Studio 60, Comedy, and Politics

Just because its posted at MSNBC, don’t expect a commentary on the new NBC show Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip to be entirely complimentary. While its no secret to readers here that I’m a big fan of Aaaron Sorkin and have been rooting for this show, it doesn’t mean that I cannot recognize its imperfections. The article complains that:

The problem isn’t that “Studio 60” is taking comedy too seriously. It’s that the show isn’t taking comedy seriously enough. Despite aiming for intelligence and meaning, the show simply shows no signs of knowing enough about comedy to be credible…

Mostly, Sorkin has reached for importance by dousing the scripts with overwrought discussion of public-policy issues. He has covered how the fictional “Studio 60” runs into racism, religious prejudice, and conservative excesses. He has, in only seven episodes, centered plots around the war in Afghanistan, the blacklist, homophobia, and drug laws. This show is as serious as a heart attack. It would arguably be impossible to create a show about comedy that was less fun than this.

The criticisms are largely true, but miss the point. Those looking for a show about a SNL-type show are inevitably going to be disappointed. It fails to capture how such a show is really written, and fails to show its humor. However, Studio 60 is no more about a comedy show than Sports Night was really about a sports show. Studio 60 is really just a way to continue The West Wing in a new venue. The ultimate tip off is having the White House Deputy Chief of Staff as producer of the show within the show. When looking at these characters, I’ve also been curious as to how Sorkin plans to develop Harriet Hayes. My suspicion is that she is going to turn into the show’s Arnold Vinick. Just as Vinick played the Republican which liberal Democrats could love on The West Wing, Harriet Hayes shows signs of becoming the old fashioned religious person that us secular liberals can learn to love. We saw signs of this Monday when her views on homosexuality led her to being attacked from both the left and the religious right, and as we see her willingness to participate in all those skits mocking the religious right.

Studio 60 is about Aaron Sorkin characters speaking Aaron Sorkin dialog about the issues which matter to Aaron Sorkin. It doesn’t matter whether these characters are in the White House or on the set of a television show. Those who want a funny show about making a television show should buy the DVD’s of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Studio 60 is a totally different type of show, but hopefully setting it in an SNL-like television show is enough to get enough people to give it a try and possibly get hooked.

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  1. 1
    kj says:

    My only complaint about the show has been the dialed-down dialogue. I want “Sorkin to be Sorkin” and let it rip a little faster and a little more. I think he’s spent more time on character development than with either Sports Night or the West Wing. On those shows, the characters developed via their lines and slower, over time, and less via the set-up. I think, anyway and hey, minor points. I was happy to see it get picked up for the entire season after all the rumors to the contrary.

    I’d love to see Vinick show up on Studio 60. ;-b

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    It’s more likely they’d work in Alan Alda as himself (such as with Lauren Graham) or as a new character than as Vinick. After all, I believe Vinick was leaning towards accepting that job in the Santos administration.

  3. 3
    kj says:

    Ron said: “After all, I believe Vinick was leaning towards accepting that job in the Santos administration.”

    You’re right Ron, I think he was. 😉

    Just caught up with the last two episodes (Nevada Day I & II), which I thoroughly enjoyed. Taking the play out of the studio worked better for me. And John Goodman, pitch perfect. (Almost too pitch perfect.) And Brian got to be Brian Hackett again.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Plus John Goodman appearing is also a case of the White House Deputy Chief of Staff facing the Repubican Speaker of the House, who temporarily became President on The West Wing (when Bartlett stepped down due to the kidnapping of his daughter and the VP spot was vacant).

    It is sort of like looking at The West Wing’s alternate universe where the same people are there but they have different jobs.

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