Thursday, October 09, 2008

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Okay, here is the Studio 60 post I said I wasn't going to post because its long and boring. But I still need to proof my funny post so I figured I would throw this up since I'm just sitting here waiting for Dan to decide if the servers are going to come tumbling down soon now that we sent out emails or if its going to take long enough that we could go get dinner and come back in time to watch them crash.

Studio 60 logoI purchased a number of shows from iTunes to watch while traveling about, one of them being Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I am a big Aaron Sorkin fan so it was the first show I started watching on the trip. To be completely honest I’ll admit I cheated and watched Season 2 of Dexter before the trip started.

I heard various things about the Studio 60 while it was airing, but I couldn’t watch it as I live in Australia where television is more dramatic. That doesn’t mean they have more dramatic shows. Its things like the fact that the episode order of a show having little to do with the order the episodes are aired. Sometimes they aren’t aired at all, for example if there is a big cricket match on completely different station, they might decide that airing their regularly scheduled show would damage the space time continuum or something so they’ll throw on a English, 2-year old, Jamie Oliver cooking instead. And if Big Brother runs late; oh just forget it! The rest of the night is screwed! There is also the fact that Stuido 60 wasn’t on Australian television. Or if it was they hid it at 12:30 on some random weekday like they did with Firefly. Gee, wonder why nobody watched it!

Sports Night AdTo start I didn’t get the name of the show. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip conjures images of the infamous nightclub "Studio 54" (which, according to the wiki was actually CBS's Studio 52 at one point, learn something new everyday) When I first heard about the show, I pictured a Melrose Place type soap opera type show set in a night club. Granted, that included images of sexy young women bouncing around in flimsy little clubbing outfits which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, the show is actually about the behind the scenes workings of a live, late-night, comedy show. I imagine Aaron Sorkin's first show; "Sports Night" had the same problem as it sounded like a sports show when it was actually about the behind the scenes working of a sports show. An ad for Sports Night read, “It’s about sports the same way Charlies Angels was about law enforcement.” You’d have thought though, that if he had those problems with Sports Night he would have thought of a better name for Studio 60. If I didn’t know anything about any of this and I saw either of these shows listed in the TV guide; I wouldn't have watched them because of assumptions I would have made about them based on their name. The wiki for Studio 60 mentions that it was called “Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip” during production. Not too much better. I think maybe it’s a matter of showbiz people having studio number whatever conjure up images of a television studio where the rest of think other things.

Studio 60 on the Sunset StripBut about the show itself, as with all Aaron Sorkin scripts, the dialog is very fast and dynamic. It is very intelligent and assumes you are as well. The show doesn't feel as polished or as snappy as West Wing but you can easily see it was going there.

Although a lot of my political beliefs are opposite of Aaron Sorkin’s on a number of issues, as with West Wing, I never really felt he was treating my position unfairly. He does a respectable job of presenting strong arguments for both sides of most issues. Again as in the West Wing, I felt a lot of time he is just throwing the issues out there, letting the characters debate them back and forth, and letting you see both sides. There were exceptions, some of them even justified.

I liked pretty much all of the characters and sub-plots the show went into. I liked that Matthew Perry showed he isn't still Chandler from Friends, but that isn't really fair as he really already showed that, for example when he played Joe Quincy on West Wing. I also thought D. L. Hughley did a great job as Simon Stiles. In West Wing I thought that a lot of the sub-plots into the lives of the characters were choppy or cut short. You would see a character get involved in a relationship or something in one episode, then nothing about it for half a season, and then finally that character would return and you would learn they had broken up. In Studio 60, since it is more about the characters than the place or the events like it is in West Wing, the show is more personal and it follows those character-based story lines as the main flow of the show.

In the end I understand that the show was very expensive to produce and the ratings just weren’t anywhere near where they needed to be. But it was a quality show and it was obvious that the show needed a beat to find its rhythm. I read on the wiki that the show had the highest percentage increase in ratings numbers when you include people who used a DVR to record the show to watch later. I wish they had let it have more time to breath and find its place. The actual ending of the show was a bit of a letdown. It felt like a quick, "The show is ending, quick lets tie off all these ends." Granted, that is better than just leaving us hanging. But with the quality of the rest of the writing, I expected that 'tie off' to be handled better.

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