What Went Wrong With Studio 60?

With May Sweeps officially over and rerun season in full swing (moment of silence please) we at theTVaddict.com thought we’d get in the spirit of things by re-running a post of our own. In honour of STUDIO 60’s triumphant return to television tonight at 10PM on NBC, we give you “What Went Wrong With STUDIO 60”

You can’t buy the kind of buzz NBC’s STUDIO 60 had in the weeks before it debuted. So why is the show now fighting for its life? We have our theories…

The show is too limited in scope. Could things have been different had STUDIO focused on the operations of the network as a whole as opposed to behind-the-scenes mechanics of a single show? Guess we’ll never know. But it seems hard to imagine that the president of the network and that company’s chairman of the board spend every waking moment thinking about their failing skit show, let alone that the fate of the network seems to ride on its success. If NBC’s fate were tied to that of SNL, the network would have gone under long ago.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE ain’t the White House. Sorkin’s previous hit, THE WEST WING, swept us up in an idealized version of politics. It gave us a president who was everything we could want in a leader and filled even the least politically minded of us with a spirit of unbridled patriotism. But with SNL as the ostensible backdrop, there’s no way to recapture that sense of unity. And more importantly…

… The skits aren’t funny. Sorkin is, without a doubt, primetime’s best dialogue writer. (For those curious, his daytime counterpart would have to be Patrick Mulcahy.) Unfortunately, Sorkin can’t seem to write a skit to save his life. And since STUDIO’s backdrop is a show specializing in skit comedy, that’s a fairly major flaw.

Too many plots feel forced. Are we really supposed to believe that a woman as smart as Jordan McDeere would allow herself to become a food-obsessed buffoon as a result of a pregnancy? Frankly, it would have made more sense for the show to explore a career-driven woman’s decision to abort a child she is not prepared to have. It’s far too early in the show’s run for Matt Albie to fall back into the pill-popping habit. And Danny’s attempts to “romance” Jordan came off as stalkerish.

Don’t get us wrong. STUDIO 60 is brilliant television. At its worst, it is better than practically anything else on the network airwaves. But as we’ve learned time and time again, being good – or even great – isn’t all it takes to succeed in television. If it were, VERONICA MARS wouldn’t be fighting for its life and THIRTYSOMETHING would have lived long enough to require a name change. Something at STUDIO isn’t working for the audience. We’ve told you why we think that might be… what’s your theory?

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  • It’s boring.

  • Nadine

    I agree with most of your observations although I never really cared about the unfunny skits. I know that a lot of people critized that but it didn’t really bother me that much. Studio60 to me wasn’t one of the best shows out there, FNL and B&S are just way better IMO. But I sure enjoyed it although I probably would watch anything with Matthew Perry in it ;-). Hope he’ll find another place somewhere in TV land because I really hate most of his big screen appearances. I’ll still look forward to S60’s return tonight and hope they have an interesting finale prepared. Do you have any information on whether Sorkin knew about the end of the show when he wrote the finale?

  • Sorkin created a version of SNL that doesn’t exist. One only has to read a few excerpts from ex SNL cast members to hear about all the prank calls and fart jokes and drugs and alcohol that were everywhere on SNL. You can’t expect people to tune in and not associate a show on NBC with SNL.

    When I saw the pilot last summer I though great idea but no one is going to buy intellectual comedy. He would have been much better served having Matt and Danny trying to do a “Sorkin” show while dealing with a cast of SNL like characters.

    Total bust of a show based on what I thought it would be this time last year….. Not to get ahead of myself but if they don’t fix Private Practice it will be next years can’t miss show that missed……

  • DJ

    “…a swing and a miss”

    I’ve always loved what Sorkin has done despite the fact it hasn’t always been successful. A Few Good Men was a very good movie, but a so-so stage play. I loved the idealism of the American President and it carried forward into The West Wing. Malice was an interesting, but not a very good thriller. Sports Night was very clever and funny, but those of us who love sports and ESPN etc. thought that the writers had only a passing knowledge of sports and journalism.

    Sorkin continues to write dialogue that’s a delight to listen to. Although his rants become a little high brow, I love that he delves into specific subjects during the course of his shows. The problem is that Sorkin really needs someone to rein him in. He needs someone that he trusts to tell him that an idea while mey be very good, the execution may not be funny or entertaining.

    Case in point, Studio 60 was a very entertaining premise. However, constraining storylines to a live comedy show did not lend itself to Sorkin’s strong suit. Deconstructing comedy is not often funny. 30 Rock works because the situations and characters do funny things and not necessarily the show being produced as a backdrop. The drama was soap-opera drama, not TWW drama. The quirky workoholics of the White House seemed silly when transformed to a Hollywood setting.

    Perhaps Aaron will have better luck on his next venture. I know I’ll be watching.

  • I was very impressed by the writing, but then I never watched the previous Sorkin shows, which I keep hearing were better. I hear this was politically slanted and culturally biased but I didn’t care. I guess maybe it fit my own POV.
    But the thing I find odd is that the same people who seemed surprised that the ‘show within a show’ wasn’t fun are constantly reminding people that Saturday Night Live hasn’t been funny in years. So let’s see, a behind the scenes look as a show everyone says isn’t funny has sketches that aren’t funny. I don’t see the problem here. How is that a surprise?
    Oh well, good shows come and go all the time. I never missed an episode of Raines, knowing full well it never had a chance at being picked up. If NBC will only give us five more Studio 60s, well, that’s five hours of solid entertainment in a TV landscape almost completely dominated by reruns and non-entertaining realty shows. We take what we can get.

  • Isabella

    It’s NOT boring. I love it and will miss it.

  • Tom P

    I was very dissapointed when NBC yanked Studio 60 as I felt Sorkin and Company were just starting to figure out what what they needed to fix to find the right writing rhythym for a great bunch of interesting characters. The main problem that jumped out at me in the first episode was that even though part of me appreciated him tackling a West Wing like debate on the Christian Right, I found it mentally jarring to whole heartedly jump into this particular point couterpoint debate. Upon reflection I believe myself and apparently others needed a lot more foreplay on this issue before shifting into hard core mode on this topic. My brain kept telling I dont want to think about this right now its too confusing, I want to get to know these cool and sometimes sexy characters before agreeing or disagreeing about the merits and dismerits of the Christian Right. IMO Sorking jumping into this debate from the gitgo and spending so much time on it while establishing a varied group of fascinating characters really lost a lot of his audience who apparently never came back. Perry as the talented, souful yet tortured center of this epic was captivatingly charismatic. If you watched this show and didnt love Amanda Peet’s character you had no heart. It was easy to for me to see how Danny fell so hard fo her. Sarah Paulson was a revelation but her characters checkered relationship with Matt was probably a little too checkered at times to be entertaining to watch. Everyone knows its the makeup parts that make any conflicted relationship of real value and that also true for those that are observing the relationship. Its obvious Sorkin feels compelled and loves to have thiese grand soul searching debates on prime time TV and God bless him for going there. However, he had not quite figured out how to successfully interject these serious debates onto a TV program whose central plot is putting on a live comedy show. It was like a race horse stumbling out of the shoot and never catching up to the the pack. I like to believe given Sorkins obvious giant intellect he would have figured it out but I guess we will never know for sure and thats a big loss for all concerned.