August 20th, 2006
|10:27 pm - 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.
Remember Max Headroom? Remember how you could never tell when it was going to be on?
I remember seeing episodes run on Bravo, a decade after the fact, that I don't think actually had aired in the US.
I could be wrong, but man. Yeah, that one got short shrift too.
There's a TV Heaven, where good shows go when they die unnatural deaths, and Max Headroom is right up in there, strumming a stuttering electric harp.
oh, and Amanda Pays.
I even watched The Flash, which really wasn't so hot as a live-action show, just because she was in it.
|Date:||August 21st, 2006 04:07 am (UTC)|| |
She tried to steal Mulder away from Scully early on in the X-Files. I think it was the first episode where there was any Scully jealousy. And it was an extra good episode with Mulder appearing in his boxers. Maybe I need to watch it again before bed...
See? There's something for everyone!
weren't there separate British and US versions of that show?
There was a British standalone TV movie, intended as a tie-in with the simple music video show that introduced the Max Headroom character. The script for that was reworked somewhat into the pilot for the American series.
...I have to admit that it probably wasn't just the show's shoddy treatment that doomed it; at the time, I could find almost nobody else who liked the show. It got a great critical reception, but most viewers were just confused and horrified by it. Part of the problem was that sometimes they were actually parodying tropes from William Gibson novels, and that wasn't a hip thing to do in mass media until about six or seven years later. Another problem was that Coca-Cola thought it would be a great idea to use the Max Headroom character in their ads, completely shorn of context, and that just put people off.
The show definitely was ahead of its time, twenty minutes into the future and all.
|Date:||August 21st, 2006 10:46 pm (UTC)|| |
Having recently re-watched all of them, I was struck by how relevant it still is in so many ways.
I was also struck by the anachronisms. Gigantic cameras that you lug around! While smoking! Everywhere!
Thematically this sounds pleasantly like the triumphant return of Sports Night. In my nicest dreams, Felicity Huffman will walk away from Desperate Housewives for a little while to reprise her old role.
|Date:||August 21st, 2006 08:49 am (UTC)|| |
Or Sabrina Lloyd will show up to take the "SNL" job Natalie turned down in season two.
Hey, it could happen.
I was totally thinking the same thing.
At the risk of being spoilery, Felicity Huffman does indeed appear in the pilot -- as Felicity Huffman, guest host of an episode of Studio 60. Her screen time is limited to agonizing over the lame Desperate Housewives jokes in the opening monologue, but she's there all right and it's a definite nod to Sports Night fans.
I just watched the pilot tonight and I hope you're wrong but I'd bet a dollar you're not. Hirsch was fantastic, and I was almost shocked that Perry managed to pull off a non-Chandler performance. And I can't quite see Whitford as anyone but Josh yet, so that little test issue made me laugh.
I'll keep my fingers crossed, every once in a while network TV gets it right, but not nearly often enough.
|Date:||August 21st, 2006 11:57 am (UTC)|| |
Direct to DVD! or iTunes! or TiVo-download! or YouTube! or whatever the disruptive business model/technology of the week is!
At least today it's possible for murdered shows like Firefly or Futurama to find new life.
It's interesting, in fact, that American cable TV seems to be a little behind the curve, picking up dead or foreign shows (Doctor Who, Life on Mars) once they blossom on DVD or BitTorrent: cable would seem to be the natural way to revive dead series, but what cable doesn't have is good demand-based feedback. Ratings aren't good enough, since you actually have to air the show in order to get them, and they depend on things like the time slot.
And then you have networks that appear to have no idea what they're doing.
The SciFi channel is running ECW Wrestling on Tuesdays, in addition to BSG and taunting people with the fantastic pilot for The Amazing Screw-On Head.
Meanwhile, G4 (the video game channel) is running Star Trek and Arrested Development.
Comedy Central is... um... running a roast of William Shatner and alienated its best star so much they had to run the third season of his show without him.
And those are just the networks I pay attention to. At least the Cartoon Network is sorta OK with Adult Swim sometimes, though I get nervous when they air crap like Aqua Teen Hunger Force forever when they could be doing more Harvey Birdman and Venture Brothers.
But what was it Barnum said, nobody went broke underestimating the American public? Crap will always be with us, only with cable we get 400x more crap than before.
At least the Cartoon Network is sorta OK with Adult Swim sometimes
That's when they're not showing reruns of the most decidedly live-action Saved By The Bell.
My mom's got an ongoing extra gig on this one. She was telling me that the entire soundstage is the set. It's not a set within a set...it's just one big continuous thing.
My mom is also one of the only people in H'wood to be working/have worked on all three of Mr. Sorkin's shows.
We are rapidly approaching levels of meta- hitherto unknown on the small screen. The camera moves effortlessly around this giant conglomeration, and pieces of the set are used in interesting ways. One conversation between two characters occurred in one of those car cross-sections with the front end missing, only the camera didn't stay at a fixed head-on shot, it moved around the cross-section so that we could see what it was for what it was.
And at the end of the conversation, instead of stepping out through the absence of the front end, the characters actually used the doors. It was great.
And I'm glad to see your mom's getting steady work from this one, too.
She always regales me with her stories of her time on these Sorkin Sets™. She could write for Something Awful too!
In this one, she's playing a hairdresser. Keep your eyes peeled for a woman who looks about 40 or so, reddish-brown hair, looks a bit like me only older and with a thinner face. ;)
|Date:||August 21st, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC)|| |
Entirely unrelated, but your attention is desperately required over here
|Date:||August 21st, 2006 04:37 pm (UTC)|| |
My only hope that maybe you're wrong comes from the fact that the show has so many well known actors in it and is being hyped pretty big by NBC.
You're probably right, though.
|Date:||August 21st, 2006 10:48 pm (UTC)|| |
I second (or third or whatever) your recommendation. Watched this over the weekend, and damn. I am all happy now.
Wonder how much the hiring of Sorkin and the development of this show is NBC's own tacit admission of guilt? As if Aaron Sorkin is their Matt and Danny, come back to give them some semblance of class and relevance.
I didn't know what else Sorkin had done, besides The West Wing, so I headed over to IMDb to look him up. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he wrote the screenplay to one of my all-time favorite movies.
I'm downloading the BitTorrent of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip right now, on your recommendation.