had "her" in the part, you could see how the other characters might forget that she had feelings they had to be considerate of. You could also see how Perry's character might forget that she's pretty and sexy. She'd have the problem of reminding him she's a girl, as attractive in her way as all the willowy bulemic brunettes around, while also making sure he knows she's off limits until the ring's on her finger.

Plus, Chenoweth is funny. She's a born comic and entertainer. As played by Paulson, the character's just a leading lady who can deliver a funny line, not even a Mary Tyler Moore, who was a comedienne trapped inside the body of an ingenue.

The show is going to pale really fast if they don't start showing "the show." A sketch a week. Plus, the writers' room has to be funny. No more talking about jokes and sketches. The writers have to tell them and act them out. Like West Wing, Studio 60 is a show about doing the job. But if we don't see the job getting done, it'll be a show about pretty people bragging about what great jobs they have. If the work they do is so all-fired important that we're supposed to sit still for an hour every week watching them do it, then we should see what makes it important---the comedy.

I wish I'd seen the first episode. Shakes loved it!

But at The House Next Door, Todd VanDerWerf's feelings about it are summed up by his post's subtile: The quick wit and false heart of Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

Comedy writer and director Ken Levine has a blog. He wasn't impressed with the first episode, either. He was impressed by his experience working with Mary Tyler Moore, once upon a time, but not in a good way.

This, however, was nice to know about Ted Danson. But I'm not surprised.

One more update: Jaquandor, a Sorkin fan, but a level-headed fan, watched the first and second episodes and liked the first but was left a little cold by the second. He sums up his feelings thus:

Folks, if ever a TV show is going to make my head explode, Studio 60 is going to be the one. I love watching it, basking in Aaron Sorkin's wordplay and noting his ever-apparent mastery of the four-act structure. But at the same time, man, does it piss me off.


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