Studio 60: A Promising Disappointment!

Since my blog does feature TV in general, I have wanted to do an entry on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip for a long time. I started this blog well after it was clear Studio 60 wasn’t going to live up to expectations and it promised cancellation any minute. I am shocked NBC did wind up pushing out the rest of the episodes over the summer, and like some kind of glutton for punishment, I watched the rest of those episodes (really cool iPhone commercials!) and now feel like I can possibly comment on the season for the whole.

Before it’s arrival

I had never been so excited about a new TV as I was for Studio 60. Written by Aaron Sorkin (I loved The West Wing), it featured such a large scale cast including Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Steven Webber with occasional celebrities doing cameos. The whole idea centered around the backstage adventures behind a late night comedy show, obviously meant to be a SNL clone. The few clips that got released on air, the show looked awesome! Even Judd Hirsch was the first star! I was so excited!

Then things started to happen. Initially to air opposite CSI, the announcement that Grey’s Anatomy would also be in the competing time slot, NBC got very nervous and moved it to Monday night opposite CSI: Miami. No matter to me, I had given up on the sunny CSI a season ago and only watched it for it’s callback to MST3K territory and David Caruso’s very bad love affair with his sunglasses. I wouldn’t miss it.

But other viewers didn’t care. The first two episodes were fairly well done but not much viewership. In fact, there was a notable ratings drop half way through the show. Whatever people were expecting to see, it wasn’t in the first 30 minutes of the episode. Critics were outraged! Don’t give up on the best new television to be featured on primetime, they would tell us. They pleaded with us.

The first two episodes of any series is always usually awkward. You have to get through the character introductions and necessary background information. Sometimes there is a need to understand the setting and if the show’s genre is new, you have to step audiences through the concept of what is going on.

So what went wrong?

So many, many things! I keep thinking about the Titanic, how so many factors helped doom the ship to hit that iceberg, so is what doomed this show to turn off viewers who could have wound up loving it.

The Cast

Sadly, his top three stars, Whitford, Perry and Peet were absolutely wrong for their parts. Now first, I’m not saying they acted badly (okay maybe about AP but I’ll get to her later). They did really well in almost all scenes and I would never accuse them of phoning it in. But none of them brought any kind of charm to these characters as they did in previous roles. I think BW is the most disappointing. Danny Tripp (and no, my screenname is NOT for his character but my beloved deceased dog Trippward, may he rest in peace!) was very much like an older Josh from TWW, well, except there was no Donna to help lighten him up, no Allison Janney to call him on his BS and of course, and a drug problem in his past. MP was what I expected though a bit over-handed at times. He can do really good comedy but he never seems to shake his Chandler routine in any role he plays but he did manage to make me forget about Chandler because Chandler would never be this much of a hypocritical ass. Finally Peet was really a bad casting call. She was way too young for the part, and for some reason couldn’t stop grinning weirdly through it like a Cheshire cat. I never bought her as a top executive VP of any major network.

Harriet: Special notice must be given for the character of Harriet. I do not fault the actress, Sarah Paulson, for this as I felt the writing for her was just way, way, way off. As a Christian myself, watching how this famous Christian of Hollywood was portrayed on the show, it was maddening. I can’t recall too many early moments specifically but during the time Jordan’s character was in the hospital, watching Harriet insisting Danny drop to his knees to bed to God so Jordan and baby to survive and then unable to answer Danny’s flippant remarks on having to ask God’s help when you really need him had me turn the show off right away. Prayer is not taught (and this holds true for all three of the major religions) so we can simply request God’s help when we need, it’s meant to happen ALL THE TIME to thank God for….

Oh never mind. You get the point. It was stupid and very insulting. Sorkin did a great job writing Jed Bartlett as a Christian, I expected the same as Harriet.


Now first, for anyone still bothering reading down to this point and are readers of my other posts, you will know I’m a great lover of romance and a shipper by heart. But guess what. I hated the love on this show as much as I hate watching Grissom and Sara making goo-goo eyes at each other on CSI. First, the signature couple is Harriet and Matt. Snort I have never seen a thoroughly mis-matched couple thrown together since, well, Grissom/Sara on CSI.

I’m not saying that opposites attract since these two were most definitely opposites. But I never saw moments of attraction. This was a couple that had been on again, off again for several years. The show loved to give us evidence of their breakups and estrangements. They never showed us when the two were happy together. Can I really root for them? No.

