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Eric: Four words that have me very hopeful for tonight's episode of Studio 60.

"Story by Mark McKinney."

Crush their heads, Darrell. More after I actually see it. Or not. But still. Dude.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at November 6, 2006 11:13 PM


Comment from: Prodigal [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 12:49 AM

I must admit that I kept wondering exactly whom Sorkin was carrying out a vendetta against in tonight's episode - not that I didn't enjoy the heck out of it, but still.

About two-thirds of the way in, I said to my folks "I have no idea exactly how this could possibly get any worse. Just that it will." Can't wait to see the rest of the shoes drop in a week.

Comment from: joeymanley [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 8:29 AM

When the producer guy was agreeing to cut the offending sketch, he said something about how it was a petty "line drawn in the sand" about internal TV politics that nobody watching would care about.

Which reminded me of your earlier comments about the show itself, so I found this interesting.


Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 9:49 AM

The first scene between Matt and Danny was recording-the-creative-process gold.

Comment from: John Troutman [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 10:11 AM

It also featured John Goodman, and if I believe in anything in life, it's that Goodman = GOLD.

Comment from: Bo Lindbergh [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 11:03 AM

If this Studio 60 thing is so good, why isn't it being serialized on the web already?

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 11:42 AM

Well, I would watch, but it appears there's nobody home!

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 11:57 AM

If this Studio 60 thing is so good, why isn't it being serialized on the web already?

I've done what I can to get the ball rolling.

Comment from: Pseudowolf [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 12:37 PM

What I loved was Goodman's character basically taking the show's crew (and, in a meta way, the show itself) to task for all their smug "we are so much smarter than anything else on tv" attitude. Here's hoping this marks a turning point where Studio 60 starts being an actual show and not Sorkin's personal soapbox.

Comment from: Daven [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 1:08 PM

The episodes are online. You can download them from NBC.com anytime you want. They air them first and then put them up. You have to put up with one commercial, but it's still good.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 4:34 PM

All episodes? I think only the latest was available when I looked.

Comment from: Daven [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 7, 2006 5:17 PM

Ah, my mistake. I saw this site and assumed that NBC would have all the episodes...


Comment from: Nentuaby [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 11, 2006 12:43 AM


Were heads crushed? Inquiring minds demand to know! :)

Comment from: larksilver [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 11, 2006 10:11 AM

It was to be continued. /sigh

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 11, 2006 3:52 PM

My wife the J.D. is watching part one now and says it's the most realistic portrayal of a judge she's seen on tv.

Comment from: stankow [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 12, 2006 5:01 PM

You know what I hate? When someone you've never met before in your life, with whom you have no experience whatsoever, acts like an ass and then laughs about how "You thought I was an ass!"

Well, yeah. Because you were an ass, and if you think that no judge/doctor/cop/whatever has ever been an ass, then you are wrong, whatever it is that you are.

And it goes double for people who use that to prove a point, and triple that for people who are in a position of power when they do it, because it's not like anyone's going to tell a judge, "Wow, you couldn't possibly be this much of an ignorant racist prick! You are obviously joking! Ha ha!" Especially when you continue to act in a manner that demonstrates that if anyone had said that, you'd've asked the deputy to shoot him or her dead.

I really, desperately want to like this show. Tom and Simon are good characters. Jack's growing on me, and even Danny is starting to get a little fire. But the transparent "Aaron is the smartest guy in the room"ness of it all is unbearable.

Comment from: Zachary [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 13, 2006 9:56 PM

I really want to like this show too. But the preachiness went through the roof in the latest episode, and it resolved in the most corny and cliche manner possible (Except for Jack's little tirade).

Comment from: Dragonmuncher [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 13, 2006 11:12 PM

Eh, tonight's episode wasn't exactly preachy.

It did have debates, and it did tend to favor one side of the debate more than the other. The whole "Harriet and the gays" subplot, with Harry's best defense being that gays have only been out in the open for the last few decades, so people need more time to get used to them. Not the best defense, kid.

As for the "hicks are people too!" I agree with stankow. Judge Goodman was entertaining, especially in the second episode, but he didn't accomplish what it seemed the show was trying to do.

