Few people, I’m sure, were as excited as I was about the announcement last April that Aaron Sorkin was going to have a new TV show in the 2006-7 season. I blogged about setting my Tivo to record it six months before the show aired. But after watching this last episode (“Monday”) of Studio 60, preceded as it was by a string of incredibly uneven episodes, I’m throwing in the towel. I simply can’t watch anymore. It’s like visiting a hospice where talent lays dying every week.
This show is such a disaster that makes me have to re-think whether the previous Sorkin shows I loved so much–the early seasons of The West Wing and my dear, cherished Sports Night–were really as good as I thought they were. (For Sports Night, yes. Especially season 1. For West Wing…the jury’s still out.)
Studio 60 seems to have it all: a pretty cushy time slot with a buzz show (Heroes) leading in to it. Plenty of promos from the network. A rapid fan base generating buzz early. A cast that most producers would sacrifice their aged mothers for. Guest stars! Sting playing a lute! But all this is thrown out the window by the wildly varying tone, under- or over-written character development, and the utter improbability of pretty much every situation. I’ve watched episodes of 24 where I have to suspend my disbelief less. The comedy is flat, the drama shrill and preachy, the sexual tension weird and creepy when it’s not cold and lifeless. Is it a comedy? Then why do the sketches all suck? Is it a drama? Set at a comedy show? Why? Are we supposed to care about millionaires who have to put on a show once a week? What the hell went wrong?
Then I remembered: Sorkin’s now clean and sober. That’s what’s different from the earlier shows! I say, get this man a speedball, stat! As much as I can appreciate the nobleness of his sobriety, man do I miss the art he seemed to be able to create while seriously high. I’m afraid we have to score some blow, euthanize Studio 60, and start over. The guy who wrote this bit of Sports Night dialogue, “Sometimes it’s worth it, taking all those pies in the face. And some days you just stand there, waist deep in pie” deserves as much and should understand. Right now, he’s waist deep in pie.