The next couple was Danny and Jordan. Actually, I was intrigued by them at first. She was his boss and his obvious crush on her at the beginning was a little charming. That is until it turned into what could only be described as outright stalking that would have resulted in a restraining order. Then, to make things worse, Jordan who appeared put off by Danny’s most inappropiate advances, she then suddenly gives in to the temptation and admits to undying love to Danny after spending several hours locked up on the rooftop of the studio. Sigh, now to be fair I guess I do have to believe that Amanda Peet’s real life pregnancy pushed the two characters faster together than normal though I’m not sure it was required to write in her pregnancy. This is an ensemble cast and since she is an executive you can have many moments of her behind a desk or sitting at a conference table.

Aaron Sorkin himself

Wow, has Sorkin always been this full of himself in his writing. Well, after rewatching episodes of TWW, I see now, the answer is yes. However, placing his political views onto us in a show about politics never seemed to go over the line much. What he seemed to forget, was that this is a show about a comedy show. Yes, SNL does do political humor but I doubt very seriously the cast and writers spend this much time focusing on the woes of the political world. It’s obvious Sorkin takes the subject of politics way too seriously. In order to satirize it, you have to be able to have fun with it, all of it. I always got the feeling Sorkin was trying to teach us lessons based upon that his opinion of all subjects is correct.

Plus, politics weren’t the only lessons he was giving us! Reality TV is wrong! Christianity are full of hypocrites! And the best of all, the people in the midwest are all mindless idiots who could never get the satirity of a qualified show such as Studio 60. I mean, they have never heard of the Who’s on First sketch.

Before I sign off, what was good

Two actors: Steven Webber and Nathan Corrday. Webber really shined in his role as NBS President, Jack Rudolf. He was meant to be the normal bad guy through most episodes but they gave him layers where compassion and humanity would shine through, even surprising the character himself. I adored everyone one of his scenes, even when it didn’t make sense for the character to be there but he was awesome and endearing and usually a great bad-ass.

Corrday was just as compelling. Lately actors of this particular body type (like Blake Berris and Eric Szmanda) usually draw me in. I’m not sure if it’s just a late breaking trend with TV shows in general but I am finding these type guys really really hot. Your muscle bound hunks on a tv show are now a dime a dozen, give me an ordinary guy with beautiful eyes and really great acting skills and I’m so sold as his woman I’m there every episode. Though I’m not sorry the show wound up ending, I’m thrilled he got a chance to do these great, angst ridden scenes of finding out his younger brother in the war was kidnapped and is a POW.

So farewell Studio 60. I won’t regret the few enjoyable moments but I do regret some of the more heavy handed ones.


5 thoughts on “Studio 60: A Promising Disappointment!

  1. I heartily disagree with your assessment, This television show will be a case study in network mismanagement in the near future.
    Nbc had the worst over-saturating marketing campaign ever created, “the stars are about to collide”. They continually (to this date) cut promos to make it look like a comedy. They put it on at 10PM on Mondays, when market research shows the only dramas to do well at 10PM are FORMULAIC; which is why it had better ratings in Central time (funny considering the red/blue supposed divide of the show). The audience has a ton of options to see it at other times, so of course they’re not going to see it at 10PM. It was the 2nd most DVR’d show of the year; it was consistently top ten on Itunes; and this doesn’t count Amazon or Rewind viewing. The show takes way too much energy and concentration to watch for the first time at 10PM, so noone does, but the fans are there in masses. Then nbc, when the show was getting bad publicity from basicly two sources, a rival network and a rival show it was kicking the ratings crap out of, bailed entirely.

    It can never be said the show was canceled because of ratings, these are the end of regular season numbers:
    61. Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip NBC 8.5 3.6/9
    61. Medium NBC 8.5 3.0/8
    83. The Black Donnellys NBC 6.7 2.7/7
    87. Scrubs NBC 6.4 3.2/8
    95. Friday Night Lights NBC 6.1 2.3/6
    102. The Real Wedding Crashers NBC 5.8 2.7/7
    102. 30 Rock NBC 5.8 2.7/7

    The early problems of complete ineptitude on the part of nbc killed this show and in trying to cover that fact they want the show to have a bad legacy. The grave mistake made by WB/Mr. Sorkin was in letting nbc bid against CBS.

    The story the day of its finale were the classy fans of the show that took out an ad in The Hollywood Reporter in support of Studio 60’s charity, Tipitina’s Foundaton. Hopefully they raise a lot of money, that should be the show’s legacy.

  2. I think your review is spot on. I was so excited about this show and really wanted to get behind it but for me it had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and none of the charm TWW exhibited.

