Created by Aaron Sorkin. With Mathew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Judd Hirsch, Steven Weber, Amanda Peet, D.L. Hugley and Timothy Busfield
“This show used to be cutting-edge political and social satire, but it’s gotten lobotomized by a candy-assed broadcast network hell-bent on doing nothing that might challenge their audience. We were about to do a sketch you’ve seen already about five hundred times. Yeah, no one is going to confuse George Bush with George Plimpton. We get it. We’re all being lobotomized by this country’s most influential industry! It’s just thrown in the towel on any endeavor to do anything that doesn’t include the courting of twelve-year-old boys. Not even the smart twelve-year-olds – the stupid ones! The idiots – of which there are plenty, thanks in no small measure to this network! So why don’t you just change the channel? Turn off the TV. Do it right now. Go ahead.”
When I was at Target today, they had a heck of a deal on TV Shows on DVD. Most of the shows I wasn’t interested in, and then I saw “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”. Aaron Sorkin pioneered one of the greatest TV shows ever, “The West Wing”. Sorkin left the show after the fourth season over a gigantic dispute with NBC over the direction of the show and a drug problem Sorkin had. I had never seen the show but it was only $14.99 and I bought it.
Sorkin’s next television project was a look behind the scenes on an SNL style social commentary variety show called “Studio 60”. I am finished with the first DVD, but I will only be reviewing the pilot as of right now. The Pilot opens and we’re thrust into this energetic and very chaotic mess of Judd Hirsch, who’s the head writer, fighting with the shows FCC stooge (played by “A Serious Man’s” Michael Stuhlbarg) over a skit called “Crazy Christians”. Hirsch is fighting to keep the skit as an opening act, but isn’t getting the approval.
He cowers and knows he doesn’t hold the power he once did. The show opens with a typical run of the mill Bush/Cheney skit, Hirsch then runs out onto the stage, during live TV, and tells the audience to change the channel, better yet turn their TV off. He begins a rant (much like Peter Finch’s in “Network” – and don’t worry, credit is given) about how TV isn’t cutting edge anymore, TV Execs are too worried about offending people, and playing it safe. He goes into a huge tear on reality TV! Yes! Preach it brother, preach it! It’s inspiring and funny.
The show then introduces us to Amanda Peet who just became NBS’s new president. Steven Weber who plays the chairman of NBS, who’s a real prick and he’s amazing, fires Hirsch for his outrageous outburst. Everyone is desperate for a solution until Peet pitches an idea to Weber. She says she’s going to hire Mathew Perry and Bradley Whitford who are the hottest writer/director team in Hollywood to take over creative control of Studio 60, and oh yeah, Steven Weber fired them from the show four years ago.
The episode is incredibly witty and funny, and runs with much political and social commentary that Sorkin excels at as a writer. Much of the strife and struggles that the characters deal with is much of the same problems that Sorkin himself dealt with NBC where his show “The West Wing” championed the air waves. The show is filled with many Sorkin players – Busfield and Whitford were two major players on “The West Wing” and Mathew Perry had a guest starring character arc during season three of “The West Wing”. Guest actors during the show’s only season include Rob Reiner who directed Sorkin’s screenplay “The American President” and John Goodman who portrayed the Speaker of the House in “The West Wing” also show up. “The West Wing” President Martin Sheen is heard in an uncredited voiceover. I’ll post more when I wrap up the series.