Monday, October 09, 2006

We interrupt live blogging of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip so that we may bring you a very special episode of Growing Pains

Although Wolcott hoped this might become an endearing holiday tradition, live blogging Studio 60 here might have been a Jewish holiday tradition. I won't be live blogging it tonight and I'm not sure if I'll pick it up again next week.

For one thing, even if the show steadies itself and Aaron Sorkin finds his way and his sense of humor, I don't think Studio 60 will ever become the kind of show that bears intensive week in and week in attention, not like Deadwood or The Sopranos or, if Nancy Nall is to be believed---and Nance is always to be believed---The Wire.

For another, my impression is that, at least as far as the blog world goes, there's more passionate interest in Heroes and Prison Break and I'm just too late to those parties.

And for a third thing, I don't want this page to become all Studio 60 all the time.

Welcome to the Aaron Snarkin Blog!

But mainly the reason I'm skipping the live blogging this week is that when I finished last week I felt a little mean.

Not I might have hurt Aaron Sorkin's and Sarah Paulson's feelings nasty mean.

Small and petty and a bit cheap mean.

What do I think I'm doing, I asked myself, sitting here heckling somebody else's writing when I should be doing my own writing and heckling myself as I type?

Now, as it happens, one of the things wrong with Studio 60 is that criticizing it is for the most part a matter of heckling Aaron Sorkin's writing. As I said somewhere in one of my umpteen Studio 60 posts, Sorkin apparently thinks that people watch TV in order to listen to the writing.

Sorkin's characters talk beautifully but they do it too much. He doesn't let silences carry meaning, and he doesn't leave spaces for actors and directors to fill. He doesn't seem to care that TV is a visual medium. Maybe he doesn't even know that it is.

It's been pointed out by several critics of Studio 60 that the kind of crappy television he has set up his characters in opposition to doesn't exist anymore or at least doesn't come close to dominating the landscape. It's as if he stopped watching TV the year before All in the Family premiered.

Which would mean he missed the 80s, during which shows like Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, and St Elsewhere brought a more cinematic mode of storytelling to television.

Whatever. He started as a playwright, he learned to tell his stories by having his characters talk them out, and he hasn't learned any new lessons for his adopted medium, which is only part of his weakness as a television writer.

Sorkin writes snappy dialogue. But he doesn't write as much of it as you might think, if you listen to his shows with only half an ear.

His characters don't talk in their own voices. They all talk in his voice. And they don't talk about themselves. They talk about what's happening around them. Sorkin writes lots of exposition and divides it up among his characters to read at us.

He's like a novelist who puts all the narration inside quotation marks.

This makes Sorkin's shows---Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60---easy to follow without watching. You can just listen.

Which, as it turns out, has been what I've been doing too much of while live blogging.

I'm not that confident a touch typist. I have to keep checking on what's going on down on the keyboard and the result is that I'm looking at the screen on my laptop as often as I'm looking at my TV screen.

I'm not missing any of Sorkn's dialogue, but I am missing what the actors are doing with each other while they are reciting Sorkin's dialogue.

Shakespeare's Sister, who is a big fan of Studio 60, tells me that one of the best things about the show is the friendship between Matthew Perry's character and Bradley Whitford's.

This week I want to see Perry and Whitford at work portraying that friendship.

So this week I'm just going to sit back and watch the show.

But if you've got things you just have to get off your chest as the show progresses, please feel free to put them in the comments section.

Treat it as a Studio 60 open thread.

Meantime, Scott Lemieux has hit on another aspect of Studio 60 that makes it, for Scott anyway, less than compelling. Aaron Sorkin has been using it to write his autobiography.

And Claire Helene sent me the link to this review from the Chicago Reader that identifies Sorkin's very idiosyncratic nostalgia for a less than golden age of television.

Also, Dennis Perrin uses the first episode of NBC's other show about a Saturday Night Live-like comedy, 30 Rock, as a launching pad to all sorts of strange and wonderful planets.


Post a Comment

<< Home