'Studio 60': That's a wrap

Weber_lI’m not going to mourn now for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which limped off the air last night after tying up all the grim plot strands of the last few episodes in a pretty bow in time for the final curtain. (Spoiler alert: Tom’s brother got rescued from AFGHANISTAN, Jordan survived her postpartum complications, Jack decided not to make Simon apologize for his intemperate remarks to the press, and Matt and Harriet decided to give it another go. Really, did you expect otherwise?) I’m not grieving now because the series really died a few months ago, as it became clear that Aaron Sorkin’s intellectual ambitions for the show outstripped its ability to convey those ideas with heart, humor, drama, and three-dimensional characters — and as it became equally clear that audiences didn’t care about the backstage drama among pampered showbiz folk as much as they cared about the high-stakes drama at the White House on The West Wing. I’ve had plenty of time to adjust to how my initial euphoria over this show was overtaken by disappointment, dread, and ultimately resignation.

In the last four episodes, Sorkin finally ratcheted up the drama quotient by afflicting the characters with recoginzable human problems, but it was too little, too late. And too bad, since Sorkin had a couple of subtle but worthwhile points to make that may have gotten lost in all the melodrama. First, as the flashbacks indicated, that period of national unity and resolve following 9/11 was a lot shorter than many of us may remember; it took only a few weeks before people on either side of the political spectrum started demonizing each other and deeming each other insufficiently patriotic. Second, as Jack grew to realize (in the middle of a drunken stupor), the Hollywood blacklist may have been made possible by well-known McCarthyist politicians, but it was actually devised and implemented by faceless, timid studio executives operating in secrecy. And Jack realized that he didn’t want to be one of those cowards — especially after the way he’d pushed Matt and Danny out the door years before after a post-9/11 sketch resulted in threats of an advertiser boycott.

To me, Steven Weber’s Jack (pictured) has been the most fascinating character on the show, since he’s the only one who seems not to have been blessed (or cursed) with ideological certainty. He means well, but as a corporate executive, he’s usually  been inclined to sacrifice idealism for pragmatism. Despite his inner conflicts, he usually comes through in the clutch and does the right thing, astonishing no one more than himself every time he grows a conscience. Weber’s fast and loose portrayal always caught me off guard; he was like a younger, smoother, less sleazy James Woods. It’s one of the things I’ll miss most about the show — that and the potential for intelligent commentary on our media age delivered in an entertaining package. For that, I’ll have to rely on Tina Fey’s more oblique, absurdist take over at 30 Rock.

addCredit(“Steven Weber: Mitch Haddad”)

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  • Wendi

    The best part of the show was Matt and Danny’s relationship. If the program had focused on that first, maybe we would have cared more about how they reacted to personal/work/ideological issues. But it didn’t, so we didn’t. A better show might be one that focused on Matt and Danny’s lives in between Studio 60 gigs — how they went from unemployed traitors to the only people who could rescue a dying show.
    Matt and Bradley, I love you both and will watch anything you’re involved with. Aaron, ditto.

  • Todd

    You may not be mourning the show, but I know I still am. After “Sports Night” died a too-quick death, I was really hoping this could take its place. It was a similar idea, but actually presented as an hour drama instead of a half-hour sitcom (since while it was funny, it didn’t follow the characteristics of a typical sitcom). Even some of the stories were recycled a bit, but it finally seemed like maybe they’d have a chance to live on. But sadly no. I was definitely a fan of the show and the first “K&R” episode a few weeks ago may have been the best episode of anything I saw all season (although why, after 3 “K&R” episodes, did last night’s have a different title?). Hopefully Sorkin can manage to find a way to bring something back that’ll stick because I’ve definitely enjoyed his stuff so far.

  • Floridaboy8703

    Heralded as the second coming of a clever sitcom. It failed to impress 10% of the population. I can admit to never having watched a single episode. But I remember popwatch raving about it when it was initially announced as as how..
    GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN!
    You couldnt live up to your own hype dear studio.