Everyone was telling us that "hey, states that don't have coastlines are smart, too!" Yet when Judge hears about the "Jesus Christ!" sketch, he takes it as an insult to God and churchgoers, instead of the send-up of Standards and Practices it is.

Moving on, the ending of the legal subplot was a little too pat, for me. It was nice to see a little nod to the troops without turning it into something ostentatious, as usually happens.

I'm really digging Jack. He sometimes seems like a hardass, but he's a genuinely good person underneath. The little rant at the end of the episode shows that, I think.

The cameracide was part of Jack's efforts to keep a lid on the situation. He didn't want any of the legal stuff leaked to the press, just like he didn't want any of what was already in the press (the Jordan stuff) leaked to Mr. Chinese Investor.

Comment from: reebchan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 14, 2006 1:36 AM

You had me and you lost me, Mr. Sorkin.

This episode was possibly one of the worst forty minutes of story-telling I've ever seen. I say forty minutes because after the Matt and Lucy scene, I actually turned off the television in disgust, missing the entire last act (and one of the preachier parts of the episode). I couldn't stand the misogynistic, racist, completely unfunny "jokes" or the holes in the plot three miles wide.

I am the exact demographic that Sorkin is trying to attract. I develop an allergic reaction when I travel south of the Mason-Dixon line. I get the references to Strindberg or Gilbert and Sullivan without Wikipedia's help. I knew that the original Twain quote had the word "boots" in it, not "shoes", and while it's attributed to Twain, it didn't actually originate with him: http://www.twainquotes.com/Lies.html

And I am a total supporter of gay rights, and yet even I wanted to smack Matt across the face for his preachy doggerel.

I desperately want to like this show. I've liked everything else of Sorkin's that he's ever written. But he's lost me completely with this episode, and I see no reason to go back.

Comment from: siwangmu [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 14, 2006 3:02 AM

How do you know which section was preachiest if it's one you didn't see?
I appear to share much ideological ground with you, but I'm not going to be able to share any ground on show opinions with you unless you can make clear what you're specifically talking about; where was the show misogynistic, racist and plot-hole-y, specifically, for you? I might even agree with you on some of it, as for example I found British writer's plotline to not improve the gender depictions on the show, exactly. But I can't agree or disagree without more idea what your problems with it are. Plus I didn't really see "preachy doggerel" with Matt, which perhaps indicates a problem?
I'll honestly appreciate it if you spell it out for me a bit.

Comment from: reebchan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 14, 2006 4:24 AM

I wasn't sure what the policy on spoilers here was, so I was sort of intentional vague, I apologize. SPOILER ALERT FOR EPISODE ON NOV 13!

I cut out at about the fourth act, and on the TWOP forums everyone was mentioning how in the fifth act Matt says he's homophobic "in the good way" and Harriet thinks that we've only had thirty years to deal with gay people compared to 400 with blacks means that it's going to take time. I realize I'm paraphrasing here, and perhaps there was a legitimate reason for these lines. I can only imagine, because the first 80% of the show gave me no reason to sit through the last 20%.

Misogynist: the subplot with Lucy, where Lucy turned from a sarcastic British woman who was apparently about to propose a sketch with the new-Matt-protege (from the first scene of them together) who ended up proposing a sketch to Matt about how men take out women's self-esteem and dreams. The sketch itself? Not that funny, but might be done well. Matt's reaction? "Did you just break up with your boyfriend?" And, bam, Lucy bursts into tears, which not only doesn't fit with her portrayal in this episode or last episode, but was the result of a very callous, not to mention stupid, remark on Matt's part. Most people I know would have slapped him for that. He didn't even apologize when he MADE HER CRY. Or, I'm sorry, do liberated women not need apologies even when the male is in the wrong?

Other misogynist moment: Dylan is nervous about performing the news. Matt very deliberately talks to Alex, then also very deliberately tells Jeanie to say something to Dylan -- while in sight of Dylan. Jeanie goes over to Dylan and says she wants to see how he'll look in the suit. Dylan instantly wants to do News 60. Harriet has been watching and instead of saying somethign sarcastic about Jeanie, she asks how come she never gets to be the sexy girl. Matt, whom we know has had sex with both women, replies that Jeanie's "money in the bank."

