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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Say It Ain’t Sorkin

posted by on October 17 at 22:55 PM

Not that this matters much in real life, but:

Last night I stopped rooting for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to get good. It’s just not gonna happen, is it? Too many characters and too few good ones, the show-within-the-show is never even remotely funny, and the show proper is unfocused and rough drafty. Mainly, it lacks the stateliness of West Wing, the illusion of being somewhere real (however suffused with liberal idealism). Little moments poke through because it’s Aaron Sorkin, but it’s not full-blown Sorkin, which is kind of a bummer.


Not unlike the sight of Sting singing “Fields of Gold” while accompanying himself ON THE LUTE!

But then again, could anything matter less?

(Especially since The Wire is all the TV you’ll ever need.)

RSS icon Comments


I have nothing to say about this.

Posted by dzienkowski | October 18, 2006 12:23 AM

Studio 60's always been more Sports Night than West Wing, and the first few episodes have been a spectacle of fun.

But this week's installment was look-through-the-fingers awful -- sentimentalized backstories and re-used microphone gags -- undermining its message of populating the cultural landscape with quality for everyone on the public airwaves by showing fucking Sting.

Posted by Fawkes | October 18, 2006 12:31 AM

DAMNIT, Sean Nelson - you HAD to remind me of that horrific image of Sting playing that lovely instrument in such a smug manner as he did recently. Mr. Tantric fell from grace in mine eyes many moons ago (after the Soul Cages), and this only bums me out even more about Sting's evolution into Gypsy King-land.

Posted by dontsingsoclosetome | October 18, 2006 2:11 AM

DAMNIT, Sean Nelson - you HAD to remind me of that horrific image of Sting playing that lovely instrument in such a smug manner as he did recently. Mr. Tantric fell from grace in mine eyes many moons ago (after the Soul Cages), and this only bums me out even more about Sting's evolution into Gypsy King-land.

Posted by dontsingsoclosetome | October 18, 2006 2:11 AM

Though I am easily swayed by cliche sentimentality, I thoroughly enjoyed the last Studio 60. Sting playing classical and fields of gold on the lute was thoroughly enjoyable. And the ideas of bringing two sides of the country together through the strange attraction of two main characters gave me hope for the future of tv and this country.

I agree is doesn't have the impact of West Wing, but that show was more in touch with the reality of politics, where Studio 60 must deal with the reality of "reality television".

Posted by freakyfool | October 18, 2006 3:45 AM

The first episode was good, but that was it. All downhill after that. Poor acting and really weak writing. Thank God for "Weeds". THE only show worth my or anyone else's time.

Posted by Done | October 18, 2006 7:23 AM

Sorkin made a lot of references to Network, one of the hands down finest films ever made, in the premiere of Studio 60 which was good, but also where he veered off track.

What Network succeeded in doing so smashingly, but Studio 60 has failed to do, is make itself relevant to everyday American life. In fact, Network is even more relevant today than when it was released in 1976.

Who hasn't wanted to hang their head out the window during the Bush years and scream "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!"
In addition, Network offered a genius quality expose on the psychology of political control. The only difference is that television and the US went to the far right over the years instead of the far left predicted by Paddy Chayefsky.

I can see Studio 60 being interesting to people who work in the industry in LA, Vancouver and New York, but not the public at large. For us, it's just more Hollywood auto-felatio.

Posted by Andrew | October 18, 2006 9:05 AM

My only exposure was the last 30 minutes of this most recent episode. Is it just me, or is Chandler just totally channeling Josh from the West Wing? Which is weird, because Josh from the West Wing is also on the show. So it's like there are two of them.

I also think it's odd that they seem to be attempting to wrap the inner workings of a TV comedy in the same aura of significance and importance as the inner workings of the flippin' White House. Sorry, I just can't care that much about what network someone's reality show ends up on, or what a gossip reporter knows about some cast member's romantic entanglements.

Posted by Levislade | October 18, 2006 9:06 AM

I dislike buying Christmas gifts, but yes, I heard about Sting's new all-lute album the other day. Thanks for the reminder, Sean.

Posted by jonathan | October 18, 2006 9:16 AM

Thank you for saying what needed to be said, Sean.
That show bites, hard, and if I continue to watch it, which I will, it will be out of morbid fascination.

