27 February 2007

What Kind Of Day Has It Been?

I thought that my Monday nights were perfect. Monday was the only night that I actually scheduled three hours of prime time viewing.

8 pm: Countdown with Keith Olbermann - I don't consider it a news source, but I do think that it is one of the funniest shows on television. Regular segments like 'Oddball' and 'Worst Person in the World' make me laugh, and Olbermann's sharp wit and biting commentary make me long for the years he paired with Dan Patrick on the "Big Show" edition of 'SportsCenter.' If you haven't seen the show - and your political leanings would allow it - you should check out 'Countdown.' Be there...aloha.

9 pm: 24 - I would watch James Bond movies if they were on every night (and I do when they run those holiday marathons on Spike). '24' is my way of getting a Bond fix once a week. Sure, the show is flawed - we all know that you can't get from Point A to Point B in LA in under 8 minutes - get over it. Once you can suspend reality for an hour, the show is usually non-stop excitement. I haven't been thrilled with this season yet, but I am willing to give Sutherland, Surnow and gang a chance to let this one run a little, but we are on shaky ground. Wayne Palmer as the PRESIDENT? Come on. Nobody dug up his extra-marital affair from a couple of years ago during that campaign? Morris is seemingly unfazed by some guy drilling a hole in his shoulder, but Chloe bitch-slapping him gets him back to work? Still, the pluses outweigh the minuses weekly and (now) it is the one show every week that I will arrange my schedule around watching.

10 pm: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - If you are an Aaaron Sorkin fan, you probably recognized the post title as the namesake for the final episode of Season 1 of both 'The West Wing' and the "Brilliant But Canceled" 'Sports Night.' Unfortunately, a disturbing parallel exists between 'Sports Night' and 'Studio 60' - their respective networks never really gave the shows a chance to succeed, and, in one of the most depressing things to happen this year, NBC placed the show on hiatus - a network term that is usually the equivalent of death row. Sure, the governor may call at the last minute to stave off execution, but it just isn't going to happen.

There is some excellent analysis as to why 'Studio 60' failed on this thread found on the nbc.com chat boards.

The cast was a bad fit. Aside from Matthew Perry (who was a wonderful surprise) and Timothy Busfield (who was underused), not much else worked. Sarah Paulson and D.L. Hughley were not funny in this series playing comics. Nate Corddry is funny in real life and was funny on the show, but his part, like Busfield's, was too small. Had Amanda Peet, as the fictional network president, flipped roles with Paulson, it would have been a major improvement. Bradley Whitford is a wonderful actor but he at first seemed to be rejiggering his "West Wing" role, then his character became periodically unlikable or annoying. Either way, it's not the mix you want.

Steven Weber went from bellicose chairman of the network (which didn't work) to beleaguered chairman of the network (which did, and he became funny while everyone around him went dour by apparent accident.)
The biggest surprise for me was that Matthew Perry escaped being forever typecast as Chandler Bing - a near certainty in my mind, while Bradley Whitford could not set aside his role as Josh Lyman. I have already seen him play Josh - and I liked Josh - my favorite character on 'The West Wing.' Still, it's already been done.

The story arc between DL Hughley and "the new black guy" got tired quickly. We get it - DL Hughley doesn't want TNBG to be an "Uncle Tom" - so, instead he treated him like his own personal bitch for a few episodes. Beating this dead horse was incredibly unneccessary.

Lastly, like the article states, the show just never got better. I kept waiting for it - heck, I kept ROOTING for it. My personal take is that Sorkin and his team got worried when the show started bleeding viewers and tried to tweak the show on the fly. They tried to fit their square peg into NBC's round hole. It doesn't work - it never works.

The reality is that 'Studio 60' is a work in progress that will likely never be completed. It may have been more suited to a cable outlet, like HBO, which can give shows time to develop an audience. Network television is just too competetive to allow a show as expensive as S60 is to produce to falter - at all. The star power that the show packs is probably also responsible for the downfall. For those that lament the lack of quality written television, shame on you for not tuning in early when viewership would have made a difference. Instead, you are left to roll around in the gutter with 'Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?'


Anonymous said...

Spot on analysis Travellin' Man - as always!

Jen said...

If you miss Studio 60 (and, admittedly, I don't), you might want to take a look at the comic version of it, 30 Rock. It's not pretentious and Sorkin-y, but straight-up funny.

I loved Sports Night, and also loved the first few years of West Wing. But Studio 60 doesn't cut it for me. :) I really liked your blog entry. My favorite TV night is Thurs., but I can really relate to the idea of having a pleasing lineup bring some degree of happiness and anticipation to a workday.
Jen M.