Thanks to the good folks at CTV in Toronto, I saw tonight’s episode of Studio 60 last night. I, for one, welcome my new Canadian overlords!
Folks, if ever a TV show is going to make my head explode, Studio 60 is going to be the one. I love watching it, basking in Aaron Sorkin’s wordplay and noting his ever-apparent mastery of the four-act structure. But at the same time, man, does it piss me off.
(Spoilers below for Episode II, “The Cold Open”.)
First off, I’m just not sold on the Amanda Peet character. She seems, frankly, rather lacking in gravitas.
Secondly, this episode falls right in line with what I said about the pilot episode: this show is shaping up as Aaron Sorkin’s major descent into self-indulgence. Granted, one has to have already been a pretty studious observer of Sorkin’s writing over the years to pick up on a lot of it, but Sorkin recycles so many tropes from his own writing, over and over and over again, that the effect is increasingly jarring. And it’s not just phrases repeated verbatim from one series to the next, but entire rhythms of scenes and conversations mirrored almost exactly from one series to the next, and even entire themes. A constant refrain on The West Wing was the idea of how much nicer things would be in this country if people acted the way that Aaron Sorkin depicts them acting as opposed to the way they really do act, and sure enough, that crops up in a big way in the first half of “The Cold Open” (especially in a press conference).
But the really self-indulgent stuff comes in the show’s second half, when writer Matt (Matthew Perry) can’t figure out how to start his show off. He’s struggling with ideas on what his opening sketch should be — and then, suddenly, someone says something in an offhand fashion that jars him into his idea, which turns out to be a re-writing of “The Very Model of a Modern Major General” from The Pirates of Penzance.
I think I actually let out a groan when I realized that Sorkin was yet again going to mine his obsession with Gilbert and Sullivan, which he employed a number of times in various West Wing episodes, most notably “And It’s Surely To Their Credit”, which indicated that Jed Bartlet staffed his White House exclusively with people who had encyclopedic knowledge of G&S. (And the title of that episode was itself an allusion to Pinafore.)
So my reaction, as noted, continues to be wildly mixed. On the one hand, I could listen to Sorkin’s stuff all day. On the other, I just want to slap Sorkin and say, “Yeah, we get it already. Say something else!”