2 August 2007 - More 4, 10.00 pm
WRITER: Aaron Sorkin DIRECTOR: Thomas Schlamme
CAST: Amanda Peet (Jordan McDeere), Timothy Busfield (Cal), Steven Weber (Jack Rudolph), Sarah Paulson (Harriet Hayes), Nathan Corddry (Tom Jeter), Michael Stuhlberg (Jerry Jones), Matthew Perry (Matt Albie), D.L Hughley (Simon Stiles), Bradley Whitford (Danny Tripp), Camille Chen (Samantha Li), Nate Torrence (Dylan), Diana-Maria Riva (Lily), Merritt Wever (Suzanne), Simon Helberg (Alex), Ayda Field (Jeannie Whatley), Bill Escudier (Mitch), Robin Karfo (Gail Winslow), Parissa Fitz- Henley (Celia), Ursula Garcia-Schmidt (Veronica), Edward Stanley (Martin), Jane Yamamoto (TV Reporter), Mark Edward Smith (Joe Reardon), John Carpenter (Herb Shelton), Bob Jesser (Bill), Terry Urdang (Terri Walters), Amir Talai (Fred), Ben Murphy (Louis), Chris Hogan (Hal), John Ennis (Denny), John Cabrera (Elliot), John Mauceri (Himself), Margaret Easley (Constance Gower) & Wendy Phillips (Shelly)
Matt and Danny try not to crumble under the pressure of putting on their first big show, as complaints over the "Crazy Christians" sketch reach a high...
A problem facing Studio 60, from a British perspective, is that the cutthroat world of television doesn't really translate for us. We can accept that in America, the stakes are high, a fortune is spent on shows, and the advertisers drive the multi-million dollar machine, but it's not really part of our culture. In the UK, the people pay for the BBC and our commercial channels are nowhere near as slavish to the needs of its advertisers.
Therefore, it's a little difficult to care about the ups-and-downs of a fictional TV show. Writer Aaron Sorkin is giving Studio 60 the same sense of drama he employed in The West Wing, but this isn't the White House. It's just a late-night sketch show. I'm aware Saturday Night Live (of which this show is a pastiche) occupies a special place in American TV culture, but... at the end of the day... it's just a late-night sketch show. The characters rush about as if Friday's show is the climax to a NASA countdown! While it's enjoyable to watch, it all seems a bit silly through the eyes of a Brit.
The Cold Open concerns Danny and Matt's first show as executive producers, in the wake of last week's on-air rant. The episode's title is a term for a show beginning before any titles, and is something Matt (Matthew Perry) likes to get written beforehand, so the rest of the show slots into place. Faced with an empty schedule board and a countdown clock (told you it was NASA-like), Matt and partner Danny (Bradley Whitford) struggle to get 90 minutes of material written in just a few days...
It appears that a controversial sketch about "Crazy Christians" is going to inform the season, as it was the catalyst for the on-air meltdown last week, and it's mentioned here during a press conference. Interestingly, religious magazine Rapture threaten to boycott the show if it makes it to air -- and they have a readership that dwarfs Vanity Fair! It's interesting stuff, but laughable from a British viewpoint. Religious groups here are usually ignored and hold no sway over UK television content. In fact, numerous channels would actually court such controversy to boost ratings and profile.
However, while the premise is littered with ideas that make little dramatic impact on British viewers, Studio 60 is a welcome slice of slick entertainment. Aaron Sorkin's dialogue is great to listen to, even if his world is populated by people far more coherent and witty than anyone in real life! Sorkin's famous "walk and talk" scenes remain, which are amusing oddities in themselves. One moment, when Sunset 60 starlet Harriet (Sarah Paulson) interrupts Matt during a writer's meeting, forces him to leave the room... and, once out, even he can't resist going on a pointless walk up the corridor! Can nobody stay still on this show?
I also like all the actors involved. Yes, all of them. There's usually an annoying character in ensembles, or an actor you dislike, but the casting on Studio 60 is top-notch. They're mostly unfamiliar faces to me, except for Friends' Matthew Perry, Sarah Paulson (American Gothic's Merly, remember?) and Steven Weber. This anonymity helps immensely, as you feel you're getting to know a genuine group of co-workers, not watching well-known actors pretend to be behind-the-scenes crew.
In summation, Studio 60 takes another firm step with its second episode. It may seem ridiculous how seriously the characters take a sketch show, but you can accept it and just enjoy the sparkling dialogue and enjoyable performances from the talented cast. I still have reservations about Aaron Sorkin's sketch comedy writing abilities, though...