All 2 entries tagged Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip

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December 05, 2006

Studio 60 Bounces Back

I wrote a few months ago about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the new drama from Aaron “West Wing” Sorkin, which has been struggling in the United States. It had potential, with a great cast and high production values. But deep inside was a cavernous hole where the plot should have been.

When I wrote it, it seemed the series was gonna get scrapped. The ever-reliable Fox News pretty much confirmed it. Thankfully they were wrong. It’s been picked up for a full 22-episode series.

So, last week (after Episode 10) I thought about writing another entry. That episode had been pretty good, West Wing-standard in fact. But I held off, just to be sure it wasn’t a blip.

It wasn’t a blip.

Episode 11 was shown last night, and it was fantastic. Events have forced them to make one character pregnant (cos the actress really is), and it’s sped up some of the emerging plotlines. There’s far less preaching, far more direction and much better sub-plots which aren’t just believable, but – crucially for a comedy-drama – funny too.

Last night’s was a Christmas episode, but skilfully avoided being saccharine, which is hard for anyone who works in U.S. television to manage. They’ve still got some moralising (the network is being taken to the FCC for allowing the word ‘fuck’ go out during a live report from Afghanistan), but it’s being much better done than a few weeks ago.

Here’s some comments from viewers:

The episode was great, and I don’t know what to do with myself. Quite unexpected.

I hope the show continues in this direction… The FCC thing, unfortunately, is pretty realistic.

What is this…I am so confused…a skit on the show that was actually FUNNY?!

If only they’d kicked off like this, they wouldn’t have lost half of their audience. But the future’s looking bright.

October 31, 2006

One hit does not equal a franchise

The past couple of months have shown that writing one incredible television show does not forever make you a television genius.

My case studies are the best show ever committed to television – The West Wing – and its poor imitation, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which is facing imminent cancellation in the United States.

The West WingBoth are written by Aaron Sorkin, both are about the inside workings of a powerful empire, they share much of the cast and crew and are filmed on the very same acreage.

Yet Studio 60 has been a fairly colossal flop considering its production costs.

There are two reasons for this. One is that the premise didn’t work. Television executives aren’t sexy, no matter how hard you try to make them so. They are simply arrogant. Pretending they are high-minded, literate and well-versed in the classics does not make for good drama.

Studio 60And secondly, you cannot repeat the success of one television show simply by reusing the same scripts. All of the cliches from The West Wing (especially walking-and-talking) have been used to death in the first six episodes alone. When it’s in the halls of the most powerful building on earth, it’s forgivable. When it’s a television studio, it’s not.

Inevitably when the show is cancelled, Sorkin will claim it’s a victory for commerce over art. But it’s not.

As much as I want to love this show – the cast is brilliant and the dialogue pretty good – the drama is simply implausible.

I suspect Sorkin will decide not to go near network television for a good few years. But can I suggest to him a new subject matter that could be right up his street, and might just get people watching?


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