Posts filed under 'Studio 60'

Aaron Sorkin Alert

I know that by writing this post I’ve made this the most post-rific day on this site in ages, but I couldn’t let this go by without comment.

Aaron Sorkin writes what would happen if Obama went to Bartlet for advice.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what my comment is.

If there’s one thing I strive to do here, it’s to think way too much about everything Aaron Sorkin does. I’ve been thinking about this column all day, and I still have no idea what’s going on. I guess he makes some good points? Someone, please help me. Is this weird? Is it fine? Does it upset me only because I’m still hung up on the glorious failure of Studio 60? What would four-years-ago me have thought? Is it fan fiction if the character’s yours? Does it matter? Really, does any of it matter? Was Martin Sheen full of shit or what when he said last night that the West Wing was non-partisan?


2 comments September 22nd, 2008

The Farnsworth Invention

A while ago I went to see the new Aaron Sorkin play, The Farnsworth Invention. Just the fact that it’s a play by television impresario Aaron Sorkin would be enough for me to mention it here, but it’s also about the invention of television and the history of why we watch the way we watch. In other words, the most interesting topic in the world.

farnsworth2.jpgAs another show might put it, the facts are these: Philo T. Farnsworth, a scarcely-trained farmboy from Utah, transmitted the first moving image using the process we still use today (sort of). But he never quite got his television to work quite right, and his patent ended up embroiled in a dispute with GE/RCA/NBC and its leader, David Sarnoff. (Philo=Josh/Sam/Danny/Matt, Sarnoff=Jack Rudolph.) In the meantime, Sarnoff was busy laying the groundwork for regulating advertising and deciding what types of things would eventually be shown on television, once it eventually existed.

I know — good stuff, right? Or is that just me?

I found that I really enjoyed myself at the play, despite the things said in these reviews, which are all true. After a season of Studio 60, it may be that I am hardened to Sorkin’s ticks and pitfalls, and now accept them without question. Or it may be that I’m so engrossed in the topic that I don’t actually care that much about the “characters” or “structure.”

I’m leaning toward the latter explanation, because I was just watching a Modern Marvels on the History Channel about Wiring America and I realized I was just about excited that as I was about The Farnsworth Invention, in the exact same way.

I will say: Jimmi Simpson and Hank Azaria are killer. There’s a classic drunken, silly, romantic scene I rather enjoyed. And there was a truly amazing dramatization of the 1929 stock market crash. Make of that what you will.

6 comments December 12th, 2007

The More You Know: Sharpie edition

It’s much more satisfying to write with them…

August 15th, 2007

The More You Know: Bloated edition

Can you handle all this pent-up news? Well, can you?

July 19th, 2007

Bad Things about Studio 60

studio-60.jpgSince Maggie tried her best to say nice things about Studio 60, I’m going to say some mean things. And then I’m done with it. Because it makes me grumpy.

Some of my friends just gave up on it cold turkey. They tell me that their lives were much improved. I couldn’t stop. I almost enjoyed myself sometimes. But it was so infuriating. A late night sketch comedy program is not important. I don’t care how good it is. Nobody cares what Saturday Night Live puts on the air. 30 Rock is extremely aware of this fact. Any sense of self-importance Liz or Jack (Donaghy) might get during an episode is always intentionally deflated by a glimpse of a Robot vs. Bear sketch or something equally ridiculous. But Aaron Sorkin was so hell bent on making this show IMPORTANT that in an act of desperation he had to move the core of the last 4 episodes into the one month in recent history when anyone was paying attention to comedy.

Yes, after September 11th nobody felt like being funny. Someone prematurely declared the death of irony. Then David Letterman came back with a heartfelt monologue from the desk that everyone paid attention to. Saturday Night Live had Guiliani and an extremely relevant farting-baby sketch. That’s My Bush was cancelled. Bill Maher got in trouble for repeating his guest’s point that it’s not cowardly to be a suicide bomber. Ari Fleischer said we should all watch what we say. Maher ended up losing his job at ABC at the end of the season. So I can imagine that Matt and Danny had a lot of people paying attention to them back then. A lot more than would normally be paying any attention to a show that like the other—real—sketch show, hadn’t been Important in 25 years.

