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    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Review: Studio 60

    So I’ve been able to watch a number of pilots for shows this season thanks to the interwub. I’m going to give a few brief opinions here about the ones I’ve seen so far.

    STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP


    This is the one NBC is hoping will be its backbone for the season. It’s Arron Sorkin’s latest foray and like his other two shows SPORTS NIGHT and THE WEST WING it is a behind-the-scenes affair. So far the reaction to it has been mixed to say the least. One of the main reasons for this is that the characters are quite broadly drawn. While I personally don’t mind this in a pilot, especially one so complex, it doesn’t necessarily bode well for future episodes. If the characters maintain their current paths it may simply turn into some sort of farce. The three standout performances are definitely by Mathew Perry, who can be a subtle and serious actor when he wants. His episode arc on TWW is proof of this. Another is Bradley Whitford, a TWW alumni and who played one of the most engaging and manic characters on the show. The final one is Judd Hirsch who has a breakdown on camera, ala NETWORK, where he rails against the unintelligent cesspool that television has become. He does this knowing that he will be fired. It’s a nod to Paddy Chayefsky, arguable one of the great writers of film. But at least in the pilot, all we see is the internal fallout and a relatively unresolved issue with his character. From looking around at other reviews, there seems to be a consensus, with which I agree, that Steven Weber’s character of Studio head Jack Rudolph is practically Snidely Whiplash sans moustache and in a nicer suit. Amanda Peet, who plays the young and recently hired head of programming Jordan McDeere, is a little more difficult to pin down. Some other reviewers have made reference to the fact that it appears that she seems to be acting in an entirely different show, and well out of sync with the other performances. I agree with this to a certain degree, but didn’t always find this to be so. Yes she is “doe-eyed”, and at times does deliver lines with an obtuseness, but I sort of liked that and wrote it off as her character’s way of handling a situation, days before she’s even set to take the position, by keeping everyone off their guard. The major concern with a show like this is its behind-the-scenes nature. Sorkin is basically going to show people what it takes to make a TV show. I’ve got to wonder if part of the magic of the whole affair will instill in the audience a more critical viewing of TV. The problem with that is that it kills some of the magic of watching shows. Trust me, once you start to ruminate on the very architecture of a thing, the thing itself becomes less enjoyable. Plus, if you really want to tear it apart, all you have to do is look at Sorkin’s history and suddenly you realize that the character played by Bradley Witford is Sorkin himself, cocaine habit, failed production, back surgery, etc. which makes the whole thing a bit too autobiographical for my taste. I’m going to give it a chance of course. One of the best things about the episodes that follow a pilot is the joy in watching it really come to life. Sorkin wrote what he knew would sell. They chopped it up in the editing room, evidently the script was so long there was no way it would fit in a hour, so that it runs like more of a perfect exercise in television editing than in writing. It is true, that I couldn’t take my eyes off of it, but I generally feel this way about above average pilots and only look to their faults once they are over. Over the next few episodes, it will become apparent whether or not things can settle down and be a bit more realistic, and the characters can feel less pressure to twirl their mustaches and appear as more than Spiegel catalog models, but I’ll just have to wait and see. Of course there is one more problem, its been rumored that the show isn’t making it’s deadlines, and NBC has already shut it down once to be retooled, so the truth is it may not make it out of the gate unless Sorkin stops twirling his mustache and lets other people take a hand in helping him get this behemoth up and running.

    There is also this little tidbit:

    "Studio 60" will be one of the most expensive first-year shows ever, with episodes costing nearly $3 million and NBC backing the launch with a $10 million marketing campaign. The network wrestled "Studio 60" away from CBS by agreeing to a list of perks, including giving Mr. Sorkin a say in determining the show's placement on the schedule.

    1 comment:

    zenzer said...

    I enjoyed the Studio 60 pilot. If did feel too edited, almost staccato in delivery...maybe that is Sorkin's style but it felt VERY theatrical. Not sure that is bad thing though. I will definitely be back for episode 2.