Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Monday, September 18, 2006

Let's get the basic stuff out of the way quickly. I don't really like Aaron Sorkin's previous shows. I know this is heresy to serious TV snobs, but Sports Night did nothing for me. I really tried very hard to watch West Wing since our friend Peter James Smith was a semi-regular, but I just couldn't do it. I'm not sure if it's his "snappy" dialogue that turns me off or his general resistance to plot, but his shows just bug me.

That said, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip wasn't that bad. The cast (who I was predisposed to dislike, since it contained such dreadful screen presences as Amanda Peet and D. L. Hughley) actually worked reasonably well together, and almost everyone seemed to handle the patter reasonably well. Plus, it's got Carlos Jacott and Evan Handler in smaller roles (who have built up a significant reserve of goodwill in my book from their work in assorted Noah Baumbach films and It's Like, You Know... respectively), so that's always a plus.

What really bothered me about the pilot, however, was the insertion of Sorkin-related transcontextual information into the main character of Matt Albie (played by Matthew Perry). The main thrust of the pilot centers on Albie being forced to return to television, since a long-running drug problem and recent positive test for drugs made it impossible for him to get insured to work on a feature film. Now, not only does this plot hinge on a fairly obscure element of film financing, but it seems to explicitly identify Albie as Sorkin (both being a high-profile TV writer who was run off a show after a high-profile drug bust and has been unable to make a transition into feature films).

Which would be fine if the pilot episode didn't contain dozens of lines stating, without qualification, just how talented Albie is. Once we get the outright identification of the Albie character with Sorkin (who is writing this script, remember), the repeated insistences of his own brilliance get a little hard to take. And now, a month or so after watching the pilot, all I'm left with is the idea of Sorkin, bitter and possibly fueled by crack, hammering away at his beloved Macintosh with line after line about just how brilliant he truly is.

Reviewed by Padgett Arango
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