Okay, maybe Dylan is thick enough to fall for that, and maybe his ego is so easily coddled. We know nothing about him, except that on the pilot episode he had two lines in the entire show and stepped on one of them, and he pissed off Harriet greatly. What we do know about Harriet -- the jealous ex-girlfriend she is, who cracked a (breakway) wine bottle over Jeanie's head -- makes it unlikely that she'd just take that remark. But she does!

Racist moment: The sketch between Alex and Sam -- Samantha, a character previously so invisible that a gag in a previous episode had Harriet saying "don't tell Samantha" and Samantha saying "I'm right here!" -- has Sam speaking with a very thick generically "oriental" accent. Since the (two) times she's previously spoken, she's had General American Dialect, I can only assume that her accent was for comedic purposes, because people who really work for call centers are actually trained to speak with American accents. The accent only hurt the joke...what there was of one. (Has Sorkin never heard of the Rule of Three? Three details! Each one bigger than the last! Don't stop at one!)

Again, I can't comment fully on the last part of the episode, but the earlier part of the episode, where Matt was yelling at Harriet for the second or third time in the series for her views on homosexuality being a sin made me yell at the TV screen "I'm on your side, Matt, stop making me disagree." Matt and Harriet have a fundamental divide in their thinking; Harriet believes in the literal truth of the Bible, while Matt does not. They're barely even talking about the same subject. I'm not saying either is right or wrong, but they're not speaking the same language, and that *should* be reflected in the arguments they're using, but Harriet couldn't point to a single Bible verse to help her cause, whereas Matt's style didn't help his cause, and had the effect of (briefly) turning me away.

As for plot holes (some of them may have been resolved in the fifth act, but again, I no longer wanted to watch):

-- Why didn't Jack's breaking the businessman's daughter camera have more of an impact? The businessman supposedly devotes himself to his daughter, he didn't notice that this man just broke a really expensive camera?
-- How did the judge know Tom's brother's full life story just by glancing at Tom's (handcuffed) wrist?
-- What happened to the charges of assault from the gay guy? How were those charges dismissed? The Nevadan judge had no power over those charges.
-- Doesn't the businessman only fly east? This was referenced in the first part of the episode at least once. Why was he flying west to California with the rest of the Studio 60 crew? If not, why was the Studio 60 crew flying to New York when they had to be back at the studio before 8:30? Why were they serving chicken ceasar salad on a flight that wouldn't take more than an hour, tops, especially in a jet that was that fast?
-- Why was Dylan so worried about taking Simon's chair on News 60? Simon's been doing the news since the end of episode 2 -- not even a month in show-time.
-- Don't Harriet and Dylan have problems, judging by the pilot? I mean, I thought Harriet making faces at him to make him relax was one of the better moments of the show, but there was some sort of continuity and character set-up. Besides that scene in the pilot, all Dylan has to distinguish him is that he's significantly larger than Alex and not an Asian girl like Sam. Then there's Jeanie, who is sexy and liked commedia dell'arte, and then The Big Three, who have lines and even plots in every episode.

This is less of a plot hole than a complaint about shoddy writing, but here goes: the driving force behind the B-plot was that the show would have to go on without two of its biggest stars, the two leading males, and without Danny, the executive producer who makes sure things run smoothly. (Matt is nominally in charge, despite not knowing anything about how to run the show -- why didn't people ask Cal about the technical problems?) This is how the tension builds. And there are scenes on the plane where Danny, specifically, worries about arriving on time. But in the fourth act -- remember, I'm still watching -- Matt *tells* the actors and writers that hey, they arrived safely, we're going to do a normal show. Whoosh. All the tension deflates, Dylan takes off his suit, a little disappointed but hey, good, the show's back to normal. It's like, to paraphrase Chekhov, putting a gun on stage in Act 1 and then picking it up at the end of act 4 while saying "wow! I'm so glad no one's ever tried to fire this thing -- it's just a stage prop, it's actually made out of wood, it couldn't hold up a dollar store," and then pressing the trigger and nothing happens. It's a waste of time and plot.

