As a fan of "Sports Night" and "The West Wing," I eagerly awaited Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." As the news of the cast rolled out (Bradley Whitford! Matthew Perry! Ed Asner!) my enthusiasm grew. The pilot was sensational, classic Sorkin and it was the promise of good things to come.
Then the show really started.
Was "Studio 60" a romantic comedy? Satire? Hot-button issue drama? Backstage at a sketch comedy show? Yes, and no, it was all and none of these things. Mostly, it was a mess, a waste of talent in front of and behind the camera and the blame can be laid at the feet of its scribe, Aaron Sorkin.
Clearly miffed with NBC over "The West Wing," and with ex-gal pal Kristen Chenowith and with Republicans and with who knows how many others, Sorkin began peppering the show with non-too-thinly-veiled rants against his detractors, ultimately turning his characters into a gigantic mouthpiece. Instead of inspiring, the show was condescending (comedy can save America! Christianity is stupid! Blacks just need to be told what to do!) and dull.
I know fans of "Studio 60" rally behind the show and say "It was too smart! That's why people didn't like it! They were too stupid to appreciate it." Well, I don't consider myself stupid. I can tell you the primary reason I didn't enjoy "Studio 60" - I didn't care about the characters. The forced romances between Matt and Harriet and Danny and Jordan were practically chemistry free (Danny was basically a stalker before Jordan "succumbed.") The "cast" were all prima donnas and the only highlight was Steven Weber as Jack, the network exec who did what had to be done. Maybe the show should have been about running a network with Weber in the lead, with Ed Asner in support.
And for a show that was supposed to be about the trials and tribulations of mounting a live comedy show every week, Sorkin certainly found his "drama" from other venues (Iraq, Asian land deals, law suits, etc.) I wasn't expecting an SNL retread. After all, "Sports Night" wasn't all about sports. But it WAS the world where the characters worked, and it reflected in their lives and relationships. It's something "Sports Night" understood - the guys and gals at CSC didn't think (or act) like they were better and smarter than everyone else, and they didn't think they were saving the world. You'd have thought national policy stemmed from an NBS soundstage.
I think Aaron Sorkin had too many axes to grind, and that revenge-mentality snuck into his writing. I watched "Studio 60" up through the end, hoping that knowing the show was ending would inspire some stronger writing, but instead we were treated to the hostage crisis and the baby birth. Ultimately, the blame rests with him. He had a great cast, network support and a built-in audience. It's a shame "Studio 60" wasn't a bigger hit, but it's a bigger shame that it wasn't a better show.