TV Land

I don’t watch very much TV, so when I do I want something that’s interesting and thought-provoking as well as entertaining. There’s a new show on this year that I really like — and naturally it’s not doing all that well in the ratings. Why?

Because, I think, it’s interesting and thought-provoking as well as entertaining, and what really seems to attract a big audience these days isn’t the smart stuff. So I’d like to urge you to try out Studio 60 on NBC, which comes on (for me, anyway!) at the exact same time Premium editions come out (Monday night at 9:00).

The show explores what’s “wrong” with …yep… TV, and why it’s so dumbed down. It’s set within the production of a Saturday Night Live type show, and on the premiere the executive producer has a Network-like meltdown, jumping in front of the camera to decry how terrible TV is getting. It goes out live and he’s fired, of course, and we’re off and running with the new producers and their fights with the network brass.

NBC’s Bravo cable channel has been running past shows, so if you haven’t tried it and want to get up to speed, check there for past episodes. The bottom line: smart people (you know: like This is True subscribers!) need to support smart entertainment, or else all we’ll get is more of the dumb stuff. So if you have an extra hour in your week, give Studio 60 a try.

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Alas, it was too good for TV: it was canceled after 22 episodes.

22 Comments on “TV Land

  1. As an old West Wing fan, I made sure that I developed a Studio 60 addiction as quickly as I could, and I absolutely agree – intelligent TV is all too rare these day, so Aaron Sorkin’s shows are always a delight.

  2. I love the way Sorkin writes for John Goodman, who did all too brief parts on both series. It reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw on the Eastern Shore of VA: “We’re rural, we’re not stupid.” He can show real respect for the purple middle of America.

  3. I agree that Studio 60 is better than many shows on TV, but overall I find it disappointing. It’s still not quite hit its stride, and interactions between characters are often stilted. It lacks subtlety when it deals with issues. It also gets a little tedious when Sorkin turns it into one big soapbox. Nearly every week Sorkin seems to set up a straw man so that he can then demolish it.

    I have problems with Harriet Hayes: She does *not* dress like the devout Christians I know. And it was hard to take Matt Albie seriously with his ridiculous hairstyle. Am I the only woman who thinks that men who have their hair sticking straight up look silly?

    I’m still following Studio 60 in hopes that it will all come together, but I’m not sure that that will happen.

  4. I agree with Pippa somewhat, but I don’t think Sorkin had the luxury of a slow buildup and development like he did with West Wing. The expectations were already set too high for this one. I do hope the show makes it for a while as there are only about two other shows I like on regular TV. (Lost, Heros, and sometimes the original CSI… would somebody PLEEEEASE kill the Miami one!)

    To spin the conversation a bit, I think our days of depending on the networks is coming to an end. Gov. Schwartzenegger recently signed a bill allowing the telecoms to compete fairly with the cable companies for television content delivery. I think the time is coming when we will be able to choose the content we want MUCH more selectively. I still can’t say that I enjoy advertisements, but I do enjoy observing changes and experimentation that advertisers are going through to deal with the advent of DVRs and Content on Demand.

  5. I absolutely agree with you — it’s a fantastic show and keeps getting better with every episode. I wish people would give it a chance and the credit it deserves.

    For once a show that does not have to rely on killing a character every week to keep the ratings up, and of course what I love about the show is the banter. Matt and Danny (played brilliantly by Mr. Perry and Mr. Whitford) are just brilliant characters to write about and keep pushing each other’s buttons in a remarkable way. As for the “shippy” relationships they are great also. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a show where those kind of relationships are not based on sexual tention for a change.

    I like Mr Sorkin’s show cause it’s unpredictable among other things, and I am thinking because of the nature of the show it is very difficult for him to write himself into a corner. Something that happens easily on other shows.

    I hope the show does not get cancelled. We need something different and fresh on TV and I have to say Studio 60 is it.

    I didn’t realise us Christians have a “specific” dress code…at least when we are not in Church. I have absolutely no problems with Harry. Sarah Paulson does a remarkable job.

    Excuse my English please. English is not my first language.

  6. I was just thinking while watching this show last night that for as much as I like it, I’d better not get attached to it or the characters, ’cause it will probably get cancelled — for the very reason that it is a little more intelligent than the average show . . . (I agree with Jeremy, someone, PLEASE cancel CSI Miami!)