Good comedy relies on problems, and problem-solving. Funny would have been the plane flying in the wrong direction, and no one finding out until they're in the air. Yes, Sorkin's done it before in The West Wing (20 Hours in America), but it would at least be his own gag that he's reusing. Interesting would have been actually worrying about whether or not Tom and Simon get back in time while the cast rehearses the new show. Righteous would have been Tom and Simon getting back just in time to see Dylan giving a perfect rendition of News 60. Funny would have been Dylan trying to get a compliment from Jeanie after the show, and being shot down miserably. But instead...we get told that everything's okay. The basic rule of writing is to never tell when you can show. There's way too much exposition. They could have cut one of the homophobia debates down about fifty seconds in order to get a cut scene. It could only have helped.


Comment from: reebchan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 14, 2006 5:13 AM

I realize my above post makes me sound really angry, and like I care way too much about this show. Will the jury please keep in mind that I have had little sleep and am desperately trying to avoid writing a paper?

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 14, 2006 9:22 AM

On reebchan's plot holes, including no new spoilers (but some teasers).

  • Breaking the camera did have an impact in the last act. [See? Teaser, no spoiler.]
  • It was made clear in the arrest scene in Part One by the apologetic manner of the cops that the charges originating in California wouldn't obstruct Tom getting back to the studio in a timely manner; therefore, all that was required was for the charges originating in Nevada to be removed as an obstacle.
  • The judge looked for what he found on Tom's wrist when, but not before, he had reason to realize Tom's true reason for having been speeding. The judge's subsequently demonstrated knowledge of these matters shows that he's familiar with the sort of thing Tom has on his wrist and the circumstances that bring people to have them. It is perfectly in character for the judge to be familiar with those things, precisely because he's on the other side of the fence from Our Heroes.
  • Flying back west did have an impact in the last act. A salad was served because an hour or less isn't time to prepare a full meal.
  • Dylan was at least as, or more, worried about actually doing News 60 as he was about superceding Simon's prerogatives, as Matt perceived (just as what was really bothering Matt since Part One wasn't confessed till the last scene).
  • According to the dialog in the pilot, Dylan was the new kid at the time, and what Harriet tore into him for was teasing her as a longtime comrade is allowed. ("That's not what she said," you may rebut. "Dylan never said the real reason he didn't want to do News 60, and Matt never admits what's really bothering him if he can avoid it. Subtext happens," I respond.) After that, he stopped.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 14, 2006 9:25 AM

Argh. Eric, unordered list tags don't seem to be among the Websnark's recognized HTML (except, of course, in preview). Come to think of it, you once expressed the intention to add strikeout tags and last I checked they were still no-go.

Comment from: Glaser [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at November 14, 2006 5:46 PM

I found the writing in this episode to be rather lacking, but the delivery to be excellent. I'm willing to forgive minor problems with character personalities changing, because, just as in the first season of the West Wing, Sorkin needs a few episodes to get a character to match the actor, and to get the writing to match what he wants the show to be. Unfortunately, he's apparently decided this one is going to be more sitcom-style than West Wing or even Sports Night, and correspondingly it is flatter. But that's compared to the West Wing and Sports Night, both terrific shows, and it's not really fair to consider Studio 60 only on those merits.
I've read some of what's been said above, and it seems to me that most people are angry that the characters don't act either perfect or at least like their stereotypes. If we're not told everything about the characters in the first few episodes, that's great. If Dylan has issues with self-esteem and self-confidence, which seems likely from this, I would rather wonder about it and have them draw it out into an extended storyline that gets a few minutes every episode for a long time than to rush some sort of explanation into one episode. If Harriet doesn't seem as angry about something as she should be, it's just as likely because she's being mature about it so she doesn't hurt the show or that she's bottling it up to let it out later than that it's bad writing. I don't think we can judge characters on a few episodes - Sorkin has a penchant for writing very complex characters, and it seems likely to me that it's simply that different aspects of those characters are coming out in these episodes.

I don't think the show is as good as West Wing or Sports Night, but I do think it's worth staying up an hour to watch - or, when I'm tired, at the least Tivoing.

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