Monday, August 20, 2007

Studio 60 - R.I.P.

The Fall TV season will soon be upon us (and not a moment too soon!) but one of my favorites from last season won't be on the schedule. I know when NBC announced that they would air not one but TWO shows set behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show ala SNL, many people had bets on which one would get canceled. Would 30 Rock, the Tina Fey half hour version starring Alec Baldwin make the cut or Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the Aaron Sorkin hour version featuring the star-studded ensemble cast be the winner? As it turns out, despite having ratings than were less than stellar, 30 Rock lives on for another season and Studio 60 died a quiet death. Although mourned by a few fans (hence the cancellation), the ratings for Studio 60 were actually better than those for 30 Rock. Go figure...

The ostensible reason for the lack of ratings was that, although Studio 60 was classic Sorkin--smart, topical, well-written, well cast, well acted--it just wasn't funny. Certainly not as funny as Alec Baldwin's self-important Jack Donaghy or Tracy Morgan's diva-esque Tracy Jordan. And certainly not as funny as one might expect for a series about a sketch comedy show. And herein lies the rub--it wasn't SUPPOSED to be funny. Studio 60 was an ensemble drama. It was The West Wing set in the world of television rather than politics. Sure, maybe the comedy sketches could have been funnier. Maybe the show could have exposed the back-biting, power tripping and insanity of the behind the scenes look at a Hollywood production.

But Studio 60, like The West Wing, was based on the presumption that those who work in the industry--like those who make a career in politics--are noble, decent, honest and idealistic souls. Having lived in D.C., I found the integrity of Sorkin's White House a bit hard to swallow. I mean I WISH politicians had the social conscience of Toby Ziegler or Josh Lyman, but we all know better, don't we? Studio 60 was Sorkin's arena for bringing up a variety of topical issues--the Iraq war, the religious right, censorship. And if people had seen the show for what it was--a drama exploring a variety of social topics set in the world of television--it might have succeeded.

Unfortunately, it didn't. But it's not the first time a show that I've loved has been given the shaft. Here's a few more shows that went to an early grave despite being of much higher caliber than The Bachelor or According to Jim:

1. Sports Night - another Sorkin gem set behind the scenes of an ESPN-like sports show. Starring Peter Krause before Six Feet Under and Felicity Huffman before Desperate Housewives, Sports Night featured classic Sorkin witty dialogue and great character interaction. And Joshua Malina! Sigh...

2. My So Called Life - Claire Danes starred as Angela Chase in this realistic look at teen life which also featured a young Jared Leto and Bess Armstrong as Angela's mother. Canceled after only 19 episodes, that last show still haunts me. Brian (played by Devon Gummersall) has coached--ala Cyrano--Jordan Catelano (Leto) into winning back the heart of Angela. Even though he himself has a long-standing crush on her. At the end of the show, Angela realizes it was Brian's heartfelt words and not Jordan's and then...

I'll never know what might have happened. Aaarrggghh!

3. Cupid - starring and produced by Jeremy Piven and co-starring Paula Marshall, this show was about a man who claimed to be the Roman god of love and insisting he was tasked by Zeus to unite 100 couples so that he can return to Mount Olympus. Is he Cupid or is he crazy? We will never find out because ABC juggled the show's scheduling so much they killed any chance of it finding an audience. Those who did find the show still sorely miss it...

4. Action! I was at a party the other night and someone brought up this short-lived satirical comedy starring Jay Mohr as producer Peter Dragon and featuring the wonderful Ileana Douglas. I'm a sucker for inside Hollywood fare and this was a bitter, cynical and unflinching look at the business.

5. Profit - before Adrian Pasdar was one of the Heroes, he was a psychopathic corporate climber in this show about ambition, greed and murder. Dark, edgy and totally repellent--in the best possible way! The most recent of the Ocean's flicks stole a bit from this show--in one episode, Jim Profit puts a tack inside his shoe and steps on it in order to skew and thus pass a polygraph exam. A similar scene in Ocean's 13 has Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) pulling the exact same trick.

6. Buffalo Bill - Dabney Coleman, Joanna Cassidy and Geena Davis before she was--well, Geena Davis, starred in this sitcom about the outrageously obnoxious host of a local TV talk show. Acerbic, witty and a hell of a lot of fun! What is it about me and liking all these shows featuring men who are @$$holes? Think maybe I have something to work out in therapy? Hmmmm...

Are there any short-lived shows that you sorely miss?

1 comment:

  1. Friday Night Lights...It's back this season but it's just too brillant to be around much longer. I almost missed it myself until summer boredom sucked me in. And despite your protests about Pirates, I could never endure another viewing...never! :)