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.