Posted by David Schmader | October 18, 2006 9:32 AM

Today I stopped rooting for Sean Nelson to get good again. It’s just not gonna happen, is it? Too many shitty songs in his recent comeback and too few good ones, the blog posts are never even remotely funny, and the man himself is unfocused and more than a tad overweight. Mainly, he lacks the talent of Gibbard, the illusion of being a serious recording artist (however suffused with royalties from his mid-90s splash hit Flagpole Sitta). Little moments poke through because it’s Sean Nelson, but it’s not full Nelson, which is kind of a bummer.

Posted by ryan | October 18, 2006 9:35 AM

I'll also continue to watch out of morbid fascination and because I do like the acting. The writing, on the other hand... And I agree that the funny bits--from the show-within-a-show--are thuddingly unfunny. For my money, "Sports Night" is the best thing Sorkin has ever done. That said, big props to "Six Degrees." It's indie film as soap--or soap as indie film--and Hope Davis and Campbell Scott are predictably brilliant.

Posted by Kathy Fennessy | October 18, 2006 10:00 AM

I was on its side for the first couple episodes, but that third one was inexcusably bad. I'll probably keep watching it, though, because I am now officially an avid TV-watcher again. And I'm not sorry. As for the show-within-the-show not being funny, maybe they're just going for realism, considering the subject matter.
Oh, and RYAN: Fuck you.

Posted by A-Train | October 18, 2006 10:07 AM

Admittedly, I hate almost all television dramas (Especially Detective Dramas), but since Studio 60's concept had potential (and I got it mixed up with 30 Rock), I watched the first few episodes. I must say I've been disappointed. Does Brad Whitford do anything other than the tough-but-fair, passive-aggressive smart-ass? It was like I was watching West Wing, but with less compelling characters and subject matter and somehow mixed with a little Whole Nine Yards vibe.

The whole show just seems like a poorly conceived result of too many focus groups:

"How can we make a drama like West Wing, but with topical comedy sketches, and musical guests that appeal to 40-60 year old women with a talking pie and a robot driving instructor who travels in time for some reason?"

"Hold onto your hats, gents, I think I've got a smash hit!"

Posted by gillsans | October 18, 2006 10:18 AM

Wow, Ryan, you seem like a complete jerk. I'm sure all of *your* songs fuckin' rock, though.

Moving on, I agree with Levislade when he says "they seem to be attempting to wrap the inner workings of a TV comedy in the same aura of significance and importance as the inner workings of the flippin' White House." So true. I am a huge SNL fan and have been since childhood, but these guys need to take themselves much less seriously.

TV shows fail all the time and that's okay. There's only one White House so the stakes are much higher when it fails.

Posted by wow | October 18, 2006 10:32 AM

So, do you guys think commenter "Ryan" is Aaron Sorkin or Sting?

I vote Sorkin, whose name is in the header, and a cracked-out Sorkin is far more likely to spend the morning self-Googling than zen-and-tantra embracing Sting...

Either way, they both suck, and Ryan should go die now.

Posted by David Schmader | October 18, 2006 10:40 AM

I agree that the show is not all that: I find myself apathetic about the off again, possibly on again relationship w/ Matthew Perry and the blond; what does hell does his character see in a proto-christian blank slate like her? Aside from the weak scripts and the cheezy sentimentality since the pilot, I find the Amanda Peet character as the network head totally unbelievable.

Lone kudos to Steven Weber for his portrayal of the a-hole boss many of us have encountered in our lives.

Posted by neo-realist | October 18, 2006 10:49 AM

Ryan may have some fair? observations. They might only make Sean stronger. I say Ryan and Sean go head-to-head in a post.
Prediction: Sean not only wins in the amount rebuttals, but also in the quality.

Posted by Famished Bowie | October 18, 2006 10:52 AM

Sorry, Andrew, but Network has to be one of the worst films ever made. Lance Mannion said it better than I ever could.

Network is a pile of woman-hating, man-hating, America-hating bullshit. Contrived, phony, joyless, humorless, and basically all about how right Paddy Chayefsky was to despise everybody and everything except Paddy Chayefsky.

The idea that hell is other people is a Puritanical notion.

Network is a film made by and for Puritans

Posted by keshmeshi | October 18, 2006 10:54 AM

I watched the first few episodes because there was nothing else on of interest (I don't have cable, so my choices are limited). The show never grabbed me in a hang-on-every-line way that early WW did, or that the style of dialogue seems to require, but usually the 2nd half of the show would pull me in each time. I like Chandler and Josh, and I like Christine Lahti, but I think the "Harry" character is a glaring weak spot. She's written rather 2-dimensionally, and the actress is just ok. I don't really buy the big love Chandler has for her. So, knowing that this week's show was going to end up with them probably reigniting their tepid passions, I just skipped it altogether and turned off my tv at 10pm.