    I too am a Christian. I don’t really need a show to be pro-Christian — I know it’s not everybody’s thing and I certainly don’t want to foist my beliefs on others. Moreover, I actually *like* shows that *honestly* tackle the pitfalls of Christianity. (My personal opinion is that faith cannot exist in a vacuum. It must be continually exposed to skepticism and other beliefs; it must be tested on all counts otherwise our *choice* to believe isn’t really a choice – it’s simply a fallback position for lack of exposure to other choices.) My problem with Studio 60 is that it didn’t *honestly* show the pros and cons of Christianity. Instead it used Harriet as a virtual straw (wo)man, setting her up as a token Christian who makes weak, misleading apologies for the faith while the “rational” characters knock them down one by one. Sorkin leaves no room for the possibility of an honest Christian. Most are portrayed as egregious hypocrites, while the remainder are woefully ignorant.

    I didn’t need Sorkin to be pro-Christian; but I didn’t expect him to be so vehemently anti-Christian in his writing and that disappointed me.

    However, I can tolerate the fact that he isn’t a fan of my religion. The biggest problem for me was that big ole sledgehammer. Your comment that “In order to satirize it, you have to be able to have fun with it,” is brilliant. This was a program about a show known for wild, lively, audacious humor yet all too often Sorkin’s tone bordered on lugubrius. There was no charm or whimsy and worst of all, no FUN.

    “I always got the feeling Sorkin was trying to teach us lessons based upon that his opinion of all subjects is correct.” Again, another spot-on quote. Sorkin’s dialogue was didactic instead of lively. It truly was a waste of a wonderful idea.

    Of course, I ****love**** 30Rock. That’s an example of a show that isn’t necessarily Christian (like, at all) but isn’t usually anti-Christian either. Sure, they take potshots at Christianity but, like South Park, they take potshots at all religions. It has a much more deft touch and true charm to the characters. Even Alec Baldwin (whom I can’t stand) is brilliant. I love him in this show. You should do a review on 30Rock!!

    Thanks for the good read!

  3. If given time to build and followed throughout, the anti-Christian arguements were going somewhere. Sorry you missed it!

    I can understand the athiests that are upset with the finale, but find it funny how strongly some react to the story when it won the Religion Communicators Council’s Wilbur Award back in March! (Not as Great as Winning Best International Drama at BANFF!)

    As for the issue of whether a drama works backstage at a sketch show, damn right. I think discussing war and religion happens everywhere and anywhere, but a sketch show is supposed to be on top of those topics as a professional obligation. Whereas, when I discuss it with coworkers it’s counterproductive.

  4. Thank all of you for commenting. I appreciate the feedback, even when you don’t agree with me.

    Again, my biggest issue with the show wasn’t so much the anti-Christian views, I just think Sorkin made this a much bigger part of the show than he should have.

    Probably my favorite episodes of the show, other than the pilot, is the Christmas episode as well as the episode guest starring Alison Janney. Both had fun and charm interwoven in and it was quite enjoyable.

    segsig, thank you again for commenting and I’m glad you enjoyed the show. The end numbers might be skewed as Studio 60 did start off fairly strong in the beginning while 30 Rock did not. Since then, 30 Rock’s numbers have been growing while Studio’s had been decreasing.

    To be honest, I don’t listen to critics that much so I’m not sure what was said other than making fun of the “cold open” not being actually funny. I did think the cold open was funny and not too far off in what SNL has done in the past.

    The fact is Studio 60 was becoming unbearable to watch. Sorkin seemed to resent anyone trying to mention the weak points of the show. I go to fan boards and the general take on Studio 60 as time went on was it wasn’t worth the space on our Tivos.

  5. I was extremely excited about Studio 60 when they first announced it. I had loved Sports Night and The West Wing and was a huge Aaron Sorkin fan. But, Studio 60 was a real disappointment. I watched the first few episodes, but I just couldn’t get into it at all. The writing was still fast-paced with zingy dialogue but none of it rang true to me.

    I’m not particularly religious in anyway, but I still felt the Harriet as Chistrian woman in evil Hollywood humor show was overdone. It didn’t come across as enlightening or humorous, just heavy-handed.

    In fact, I think that was the biggest problem with the show (in the episodes I watched). It all seemed heavy-handed and overdone instead of enlightening or humorous the way it had been on The West Wing, or even Sports Night.

    Aaron Sorkin’s biggest asset had always been the ability to make a point but doing it with a pretty light touch (at least most of the time). As Tripp pointed out, to the extent things got heavy handed on The West Wing, it was certainly easier to understand because it was a show about politics. A much lighter touch was needed on a show that was supposed to be a takeoff of SNL.

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