    I am a fan of Aaron Sorkin and his turn of phrase. Like West Wing before it, the play between the characters is intriguing — and while their lives bear no resemblance to mine or most people I know, they are believable.

    Sorkin is a fan of the soapbox (as noted by Pippa), which can at times (I find mostly when I don’t agree) get tedious . . . but none of that deters me from watching (or taping) the show every Monday night.

    I hope that Randy’s blurb in This is True gets more viewers to the show — I was sorry to see West Wing leave the air (I especially enjoyed the last half of the last season and would have loved to see it carry on with Smits and Alda for at least another 13 episodes).

  7. Oh, good — I was beginning to think I was the only person who likes Studio 60. The 2-parter domino effect with John Goodman as a judge in Pahrump, NV almost made me wet my pants. More Studio 60…less CSI Miami.

  8. Excellent show, and for a different take on the same subject give Tina Fey’s 30 Rock a try. It’s made me regard Alec Baldwin as human again and has almost convinced me that I should give SNL another try after perhaps 10 years — Fey is a former SNL writer.

  9. Thanks for flagging Studio 60 Randy. We gotta support smart TV on the rare occasions that it happens.

    Look at what happened to “Firefly.” Lotsa smart people love it – I’ve heard that the box set has sold 600,000 copies – but nobody knew it existed until after it was canceled.

    Pippa and Penandra don’t like the soap-boxing. I’d like to point out that Sorkin is one of the only writer/producers on TV willing to challenge PC orthodoxy by letting non-PC characters actually make their points. Eloquently. They never win the day, but they get to be heard! Isn’t it strange to be calling that a victory?

    Remember the Christmas show? All of that carping by the writers about holes in the Christmas legend, then Sorkin rips your heart out with that beautiful not PC ending.

    It was spectacular, and a reminder that the petty squabbling about Christmas is getting in the way of the much-more-important concepts of “Peace on Earth” and “Good Will Toward Men”. -rc

  10. Thanks so much for calling people to watch this show! I love it, but only know one other person (besides myself) who watches it.

    I loved “Sports Night”. Now I love “Studio 60” and Sorkin’s willingness to explore stereotypes, including his own biases and struggles, in a thought-provoking and hilarious manner.

  11. I have been a devoted fan of “Studio 60” since the first episode. It is one of the best shows running this season, and I would hate to see it cancelled. Not until it’s had a chance to run its course a bit longer.

    It’s so refreshing to watch a show that doesn’t dumb it down for the audience and expects us to have a brain. I can see why it may not get the primo ratings, but I think NBC should keep it in its lineup just to round out the never ending “Law and Order” feast it serves up.

  12. I have to disagree with you on Studio 60. I’m a big Sorkin fan: I got into him back in the Sports Night days, and watched the West Wing religiously. However, when I tuned into Studio 60, I found it a real disappointment. Too many of his shows and themes read as superficial treatments of issues in the real world, with straw men set up for easy demolition as Sorkin pushes his own personal agenda at people.

    Part of the reason that the show’s ratings are failing is a large number of fans like me, who started watching because we love Sorkin’s style, but are getting turned off by the problems listed above. There’s smart TV, and then there’s TV that mocks and belittles mainstream ideas. I really feel Studio 60 is increasingly the latter, at the expense of the former. I stopped watching a few episodes back.

  13. I guess the reason I’m not a Studio 60 fan is that I wasn’t a West Wing fan either. I actually didn’t know that they were both from the same guy, but my first reaction to Studio 60 was that it seemed to be just West Wing in a different environment.

    I watched the first episode, and managed to slog through about half of the second before giving up. It just didn’t appeal to me at all. I never did see the Dancing Angels Sketch or whatever it was that they made such a big deal out of, and I don’t miss it.

    I do miss Firefly, John Doe, and Threshold though.

    And I like 30 Rock.

  14. I have loved this show since the premiere, for the exact same reason — just really smart television, and excellent commentary on the extreme daftness of of “PC” at times.

    The John Goodman episodes were among my favorites, not only for his brilliant talent, but also the storyline with Tom playing Jesus Christ in one of the skits — pure genius! I have replayed the run-through on my DVR about a dozen times, and laugh so hard I cry every single time. If the writers on the real show (SNL) were half this funny, that show would not be in the tank so far as it is. As it stands, it’s completely unwatchable right now.

