I recently watched the entire run of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, the short-lived comedy-drama from Aaron ‘West Wing‘ Sorkin.
It got very mixed reviews and limited ratings, and kind of limped to the end of its first and only season, and wasn’t renewed. In comparison with the not-entirely-dissimilar 30 Rock, it’s a lot more worthy and less funny, but I enjoyed it; there are signs of changes of direction and tone as the end drew nigh, presumably as they tried to find new ways to draw viewers in.
In my (frankly pretty worthless) opinion, there were two fundamental problems with the show:
1. It kind of assumes that the audience has an enormous familiarity with, and affection for, Saturday Night Live. As a limey, my exposure to it has been very limited, but I’m aware of it and some of its history. So it didn’t trouble me, but I can imagine that audiences of pretty much any nation who are unaware, or actively unfond of, SNL might well be put off.
2. Whilst The West Wing deals with heavy-duty stuff like kidnappings and war and terrorism, Studio 60 is rather hobbled from the start by the fact that, for all the on-screen depiction of concern and hard work, it is ultimately ‘only about a TV show’. I’m not denigrating TV as a medium, but I think the show has an uphill struggle to make some of the plotlines seem as important to the viewer as they appear to be to the characters. This is slightly echoed by the way a lot of the in-show comedy bits aren’t gutbustingly funny, despite the way the in-studio audience may be reacting. There’s a slight mismatch between the way you’re told to react to an item, and the way you may actually react.
For all this, though, I think there was a lot to like about Studio 60, and Matthew Perry did a pretty good job of making me forget he’d been in that other TV programme.
Anyway, I mentioned a Screening Room up above, and by that I mean a new-ish feature on Amazon (UK version) whereby you can watch entire TV shows – including, yes, the pilot episode of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip – for free.
The Screening Room is located here. Keep your feet off the chairs, if you don’t mind. Night vision technology may be utilised to ensure compliance.