'Studio 60': Whitney takes it back (mostly!)

18277__dl_l_1My head hurts, PopWatchers. And it’s not because I’m hung over, like usual. No, my head hurts because Aaron Sorkin has BETRAYED MY TRUST by choosing the week after I very publicly defended the man and his Studio 60 to run THE WORST TELEVISION EPISODE OF ALL TIME.

Let’s see. Which part was most egregious? Was it Simon (D.L. Hughley, pictured) complaining about how the writing staff was a bunch of white guys who all went to Harvard and then managing to hire the only black comedian in L.A. who acts like Chris Stevens’ half brother Bernard from Northern Exposure? Or was it Tom’s dad not knowing what "Who’s on First" is — something my father, who doesn’t even know what NBC is (for real) can still identify/recite? How about all of the assorted war mumbo-jumbo? (AFGHANISTAN!!!) Or… I know! Sorkin trying to make the "art can change lives" point I was trying to make last week but doing it as ham-fistedly as I’ve ever seen him do ANYTHING, and that’s INCLUDING that one time Martin Sheen yelled at God in the National Cathedral!! "You can say their names now, Eli." REALLY??? THIS is how you’re going to convince people that your show can actually be important someday, Aaron?? By name-checking CLIFFORD ODETS?? You are KILLING ME HERE.

addCredit(“D.L .Hughley: Mitch Haaseth”)

Look. I still believe in the redemptive power of television. And I still believe — as evidenced by Tom’s tour-guide monologue for his parents (which would have been terrific if any one of the many other plotlines swirling around it had been even remotely compelling, btw) — that television is necessary because it helps us know who we are, who we were, and who we are becoming. But because I am a scholar of these things, and I am not 9 years old, I do not need a lecture on that (or WWII) (or HUAAC). I just need an hour of entertainment. Remember entertainment, Aaron? That was the stuff you used to put in West Wing episodes, you know, drizzled around Sheen wandering the halls, endlessly repeating "shibboleth" or whatever? Entertainment! What Sports Night was 99-point-9-percent-pure?

Gah. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea you titled this episode "The Wrap Party." [insert sound of my hair being pulled out here]

Now I’m going to have to work twice as hard to defend this damn thing. Thank God for the trio of twit girls. They were funny. ("But what do you DO?") And Lauren Graham. Who makes everything better. Even sucky episodes of Gilmore.

Oh, people… What if every show I like sucks now? PopWatchers! I am descending into madness! Is there any reason why Studio 60 should not be dead to me now?


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  • Kevin

    Great episode last night. It’s been talked about in the past from the press when shows don’t hire black actors in big parts, or shows don’t have any black writers. But it was great to see the topic actually talked about during the show by two main characters of that show. It wasn’t brushed aside. It was a serious discussion of needing diversity on a show. The discussion, the trip to the improv, and the hiring of the comic to be a writer were all handled maturely and with respect. Great episode.

  • fredric

    I’m ready for Friday Night Lights to take over this slot for good.

  • Matt

    Just goes to show that you should have had a heroes tv watch instead of studio 60. not that im saying its a bad show, its one of “its new, so its just good enough” shows that i watch. studio 60 is on its last legs unfortunately. last nights episode bored me, except for the part where they found one of their new writers. i agree to a certain point with kevin on that segment

  • Miles

    there is no reason why the show shouldn’t be dead. It died for me in last nights episode. I thought it was just one cliche after another…. and not even cute cliche’s but the worst cliches imaginable. It was like a shopping list of the worst cliches. I didn’t know TV this bad could still make it on the air.
    1. Conveniently staying for a drink to catch another even worse comedian and giving him a job on the spot. Yes, diversity is great, yes I am minority, so I was more insulted that instead of trying hard to find a real talented comedian, they went with the unfunny guy who wasn’t insulting over the unfunny guy that was. This is only something Aaron Sorkin would do.
    2. The baseball player was a jerk, because that’s what baseball players are, complete jerks who hand out their numbers at parties. Hey, how about the decent guy who the girl is just not as attracted to. How about layering a character even if he’s on one episode.
    3. The three dumb chicks, well, they were funny, but a total cliche.
    4. The parents who don’t understand their kids dream of being a bad comedian, and who have a son away at war, and who scream it at inoportune moments right before the commercial break. Please, yes, i would be more worried about my son away at war over my son doing bad comedy by bad comedy writers who supposedly came to save the network with their amazing brilliance. But please, Mr. Sorkin, insulting parents who have loved ones at war because you feel your role as entertainer is equally as important is not only cliche, but also insulting and demeaning.
    and just like that RECORD the son handed the father and said he would laugh. I realized, that this show was something to put away in a box, and put it in an attic, where all the cliches go and hope no one finds said box ever again.

