Aaron Sorkin: This is Your Life

February 6, 2007

A while back, I suggested that Studio 60 would get at least ten times better just by cutting out some of the characters–and it didn’t matter which ones, as long as Harriet was one of them. Watching last night’s Studio 60, watching Matt and Danny slug through awful romantic storylines, I decided that more than just Harriet needs to get the whole heave-ho if the show is going to improve.

Step 1: Cut the Women.  This isn’t meant to be exhibit C or X or whatever one we’re actually on in Yesterday’s Salad’s misogyny, rather it’s a reflection of the fact that the two leading female roles on Studio 60 are poorly designed, and distracting from the show’s strengths. Amanda Peet is actually doing a much better acting job than I imagined she would, but her character’s storylines just aren’t cutting it. In fact, the only one of them that works at all is the one about her potentially getting fired. The Harriet-Matt pericope is dragging on without any sign of resolution, and for no real purpose other than Sorkin’s catharsis. The leading ladies need to go. However, a show still needs female leads, and some of the minor characters on Studio 60 have that potential. Lucy and Tom’s romance is the only one that’s working [an aside: why does this show have three couplings? How many were there in the entire series of the West Wing or Sports Night?], and could easily become a focal point. Matt’s new assistant is funny, and the mysteriously disappeared reporter was a decent character. Besides, the show could flesh out the woman quotient by enlarging the role of the other women on the show within a show.

Step 2: Matt and Danny. The biggest selling points of this show are Mathew Perry and Bradley Whitford, and while they’re certainly the focus of the show, they rarely seem to interact as each is always off in his bad romance. The show’s two best actors should be sharing the screen, verbally teasing each other in the loving, playful, quasi-homosexual ways that Dan and Casey interacted, or Sam-Toby-Josh. Instead they’re off doing their own things, dangling too many storylines. At least at the outset, the show seemed as if it would be about redemption, about Danny’s struggles with drugs and Matt’s egotism. In short, the show would give Aaron Sorkin a chance to explore some of the darker points in his life. Instead, they’re avoided, and the characters aren’t growing.

Step 3: Focus on the Show. Studio 60 is at heart a show about people who work at a sketch comedy show–not about the Network, or Pahrump, Nevada. This is painful to write because I think that Steven Weber has been the best part of the series, but the show really needs to narrow it’s focus, and the most logical place to start is by cutting out most of the things external to the “show.” Steven Weber could stay on as a reoccurring character, who may even be more interesting if Jordan’s fired; he could be like Hoynes on the West Wing: there if he needs to be, and always good for a good story.

So what’s working? What are the strengths to build on?

1. The writers’ room. All three of the writers are good characters, and Mark McKinney really seemed to add something when he joined. We should spend a bit more time there, and some of the newer cast members of the show within the show should help out in the writing process. At the very least, the room can provide some much needed comic relief.

Actually, I’m going to dispense with the list. Everything else is pretty well done. Timothy Busfield could be given more to do, as could D. L. Hughley who has the chops to be involved with more comedic moments. The biggest flaw that the show has are the poorly designed romances that distract Matt and Danny, our desired latent homosexual relationship.

6 Responses to “Aaron Sorkin: This is Your Life”

  1. The show within the show, however, is not funny. Unlike TGS with TRACY JORDAN, which has produced some decent sketches. I can’t remember a single Studio 60 sketch I thought was funny.

    I agree about the romances. They are not working. Whitford and Perry just look pathetic in those story lines, although I did enjoy the letters of recommendation bit.

  2. notwithabangbutawhimper Says:

    To echo l.p., there was a pretty good review in Slate recently that came to the same conclusion: although the show-within-the-show is supposed to be groundbreaking (providing much of the modus operandi for the show itself), it’s really pretty lame.

  3. dailysalad Says:

    I think you guys are right. At present the show within a show kind of sucks, however I also don’t really think they’re trying with it. We haven’t seen a full skit for one in a while (maybe sorkin’s the one having problems writing “dolphin girl” and not matt). Before we totally write off the show-within-the-show, we should give them the opportunity to fix it, as it has the most potential of any of the current fabula.

    also, where’s will bailey/jeremy? you can’t tell me he has a job right now. he should be on Studio 60, or someone needs to write that Will Bailey-Kate Harper domestic sitcom stat.

  4. Jen Says:

    I agree! I mean obviously get rid of Harriet, but I still like Jordan, although she has been floundering the past few episodes. The dialog has always been the best part of a Sorkin show, not the romance. Even on West Wing, it was always the sexual tension and possibility of a relationship that was exciting (Josh and Joey Lucas, Josh and Amy, Josh and Donna, Sam and Mallory, CJ and Danny) while the actual relationships themselves were major let-downs (see Josh and Amy, Josh and Donna, CJ and Danny is the last few episodes). The only two people on the show who have sexual chemistry are Matt and Danny. And Wikipedia tells me that even Sorkin misses the sexless West Wing. In “The Option Period”, when Tom and Simon are talking to Harriet in the cast dressing room (about halfway into the episode), a “Bartlet For America” poster can be seen on the wall.

  5. […] no way of concatenating the first part of my post with this next part. Last week, I railed against Studio 60, calling for sweeping changes with the show. While this week, regrettably, placed our heroes […]

  6. […] (or, in English, “series”). Despite the many failings of Studio 60 (see, for instance, here, here, and here) we here at Yesterday’s Salad are noted admirers of Mr. Sorkin’s […]

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