  • Media Maven

    The series DVDs are already in the top 100 bestsellers on amazon.com. Weren’t they just cleared for pre-order? Seems the fan base is small but loyal.
    P.S. I agree with Wendi that Matt and Danny were the best relationship on the show. Wish that had been Aaron Sorkin’s obsession instead of the never-ending she’s-religious/he’s not Harriet-Matt wankfest. Felt like a multi-million-dollar 22-episode bid by Sorkin to woo back his ex, Kristin Chenoweth. And it reportedly worked. Warner Bros./NBC should bill him.

  • Kris Peterson

    I liked the show. I looked at Matthew Perry in a different light, as well as Amanda Peet (Peat….?). I thought that the casts’ delivery was great….from the actual art standpoint. I hated “Friends”. It was so square. But I liked the show and was disappointed when I heard that it was cancelled..

  • Pai

    Funny that the last show had the same title as one of the best Sports Night eps. But that just pointed out further how this show was not up to that level.
    But kudos to Aaron if he gets Kristin back.
    Anyway back to the final show, this was as up and down as it is possible to get. When you know what’s going to happen at every turn, the snappy dialogue seems pinched.
    The show reached a high point with the ep featuring the New Orleans musicians and then ka-splat. Sorry, I won’t miss it. And we’ll get to see all these people again because they are fine talents.

  • Dio_K

    Completely frustrated with this show and how it turned out. Like nearly everyone else who stuck around to the bitter end, I had great hopes. Aaron Sorkin is amazingly talented. I loved his other shows and his movies. And the cast on this thing! Excellent point Mr. Susman, Weber’s char did become the most watchable. So how did it go so wrong, so quickly? I’d love to know the insider story on this. Hey, EW, how’s that for an article? How did something so right go wrong-told by the producers, writers, cast and crew? I’d love to know what they think.

  • Anonymous

    I appreciated that they finally had someone translate Lucy. I have not understood a word she has swallowed all season.
    The final exchange between Matt and Danny was preposterous.
    Sorkin could have done anything in those final episodes.

  • Ang Knee

    [comment below]

  • RIP, Studio 60

    It is a shame…Judd Hirsch’s anti-modern-media diatribe that led off the opener showed the potential and ideals Sorkin must have felt about the show’s concept. Too bad he got wrapped up in the Harriet/Matt who-cares?-fest…it would have been a lot more engaging as a scathing indictment of the current “entertainment” landscape – with it’s innumerable three-quels, boring music, and screechy, yowling political talking (empty) heads on TV (yes, Glenn Beck and Anne Coulter, I mean BOTH of you!) – but Sorkin decided melodrama, leavened with dry humor, would make his point better…ah well…maybe next time…

  • Maureen

    I was a huge Sports Night fan — perhaps the biggest. I hope he comes back to TV, but with more of an inner critic.

  • Peggy

    This show had Sorkin’s trademark “I’m superior” tone all over it. The casting choices were a mess. Bradley Whitford’s “life is so hard” character wore thin-fast. Tim Busfeld’s cartoonish “save the day” director was cringe worthy. Overall, the characters were just annoying and the plot lines were a stretch, at best. I’m a liberal too, however, Sorkin’s personal political & religious opinions (week after boring week), felt more like a class audit than “entertainment.” I don’t know who over estimates their “talent” more-Sorkin or David Chase.

  • CZP

    This is a lame review from someone that never liked the show. The finale was excellent, and it’s a shame that the show is gone forever now, but we still get gems like “The Real Wedding Crashers” and “The Spelling Bee”. Thanks for attempting to make an excellent show for your fans Aaron Sorkin, and for assembling one of the best ensembles of the television season. We’ll be anxiously awaiting your next television venture and your writing the way you can only do it.

  • Janeway

    I will miss Studio Sixty, but as much for what it was, as what it had the potential to become. With such a great cast and great people behind the scenes, given time it could have evolved into the show it should have been. I agree that Steven Weber’s character was the best, the struggles he was going through seemed very real and a great commentary on the state of the media today. I especially liked the episode about whether to fight the FCC fine. Maybe a program about making a late night entertainment show wasn’t the best forum to address these issues- after all some of them just aren’t funny.

  • Marie

    The best part of the first show was the strong female character of Jordin. Finally, a smart woman in a position of power … and she soon fell victim gossip about her past, self-doubt and an unplanned pregnancy … maybe, not so smart.

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