August 20th, 2006

Tom Lehrer is Smug

The Collector's Dilemma

Every weekend when I go out for to browse places for stuff and things, I usually try to take a quick inventory before I head on out. I gather up all the books I've purchased recently and see how many of them I've actually finished reading. If I have, say, three books recently purchased but not yet read to completion, I begin to think twice or three times before heading on out to buy some more because, well, who wants to create a giant backlog?

"Got stuck" doesn't count as an excuse, even if it's a biography of Boss Tweed and my eyes have officially glazed over with the sheer weight of the numbers when it comes to graft and sinecures and misappropriations and stuff. Stories of colorful corrupt characters are one thing, dry recitation of monetary excesses is another. I was reading it on the T, but man oh man it makes a head spin.

Compilations are also a grey area. Do you have to read every short story? What if one of 'em didn't really appeal to you at the time so you skipped ahead to the hilarious one about the Alsatian? Do you have to go back and read the one you didn't like either?

Anyway I have five outstanding today and I'm only feeling slightly guilty about heading over to McIntyre&Moore for to see if they got anything new in the New England History section. But hey, it's on the way to the supermarket so I might as well.
Howard Beale

prove me wrong, NBC, prove me totally wrong. you bitches.

Just caught a leaked pilot of Aaron Sorkin's new Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It's West Wing-meets-SNL-meets-Network (and, indeed, Paddy Chayevsky gets some serious shout-outs after the opening credits.) Better catch it while you can when it shows up on NBC's schedule, because it won't last long.

I mean, it's got a lot going for it -- Aaron Sorkin's rapid-fire dialogue, the signature swoopy "everybody walking" West Wing camerawork, the drama and intrigue of a weekly live sketch comedy show, smart writing and some interesting takes on some current events. Not only does Judd Hirsch put in an incredible performance, giving the show this electrifying opening, but they even get an unexpectedly good performance out of Matthew Perry.

Unfortunately, the themes of the show are what will do it in. Big statements are made about the current state of network television, the kotowing to corporate interests and fringe groups who are "ready to boycott" in the face of controversy, the loss of a comedic institution once known for "cutting edge" sketch comedy, now watered down to appeal to 12-year-old boys ("And not the smart 12-year-old boys!" one character rants. "The stupid ones!") It's not so much a personal finger-pointing at those guys at 30 Rock as much as it is an attempt to stabbity-stab-stab its way all over the network map.

And that's just too much biting the hand what's feeding. I say catch the show while you can, and I mean it. It will go the way of Sports Night. This means that critics will enjoy it, smart TV watchin' people like you and I will enjoy it, but if Studio 60 lasts one actual honest-to-goodness full season, while NBC bounces it from time slot to time slot and pre-empts it for meaningless Sweeps Week Fear Factor specials, it'll be lucky. If it's unlucky, it'll be dragged around and strung up like Sports Night was and die with a whimper. If it's unlucky but fortunate, it'll be cancelled six or seven episodes in with the rest to be thrown to us on DVD at a later date.

And I say that with the saddest of sad faces because I really liked this pilot and I know I'll like the show and it's smart and interesting and all kinds of good. And I'll feel all kinds of sad and betrayed when it gets shitcanned. But we've been down this road before. Freaks & Geeks, Wonderfalls, hell, even Clone High and that was just a cartoon.

But anyway. If you see it and you don't mind Aaron Sorkin's writing and you're at all familiar with Saturday Night Live's checkered past, you'll pretty much like it when it comes around. Give it a season pass on your TiVO, but do so with the greatest of optimism.