  • Flick

    Last night’s episode definitely wasn’t one of the best, although I thought the dialogue between Matt and Simon at the bar was pretty amusing. Well, the part where Simon was mimicking Willy Wills “argument tactics” while Matt was telling him to shush. Other than that, the show didn’t seem to have much, if any, coherency. I’m willing to keep giving it a try though.

  • Beetle

    Agreed.
    What gets me (in addition to all that you’ve said, Whitney), is that the name checking and references are consistently from 20+ years ago and/or are pretty obscure.
    Abbot and Costello were genius, sure, but why does it feel like the reality of “Studio 60″ never had “Animal House” or George Carlin or Bill Cosby? Not to mention more recent comedy references — would it kill ‘em to name check, say, “My Name is Earl” or Dave Chapelle or “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”?
    Being literate and witty isn’t the sole path to humor; there’s a lot to be said for absurdity and pratfalls when done well. I want to like “Studio 60″ — it’s choc-full of great talent, if nothing else — but the show is burying the needle on my pretention meter.

  • Lynny

    I really haven’t had any problems with the previous episodes. I like the show, but I do agree that last night’s episode was torturous. I could see the points they wanted to make, but then they BEAT THEM IN WITH A HAMMER. Scenes that would have been interesting or touching if they were a few minutes shorter became tiresome. I think they are starting to mimic their foil, SNL. SNL always seems to drag sketches on too long, making them suck when they would be fine if they knew when to stop. Aaron, please relax, just a little.

  • dan cullinane

    still haven’t seen a single episode so i’m just putting in my ubiquitous and inappropriate plug for friday night lights which everyone, including aaron sorkin, should be watching…you are watching right? right? RIGHT?!?!

  • JP

    “Great episode last night. It’s been talked about in the past from the press when shows don’t hire black actors in big parts, or shows don’t have any black writers. But it was great to see the topic actually talked about during the show by two main characters of that show. It wasn’t brushed aside. It was a serious discussion of needing diversity on a show. The discussion, the trip to the improv, and the hiring of the comic to be a writer were all handled maturely and with respect. Great episode.”
    You have GOT to be kidding me. DL’s first monologue could have come from any black movie from the early 90s, from Boyz in the Hood to I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. And to immediately hire the guy just because he didn’t make a joke about “phat asses?” That’s ham-fisted to the point of insulting.
    Let’s not even go into “AFGHANISTAN!”
    Come on.
    This is terrible.

  • Karen

    Hmm, guess I watched a different episode because I loved it. I’m aware that it took a lot of “hot topics” and shoved them down our throats, but it didn’t bother me because this is television and it’s supposed to take things to the extreme so everyone gets it. I guess I mostly like the show because the acting is so good and I personally like what the show is trying to say. Sure, it’s not a perfect show but I find it very entertaining and look forward to it every week. It’s not dead to me!

  • JakesBoy

    This show has lost me – just doesn’t and hasn’t kept me interested.
    It has been officially removed from our TiVo Season Pass list.
    Bye “Studio 60″

    http://jakesboysbigbadblog.blogspot.com/

  • McGee

    Yes, Aaron Sorkin seems to favor old and/or obscure references, but that’s nothing isolated to Studio 60 (Sports Night’s “Sword of Orion” and “Eli’s Coming,” anyone?) I too have had trouble accepting that Studio 60 is no Sports Night, but I think that’s my problem for expecting it to be. I think there are about five people total–including me–who watched Sports Night, and it got canned. I can’t fault Aaron Sorkin for thinking he might have to mix things up a little to keep this “show-within-a-show” on the air. That said, I agree that he could punch it up a little bit. I did see signs of that patented Sorkin story overlap with the blacklist storyline (which I loved) and Tom’s tour schpiel, but I think it could be better utilized.

  • Dave

    Wait, why shouldn’t we get into Afghanistan? I understand some of the criticisms of last night’s episode (which I happened to enjoy even though it wasn’t one of the better ones), but what, specifically, put people off about the reference to Afghanistan?

  • Chris

    I absolutely LOVED last night’s episode. I’m glad the sketch “comedy” was non-existent. I enjoyed the fact that they made a point to point out that most black comedians (and rappers, actors) are nothing more than the modern-day equivalent of minstrel show performers who re-enforce and confirm stereotypes. I don’t buy that they would hire the guy who was smart but not funny, but I’m interested to see where it went.
    I’m glad they’re dealing with the rich history of Hollywood and the blacklist…honestly, many people DON’T know about this or we don’t talk about it.
    And entertainment is overrated. Sometimes we need tv that makes us think and reflect (which is also entertaining in its own right) rather than just given us a laugh or cry. Sorkin’s show is getting people to talk and argue (mostly about the show itself and its motives) but that’s more than can be said for most tv shows.

  • JP

    Because “Afghanistan!” was basically on par with “I’m so excited…” from Saved By the Bell as a The More You Know moment. How about that?

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