A Meandering Meditation on Columbus Short, 'Studio 60,' and Soup

Short_lOh, actor-dancer-choreographer Columbus Short—a few brief months ago, your name might’ve been mistaken for must-avoid special feature on the Bicentennial Man DVD. At best, you could’ve hoped for the immortal tag, Guy Who Slept With Britney Spears But All We Did Was Sleep, Honest. And today? You’re the star of the surprise hit Stomp the Yard. And that’s not all! You’re also party to the slo-mo multi-Prius pileup that is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.

In case you haven’t been watching (and unless you own a Learjet made of non-conflict diamonds, you haven’t been), Short plays Darius (pictured), the only black staff writer on the SNL-ish Studio 60. Being the only black writer on Studio 60 is almost like being the Only Staff Writer Period, except that’s there’s also an Only Woman Writer (Lucy Davis) flitting around, plus a Damaged Genius (Mark McKinney) who Yodas to and fro, giving the greenlight to awful-sounding pitches like "The Husky Gymnast." So Darius already has his work cut out for him, one would imagine.

Ah, but there’s another wrinkle! Darius is soon butting heads with Simon, the Only Black Castmember of Studio 60, and the guy who "saved" Darius from a life of dead-end club bookings and laughless stand-up. Now Simon expects payback, in the form of Darius’ fealty: Simon wants his pawn’s pen on every "black" sketch, which, I guess, means every Simon sketch, since Simon, on stage and backstage, is a character defined almost entirely by his blackness.

But Darius doesn’t want to be Simon’s, er, serf, so he passes the"black" stuff along to Only Woman Writer (also Lonely Woman Writer,natch—but that’s a rant for another day), who doesn’t understandcontemporary African-American vernacular, presumably because of herwomanness, her Britishness, and her poorly-writtenness. And thisprompts Simon to "kick [Darius'] ass nice and slow," in the smugphrasing of overseer, exec producer and Godlike writer-of-everythingMatt Albie.

Where’s all this going? Nowhere good, I’m guessing. Putting Short’scharacter in a kicked-dog posture, with Simon doing the kicking, mightbe a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of H.N.I.C. syndrome.But something about Albie’s complicity in it is just… icky. I senseAaron Sorkin sidling up to something he doesn’t really understand—whichprobably means (and I’m just spitballing here) that he’ll cut hislosses in the near future. So don’t get too attached to Columbus Short,whom I keep wanting to call Campbell Scott, who makes me think of soup.And my own name, which is what it all comes back to, anyway. I’m nowso far up my own blog, there’s no hope for return. I’m going out forsoup. Here endeth the free-association.

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  • GOB

    If a blogger in the forest writes an entry about a tv show that no one watches, will anyone read it? (cue crickets)

  • Rebekah

    Columbus Short is a great actor. I hope they keep him on Studio 60. I loved his character in his first episode, but Sorkin does need to give him more depth. Love the show too, despite most reviews I read.

  • Lora

    I missed you Scott

  • mike

    I’m a loyal viewer to Studio 60. I don’t like all of the characters pairing off. It’s not Studio 60 90210. I was hoping for at least a hint of good sketch comedy. I found it in 30 Rock and surprising, on Saturday Night Live. Ease off of the Love Connections, AAron.
    BTW, I’m not rich. Don’t tell anyone.

  • Jennifer

    I watch Studio 60 and I’m a poor college student. But I only watch it because I leave my TV on after Heroes– which is ironic in a way, because the only reason I started watching Heroes was so I could have something to watch before the much anticipated Studio 60.
    That being said, I think Studio 60 has gotten progressively worse. The romances are ridiculous and entirely unappealing. This story about Simon and Darius is also ridiculous and I agree it’s going nowhere except to the same confused, preachy place the rest of the stories on this show go.
    And to think, the pilot had so much promise.

  • Matt

    I have to agree Jennifer – I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an intruiging pilot only to see such laughably bad schlock. The fake sketch comedy made me cringe so badly I had to stop watching.

  • Lorenzo

    Welcome back, Mr. Brown. Where the hell have you been? And writing the “hit list” does not count.

  • Amy

    I appear to be the only pop culture nerd who loves Studio 60, so I’m probably also the only one who’s tired of EW ragging on Studio 60. We get it. You think it’s too smart, not funny, not good and only for the uber educated and uber rich. I don’t have a jet, but I do share Joran’s opinion of reality television, so leave me my Studio 60 and I’ll leave you your American idol. To each his own.

  • Fatima

    Dear EW,
    You are kicking a dead horse. Your typical backpeddling on your stance has been made QUITE obvious. We get it! You hate it! Do you not realize you are being even more smug by thinking you are above a show that you think is smug? Its hyper-smugness! At least they are earnest. You, however, are just meandering.

  • Karla

    I agree with Jennifer, though now Heroes is getting on my nerves, too.
    I was watching both shows last night and going – what, do I have seasonal affective disorder, or do both of these shows drag and/or suck?
    I don’t own a Prius, but I got me a bigfat education, and Studio 60 is filling me with an existential ennui – not to mention inertia.
    The story arc with Simon and Darius is absurd and manipulative and preachy. And the romances? Yoikes.
    NBC, what’s happening?

  • Nina

    You know, I like Darius but can’t stand Simon.
    I only watch this show for Stephen Webber. He makes the show endurable. Without him, I wouldn’t even bother.

  • Jess B.

    I actually gave up on Studio 60 after the episode where they signed that guy to the show. I just couldn’t watch it anymore, for fear that I’d throw something at my TV and have to buy a new one.
    I really, really, REALLY don’t like the argument that the show is unpopular because it’s “too smart.” I’m not saying it’s dumb, but it’s not like they’re discussing super-complicated topics in super-nuanced ways, either. I’ve got a four-year degree in broadcast, and I intern for a late night comedy show, and I STILL don’t like Studio 60. So I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s not over my head.
    No offense to anyone who wants to watch it, of course. I know plenty of folks who like it, and each to his own. But saying that it’s “too smart” is a poor excuse.

  • Ang Knee

    If I were rich, I wouldn’t have any use for TV. I’m enjoying Studio 60 more and more. I’m not sure what to make of the Simon/Darius storyline yet. Maybe it’s heading for an icky preachy place. Here’s hoping!

  • Ron Mwangaguhunga

    First: It is courageous to tackle the Third Rail of Comedy Writing, namely — the lack of diversity in the writers’ room. Those questions are usually avoided with a clever one-liner (For further reference, see Jon Stewart on any given night, answer the proverbial Diversity Question). I just think it’s being tackled wrong — icky, as you say. The problem is more about the clubiness of Writers’ Rooms. Comfort. Common Background. Common senses of humor. I think it would be so much more interesting to deal with Darius trying to “assimilate” into a room full of white writers from Harvard Lampoon than in this dysfunctional PC-ish comedy room creation of Sorkin. It would be so relevant and interesting. Alas …..

  • Ceballos

    Good to have you back, Mr. Brown!

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