TV Writers Aren’t Saving the World

I’ve watched the first two episodes of  STUDIO 60 and I don’t like it. Here’s why.

1.  The fonts for the title cards and scene headings are the same ones they used on THE WEST WING.  That, combined with some of the same actors they used on THE WEST WING and the self-important characters and pompous speeches, makes it appear as if Aaron Sorkin thinks that running a TV show is as important as running the country. It’s not, though many showrunners I know thing it is. (UPDATE: Here’s a lively discussion on whether  the fonts matter or I have my head up my ass).
2. The series takes its inspiration from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, which hasn’t been relevant or buzzworthy in 25 years.  STUDIO 60 might as well behind-the-scenes series about THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW  or YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS. It feels incredibly dated and out-of-step. If they wanted to be cutting edge, it would have been about a show more akin to THE DAILY SHOW.  Heck, Garry Shandling’s THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW has been off-the-air for years and it’s still more relevant, biting, and funny than STUDIO 60.
3. Aaron Sorkin seems to think we’re all fascinated by his drug arrest during the making of THE WEST WING and his professional partnership with director Thomas Schlamme. We’re not. Watching Aaron Sorkin write about himself and Schlamme isn’t like Carl Reiner writing about himself  as Rob Petrie or even Larry David writing about himself as, um, Larry David because….because it just not as funny, fresh or entertaining as DICK VAN DYKE SHOW or CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM.  It feels self-indulgent.
4. We keep hearing about  how funny and amazingly talented the lady is who leads STUDIO 60’s fictional cast…but so far  we haven’t actually seen her do anything funny (Ken Levine had the same observation)  In fact, there’s something downright creepy about her.
5. Ripping off the movie NETWORK in a scene, and then having all the characters refer to the scene as "like something from the movie NETWORK," doesn’t get you a pass for, well, ripping of the movie NETWORK.
6.  All that said, I do love the way he writes…I just wish he was writing a different show.

9 thoughts on “TV Writers Aren’t Saving the World”

  1. Agree with all of your points. The other thing that I noticed (as a fan of West Wing) is that the lighting is the same and it even looks like parts of the set were re-used…. THe offices are too reminiscent of previous offices. Also, Sorkin is like Mammet in the way that all of his characters talk the same – which is fine except that TV shows just don’t have the same gravitas as the presidency (at least the fictional presidency that was in the WW)…. And maybe this is because I have been working too hard lately but even with the Tivo and chosing the time I watch the show I haven’t made it through either episode so far without falling asleep the first time around.

  2. My biggest issue that I’m going to have with this show (and I know it already) is that the show they’re actually putting on (this SNL-like show) will never be that funny or entertaining. And that’s a problem that speaks to the lack of realism for the world of the show. Larry Sanders is a perfect example — the moments of the actual talk show always worked well. On Studio 60, I’m not as confident that will be the case.
    Sports Night was a far better example of making this scenario work.

  3. I agree. I stayed up late to watch the premier and as my wife said, “It’s TV, not the presidency. They take themselves too seriously.”
    One gets the idea that Sorkin takes himself pretty seriously, so maybe that’s it. A beautifully talented writer who writes great dialogue but has a tendency to be self-important, pretentious and preachy. In the first episode, I couldn’t help but think when Judd Hirsch was going off on how TV gave up its moral authority that TV probably never HAD a moral authority and nobody out there wants it, too. So get off it.
    And I agree with you. Isn’t it time Saturday Night Live went off the air? Past time?
    Mark Terry

  4. Lee — I agree with every single point you made (and pontificated all them to my husband as we watched the first episode).
    I said, “You know, he captured the feeling of TV people thinking that what they do is extremely important, perfectly. But I work with those people all day, why would I want to come home and watch a TV show about it?”

  5. For someone who works in the business, Sorkin still screws it up. I’m not in the business, but even I know that it’s Thursday night that can make or break opening weekends for the movies. That’s the night they want to advertise on, not a Friday night at 11:30. The audience has already come back from opening night!
    And after a few weeks it’s going to look ridiculous that they have Amanda Peet and Stephen Weber still harping about this one show in their line-up. They’re both great in their roles, but there are plenty of other shows on NBS (I’m assuming) that need their attention.
    Sorkin also thinks we’re all fascinated by his past relationship with Kristen Chenowith. Ugh. But at least he’s picked an actress who does as little for me as Chenowith did, only with out the nails on a chalkboard voice.
    I wish somebody would walk up behind Sarah Paulson and wack her with a rolled up newspaper, saying “Not talented!”
    With all the hate I’ve seen pointed at her in various online forums, I’d expect any other TV show creator to dump her soon. But Sorkin can be pretty arrogant about how he knows best, so we’re probably stuck with “Harry”.

  6. Never watched the show, but I did watch Dick Van Dyke and know that Carl Reiner played Alan Brady, not Rob Petrie. Sorry for the correction but I’m a bit of a trivia nut and can’t help myself. Love the blog and read it every day.

  7. Cap’n Bob,
    Yes, Reiner played Alan Brady, but that’s not what Lee said. Reiner was writing about himself as Rob Petrie, using Rob as the stand-in for himself.
    Beside, Carl Reiner DID play Rob Petrie in the original pilot, “Head Of The Family”. TV Land has shown it and it’s available out there as a DVD boot.
    Um, not that I know anything about that….

  8. Thanks, Lee.
    After I read your post I watched this past episode of Studio 60 and a I realized you were right. The show is way too full of itself.
    Geez, now what am I going to do on Monday nights? Talk with my family?


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