Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip

Aaron Sorkin has built a screenwriting legacy that got us to take TV shows more seriously than we would’ve otherwise cared. But, funnily enough, here’s a piece of work that’s so criminally overlooked for whatever reasons, that it’s been living in the shadows of all his other mammoth classics.

I recently binged this TV show in it’s entirety, and I have a truck load of words to share about it. So here goes.

What is the worst thing about this TV show?

The absolute worst thing about this TV show is that it’s ONLY one season long. That’s right. The most unforgivable action by any TV overlord is that someone actually let this show exist for just 22 episodes.

Wait, what? That doesn’t make sense. If this show is so good then why did it last for just one season?

That’s a fair thought. Honestly, there’s enough speculation that went on about why this show was removed off air. Frankly we’ve watched some absolute disastrous shows that have gone on for multiple multiple seasons. The problem with Studio 60 is that, it was wrecked simply by the ridiculously high expectations that it winded up involuntarily setting for itself. People think that 30 Rock might have ousted this off from NBC, but at any point I’m willing to bet that the worst Studio 60 moment is easily better than the best 30 Rock moment.

Eventually this show went off the radar simply because of executive mumbo jumbo and unfortunately for us we were punished with it being cancelled.

If you want me to squeeze out another negative, it would be that the Title is a bit blah.

That’s it, my friends. That’s all’s that’s wrong with this show.

I also realise how Aaron Sorkin at this point gives more love to his other shows like The West Wing (duh!), The Newsroom, and even Sports Night. It’s easy to diagnose why, though. The problem with creating Studio 60 for Sorkin is simply the premise. Amongst all the environments of his shows, which has included the White House, a News Studio, and Sports News Studio, a behind the scenes setting for a TV show would’ve been most at home for Sorkin. You’d think. Unfortunately, this was a live sketch comedy show that he was creating within Studio 60.

The problem with this is that, first of all live sketch comedy shows are not all that funny. Secondly, Aaron thrives on dialogue that evolves by virtue of well written conflicts. These conflicts are almost always political, or idealistic. A live sketch comedy show cannot be intellectualised the way the White House or a Newsroom can be. Writing comedy is a lot lighter and less seriously taken ( for obvious reasons) than how Sorkin’s characters tended to take it.

So what this ensued was that we had writers and producers of a live sketch comedy show who had high opinions of political affairs, war related matters, and even an arc about representation of black people in the writers’ room. Even more so that the central romantic couple established their conflict on a radical religious difference. There’s only so much one can milk from these traits at the backstage of live sketch comedy.

The closest relevant conflict that he was able to build was that of sensitive topics. Which the TV show literally opens on. But again, how much can you write on that one conflict alone. Therefore some how rationalising why Sorkin didn’t find too much comfort in writing Studio 60.

All this being said. Studio 60 at the Sunset Strip easily is one of my favourite shows of all time. Of course, there’s amazing writing and directing with the likes of Thomas Schlamme yet again partnering Sorkin. But for me my favourite thing was the cast. Danny and Matt is my favourite best friend duo in all of TV land. Mostly because these roles were reprised by two television legends- Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry, respectively. Brad was straight out of the conclusion of The West Wing, and this was supposed to be Matthew’s next big thing after Friends. Along with them, at the helm of the caste was Amanda Peet, and Sarah Paulson. Sarah Paulson was such a revelation in this show. Amanda Peet has always been a treat on screen, and yet again she was at Studio 60. The supporting caste was alright too, with a special shoutout to Timothy Busfield.

When it comes to Sorkinisms, this show has it all again. The walk and talks. Heavy heavy content dialogues. The thing is Sorkin tends to reuse gags across his shows. A lead character not knowing how to tie a bow tie, and another character patronising him for it. Another lead character having a problem with his office chair. A superior not remembering names of his subordinates. An un-welcomed journalist with all access to the entire office. A condescending lawyer who’s trying save their ass.  What may pass by as border line plagiarism (which it isn’t because it’s written by the same guy), or as being repetitive, just goes on to becoming well done drama instead.

The show within the show is not that funny. But the show itself is. There are so many laugh out loud moments in this show that I’m surprised that this didn’t pass as a comedy drama as opposed to just a drama.

In conclusion, this is a MUST WATCH. One of my absolute favourites and a show I’m gonna rewatch the hell out of.

-Anuj Raghuram


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