Maybe Sorkin should have set the whole series during that time. The good guys could have been endowed with incredible foresight and the bad guys could say stupid things about how soon we’d be wrap up the war. But he didn’t. And just to add even more insult to a season full of insulting injury, he engages in a little revisionist history. You see, it turns out Matt and Danny weren’t fired like we were told in the pilot. No, like all real men, they had control over their own destiny and took a principled stand! They quit! Did everyone then cover it up and pretend they had been fired so they could look stupid when Matt and Danny became a successful writer/director team? Sadly that question will have to wait for some Season 2 fanfic.

In another neat piece of revision, Jordan claims at the end of the show that she wanted Danny to be the father of her baby the moment she laid eyes on him. Now, it is true that they flirted when they first met, but Jordan then pulled out a nasty bit of blackmail about Danny being uninsurable. She then spent several episodes showing no interest in Danny. Totally hot, Jordan.

And speaking of Jordan: Endangered Pregnancy? Really? Writers have a term for this kind of plot device. It’s called schmuck bait. Is Jordan going to lose the baby and/or die? No she’s not, but a lot of easy drama comes from the situation. It’s lazy. And Sorkin was so ashamed of pulling such a cheap stunt that he explicitly called attention to what a cheap stunt it was. “The number-one audience manipulator among women is a pregnancy in jeopardy.” Just like admitting that getting them together by locking them on the roof is the oldest clich√© in the book, it doesn’t make it any less lazy. (Does anyone remember that great episode of That’s My Bush? I’d love to see a second season of that show.)

I can’t remember the last time I disliked a television show so much. Most shows I just stop watching if I don’t like them. But there was this great TV show that desperately wanted to break free from the crushing web of ego and narcissism and the brief flashes of that show kept me coming back. It was a punishing experience and I don’t plan to go through it again.


July 2nd, 2007

I rather liked the doctor at the end

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip wrapped things up last Thursday. Everyone’s fine: Jordan, her baby, her weird relationship with Danny, Tom’s brother, Tom, Simon, Matt and Harriet, Matt’s magical non-withdrawal, and even drunk Jack, who finally admitted that his personal beliefs conflict with the job he’s supposed to be doing. In the spirit of forgiveness and thankfulness for the occasional good times, here’s a list of things that were good about this show.

  1. I’m grateful we never had to see Jack’s ugly descent into alcoholism. Jack remained my favorite character throughout and it was killing me that they were clearly setting him up for a huge drunken downfall.
  2. Sorkin has a remarkable ability to make tiny peripheral guest characters immediately charming. I think Jordan’s young, sarcastic doctor in the last few episodes was hilarious, and his sense of entitlement and condescension (shared by all the characters) makes sense because he’s, you know, saving lives.
  3. Even though I never understood Jordan and Danny’s relationship and definitely did not believe her for a second when she said she knew she wanted him to be the father of her baby the very first time they ever met, I found myself buying into the whole “we both have baby papers for the other person to sign!” plot. Jordan is definitely the type of person to plan for disaster, to make sure that her baby ended up with someone she trusted. I also liked that Danny was going to ask her to sign those papers even though he didn’t want to. That worked, even if they probably could’ve used seven seasons to develop the characters to the point where the lead-up made more sense.
  4. tomjeter.jpgOn the other hand, I did not like that Tom was going to use Trask but was saved from his own stupidity at the last minute. That struck me as a little cheap. Since that is not a positive point, so I’ll just add: Nate Corddry was great in this show. He should get something good again soon.
  5. That was a seriously amazing set.
  6. When Matthew Perry leans in to kiss somebody, he leans in like he really means it. My stars, that was something!
  7. So why did I watch every single episode, even though Studio 60 is known colloquially in my apartment as “that show we hate so damn much”? It’s fun to see what Sorkin’s writing. He’s got enormous neuroses and hang-ups about all sorts of things, but he’s also got a point of view. It can be (occasionally) funny and insightful as well as frustrating and pedantic. Even in failure, he’s interesting.

So long, Studio 60! You were a strange bag, but you always provided plenty to gab about. I can’t say I’ll miss you, but I will look back on this whole thing with at least a tiny bit of fondness.

6 comments July 2nd, 2007

The More You Know: AFV edition

Head, gut or crotch?

1 comment June 28th, 2007

The More You Know: Pompadour edition

If you’ve never met me, I hope your mental image involves a pompadour.

June 26th, 2007

The More You Know: Washboard edition

A highly underutilized instrument.

June 21st, 2007

The More You Know: Grill edition

TiFaux readers have a standing invitation to come grill food with me in my backyard. Unless you’re a freak.

5 comments June 19th, 2007

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