That's been happening a lot lately - other than The Nine and trusty Friday standby Numbers (when I'm home on Fridays), there's really nothing compelling on at 10pm on network tv this season. Weird.

Posted by genevieve | October 18, 2006 11:17 AM

The writing needs to be much better... but, seriously, skits based on the Pirates of Penzance and Juliette Lewis hosting Meet the Press just had me laughing out loud.

Posted by Mickymse | October 18, 2006 11:22 AM

Here's where it jumped the shark for me: When they were doing that baby skit, which I thought was kind of funny, then it turned out to be the example of something that wasn't funny, and the stuff that was supposed to be funny wasn't funny.

I'll probably keep watching because it comes on after Heroes, which I really like. But yeah, it's not quite working for me.

Posted by j-lon | October 18, 2006 11:28 AM

yeah, how about heroes. that show rocks. one of the only things on the networks i like.

Posted by konstantconsumer | October 18, 2006 11:45 AM


Did we see the same film? Network was a genius masterwork, the likes of which have seldom been duplicated. It pulled back the curtain to reveal the phoniness, absurdity and anomie of modern life. I had hoped that Dan Rather would pull a Howard Beale on his way out and level with the American public about all the bullshit in contemporary politics and the media. As it says on the cover, “what was once a satire is now a mirror.”

And that “review” by someone named “Lance Mannion” isn’t even a review of the film’s artistic content or message at all, but a bizarre tirade about his own neurotic adolescent sexual insecurity. His theory on Sigourney Weaver’s character in Working Girl, one of film’s best bitches I might add, sounds like something out of Lil’ Reactionary magazine and clearly shows not so latent castration anxiety.

Posted by Andrew | October 18, 2006 12:15 PM

I'm with Keshmeshi. "Network" blew. Histrionic and obvious. Characters who never stop talking about politics even during sex. It's ineptly written, "pulling back the curtain" not on modern life but on the ability of the screenwriter to craft a believable character: mouthpieces all. It was like watching an Ayn Rand book come to life.

Posted by Fnarf | October 18, 2006 12:36 PM

I think we've effectively derailed the discussion, but I'll proceed anyways. Why has it become fashionable lately to harsh on Network?
Even in 1976 it wasn't too much of a stretch to see where television was heading, so Nostradamus it ain't, but it is still a pretty damn funny satire on television in particular and American society in general.

Posted by gillsans | October 18, 2006 12:58 PM

Wasn't Lance Mannion the daredevil on The Simpsons?

Posted by gillsans | October 18, 2006 1:05 PM

"Richard Gere's a real hero of mine. Sting. Sting would be another person who's a hero. The music he's created over the years, I don't really listen to it, but the fact that he's making it, I respect that."

-Hansel, Zoolander, 2001

Posted by Hansel | October 18, 2006 3:09 PM

If dialog isn't smart or witty, I'll usually settle for fast, and that's why I'll keep watching Sorkin's doomed ship.

I prefer dialog that is elliptically revealing to dialog that is directly expository, and that is why I preferred the Sorkin episodes of The West Wing to the non-Sorkin ones.

But damn, he sure tossed out that asset in this third Studio 60 episode. First we're spoon-fed a biography as boring as a book report, and then he beats us over the head with two minutes of maudlin music to establish romance? Oog.

I'm also disappointed, though I should know better, with Sorkin's prissiness. I thought that the prominent mention of cocaine in the pilot might be a good sign, but so far we haven't even heard about, let alone seen, anything like the legendary hedonism that was an integral part of SNL in its heyday. Cast members actually acting embarassed to have slept with one another? Scripts that suggest widespread drug use, but not one scene in which anyone acts even slightly high? Please.

Posted by robotslave | October 18, 2006 4:38 PM

Oh, and I'll agree that The Wire is the best drama on television, but it's not without problems. Underneath the excellent writing it's still a cop show, and it's got an awful lot of bad cop show cliches going on there.

And then there's the problematic depiction of The Street, which is populated solely by black people (white junkie extras notwithstanding), and in which lives every black character on the show under the age of 30, and wherein any character who doesn't fit into either the thug-4-life mold on the one hand, or the idealist or dewey-eyed-innocent roles on the other, gets shot at the end of the season.

I realize there are certain dramatic requirements driving this stuff. I also realize that there is a distinction to be made between grittiness and realism, but it troubles me to think that many fans of the show might be mistaking the former for the latter.

Posted by robotslave | October 18, 2006 5:12 PM

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