When I first heard about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I was totally stoked about the concept. The show promised to take you behind the scenes of an SNL-style late night variety show, throwing you right into the middle of the action, the centre of the politics, and so forth. The cast would be absolutely electric, with Amanda Peet, D.L. Hughley, Bradley Whitford, and Matthew Perry being the biggest names on the list. More importantly, however, the creator was none other than the legendary Aaron Sorkin, the same man behind Sports Night and The West Wing. The first ten minutes of the pilot was simply stunning, ranking right up there with the best on television not only so far this year, but arguably… ever.
Since then, Studio 60 has steadily been losing viewers. Some say that the show is “too smart” for the average North American consumer. That the humor is “too subtle”. In fact, in the most recent couple of episodes — titled “Nevada Day Part 1” and “Nevada Day Part 2” — we see John Goodman, playing a small town judge, outright saying that the show within the show thought it was “so smart.” Maybe so, but that’s almost why I enjoy the Studio 60 that we watch so much (it gets a tad confusing when the show that we watch and the show that is depicted within the show go by the same name).
I recently came across a post on the.[ED]ition comparing Studio 60 with NBC’s other behind-the-scenes-of-a-late-night-variety-show offering, 30 Rock. Whereas Studio 60, in the strictest sense, is more of a drama with plenty of subtle humor thrown in, 30 Rock — starring Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan — is a situation comedy.
The blogger lists a series of pros and cons for each show, concluding that, “Clearly, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is the better show of the two and NBC seems to agree as they extend the drama by another 9 episodes for this season. As for 30 Rock, Fey needs to step up her game and take more risks. The show has been fairly paint-by-numbers so far and is not getting the laughs it should. Whoever is overseeing the production needs to take a step back and let Tina Fey run the show.”
Let Tina Fey run the show. Sounds a lot like Amanda Peet’s character on Studio 60.
Personally, I have religiously tuned in to Studio 60 every Monday evening, captivated by every line of dialogue, following each of the characters through all of their trials and tribulations. Sure, every time Matthew Perry appears on-screen, I can’t help but see Chandler Bing, but I’m sure I’ll get over that with time. It’s the same with Jim Carrey in any movie he does: I either see Ace Ventura or one of his outlandish characters from In Living Color. You know what, that’s okay. By contrast, I’ve watched one, maybe two episodes of 30 Rock, and it feels like every other sitcom out there. Sitcoms, for better or for worse, are a dying breed.
Studio 60 “too smart”? Maybe the American (and Canadian?) audience is just too dumb.
Oh, and in case you missed the pilot, here’s a brief clip to whet your whistle: