Aaron Sorkin's drama about life on a "Saturday Night Live"-like variety show has been picked up for a full season, even though it continues to struggle in the ratings. The show has settled down to about 7.5+ million viewers a week, almost half of the lead-in from the hit "Heroes" and less than half (this week) in the coveted 18-49 demo it should flourish in. The show will definitely be moved come January to a new timeslot. Sorkin complains to the Hollywood Reporter that everyone discusses ratings and all that instead of the show itself. (Mind you, he never minded people discussing the ratings when the show was "The West Wing" and the ratings were sky high.) But I decided to take him up on it and watch last night's episode.
Like most people, I remain disappointed. (And of course, it's not true critics aren't discussing the show. After two or three episodes, a number of critics weighed in and said the show's promise had been derailed.) Several storylines: the Christian star of the show was in hot water for saying the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, several of the cast members were locked up by a small town police force for speeding, a Japanese conglomerate was making a major investment and the studio exec was in hot water for her ex-husband's claim that she didn't want to have kids and would avoid hiring a woman who did have kids.
As always, the show is fairly well-written and well-cast. Everyone is pretty good, led by Matthew Perry. And guest star John Goodman (as a small town judge) was very good. (He's sure been wasted the last few years with not enough good roles.) The problem as always is the tone and subject matter. Half the show was spent dealing with press fallout. Matthew Perry righteously argued with his star about why she's a bigot for objecting to gay marriage. (He was right, of course, but who cares?) Again, they're putting on a sketch comedy show but still debating the major issues of the day as if this were the White House. And finally, every single time that we glimpse a sketch that they're working on for broadcast or someone reads off a line of dialogue or a proposed skit, I SWEAR that EVERY SINGLE TIME the jokes are so lame I really think someone is going to say, 'Boy, we've got a lot of work to do,' or 'Come up with something better' or SOMETHING rather than "great!."
And John Goodman's storyline was wrongheaded too. Being stranded in a small town smacked too much of an iconic West Wing episode where the same thing happened. Plus, we were supposed to think Goodman was a rube and then realize he's actually a smart, intelligent guy with complex feelings. In fact, he's just a local rube who hates celebs but relents when he finds out that one of them has a little brother doing his third tour of duty in Iraq. (Something that -- astonishingly -- almost none of his coworkers seemed to know.) So Goodman lets the guy go and admonishes them for prejudging him. But hating Hollywood and thinking anyone who has a brother in the military is A-OK is exactly the small town stereotype Sorkin thinks he's up-ending when in fact he's reinforcing it.
Finally, the show just isn't FUN and a show about putting on a weekly variety series filled with presumably witty, hilarious comics should be fun, even if it can't be funny. "Studio 60" never is.
STUDIO 60 UPDATE UPDATE: Popsurfer Steve Friess from Las Vegas weighed in with some pertinent info on "Studio 60" that make Monday's episode more idiotic than I realized. For his full piece, go to the comments section: It is inconceivable to me that anyone in Hollywood has not heard of the city of Pahrump, which is on the way to Vegas and is a very, very thriving, fast-growing and reasonably modern city where homes start at about $300,000 and many people commute to Vegas. The rube-ish tumbleweed stereotype was simply absurd, and it's obvious the writers think they're proving that people in such dullardsvilles are actually good and decent and reasonable. How condescending! The entire premise of the episode was so bizarre because they're trying so hard to pretend they "get" middle America with Harriet's character when, in fact, they don't get it at all.