    Randy, I would like to get your take on the current storyline regarding the impending fine and time-delay being imposed on NBS (and their subsequent refusal) because of the live interview with a solider under attack. Do you feel like that’s something that could be imitated in life, as in art?

    Definitely. While I’m sure this plot point is really referring to the Janet Jackson Superbowl “wardrobe malfunction” (changing it a soldier in the heat of battle makes it more cut and dried), I can see it happening — and can see the suits upstairs wanting to compromise, rather than fight it. -rc

  15. I absolutely agree with you that Studio 60 is a show to watch and keep on the air. It’s not like the usual, easy, “formula humor” shows (e.g. 30 Rock) that the networks put on. Very entertaining!

    I was very pleased that NBC decided to keep it going; it’s been frustrating watching them putting their marketing dollars behind 30 Rock instead of Studio 60 and then hearing that the rating show Studio 60 is lagging so they might cancel it. Duh.

  16. FYI: Harriet is based on Sorkin’s ex-girlfriend, the actress Kristin Chenoweth, who promoted her own album of inspirational music on the Christian television circuit.

  17. The great thing about Sorkin shows is that they tackle real issues. I don’t agree with his take on things most of the time, but I love well written intelligent dialogue. Unlike many people I don’t need my own views shoved back at me (I already know them), I like to hear other points of view. That is probably why I like “This is True” so much: it gives all points of view and tackles stupidity in its many forms.

    Keep up the great work Mr. Sorkin and Mr. Cassingham.

  18. Thank God someone who can reach a lot of people has finally plugged Studio 60. Perhaps the people that don’t like it are not hearing or grasping the dialogue. We can’t be “spoon fed” all the time–sometimes you have to pay attention to get the marvelous humor. Almost all the characters on this show are so interesting and likeable that one actually cares about what happens to them. Guest spots have been great as well.

    I loved Sports Night–fast-paced and witty with, again, very likeable characters (it’s avail. on DVD in case you missed it). TV reception so bad I had to miss West Wing but will someday watch the DVD’s.

  19. I do watch a lot of TV and what you said is just what I have thought for many years. Shows like 60 Minutes, The West Wing and now Studio 60 require the viewer to think and pay close attention to the issues. Apparently, this is too taxing for most people. Studio 60 is not on the same level as The West Wing, but it comes close. The acting is outstanding.

  20. Since I’m an ex-pat and been living overseas (currently Japan) for the last decade plus, I’m not able to see much of what passes for network tv, and haven’t really been interested for much of the reasons you mentioned.

    That said, I’ve been a fan of getting many of the better/best tv programs on dvd and have most of the WestWing series, and agree, if Studio60 is like that, it’s probably for me so I hope it lasts at least long enough to make it to dvd 🙂

    So, with all the talk about whether it’s good, will survive, etc, I went to see what kinds of comments reviews it’s garnering at imdb.
    Shock! It’s still awaiting enough reviews to get a rating.

    Look folks, if other people are so enamored with this program some of them, someone, a few someones, should be doing as Randy has done here and post about it.

    And I support that in general — word of mouth (or mouse) is important for quality to survive, whether it’s a TV show, a good mechanic, or an email newsletter. If it’s good, talk about it — online and off. It helps ensure survival for what you find worthwhile. -rc

  21. you people cant even get the show description to match the episode currently being aired. Its too bad there is not a law for you to come out with a “tv guide” where I know what is going to be aired

    The problem isn’t “tv guide”, the problem is you’re an idiot. We’re not TV Guide, nor are we TV Land or any other TV channel. You’re here whining without even looking at the site you’re on. Get away from the TV and spend some time exercising your brain — it might not be too late. -rc

  22. Have you had the opportunity to watch “The Newsroom”? It showed 10 episodes on HBO last Summer, and was renewed for a second season after just the second episode. Classic Sorkin, but he differed from his previous series by not usually ANY of his previous characters (not even a cameo) and he hasn’t (yet) obviously reused any of his plot points. Netflix just got it on DVD, and heartily recommend getting it!

    I don’t have HBO, but I’ll consider the DVDs. -rc

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