Optimistically Cautious

Friday, November 10, 2006

"Studio 60" Reprieve

I was getting ready to write a post titled "In Memoriam: Studio 60" when NBC officially granted the flailing drama a full season on Thursday.

I loved Aaron Sorkin's previous effort, The West Wing. I quote the show incessantly, compare moments in real life to scenes in an episode, and talk about the characters as if they were actual people. But that's it - the world Sorkin created was so rich, so palpable, and so true that it'd be a wonder if the audience wasn't affected in such a way. The characters were three-dimensional, not stock in any sense, and developed gradually over time. Moreover, the political forum was a medium that allowed issues to be brought up and debated, so education ended up an appropriate and inadvertent byproduct of the show.

By contrast, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip seems to be on a mission to force the viewers to not only like the characters, but also to bow down to high-brow television too. The show's "Big Three" are part-stereotype, part-political touchstone: Harriet is the liberal Christian entertainer, with values that continuously conflict with Hollywood expectations; Simon is the black comic who grew up in the 'hood, with interest for equal representation behind the scenes; and Tom is the young actor from the Midwest with a brother in Afghanistan and parents who don’t understand his career decision. Critics and the general public alike have chastised the show for being too pushy and pedantic, overindulgent in its adoration for itself. Who really cares about the ratings of a sketch-comedy show, or whether or not a politically incorrect piece makes it on air? Whereas West Wing's POTUS dealt with an assassination attempt, impeachment, genocide and terrorism, NBS network chief Jordan McDeere frets over censors, negative publicity, and signing the next bit hit.

Despite my criticism, it hasn't been all bad. My favorite scene so far is a tender moment between Matt and Harriet, the show's will-they-or-won't-they couple, underscored by a lute version of Sting's "Fields of Gold." Lovely.

I will continue to watch simply because it's Sorkin. However, I do hope that the talk about the show coming down from its pedestal is true - Studio 60's longevity depends on it.


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