Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - 1x11 "The Christmas Show"

Given my (previously) unflagging devotion to Sorkin and his programs (including those of the 12-step variety </rimshot>), you can assume correctly that I've been totally underwhelmed by Studio 60 so far. Unlike the show's inveterate haters, though, I recognize that my disappointment is directly tied to the stupidly gross expectations, and that despite the many flaws of Studio 60, it's still worth my time to watch.

That said, because of those flaws, I still want to dump on the show.

Aaron Sorkin is funny-looking, sure, but funny?
Although The West Wing and Sports Night both had their comedic moments, Sorkin's humor is fabulously ill-suited for an SNL-style sketch show , partly because his humor is based on talkinrillyfast, or characters proposing one situation that is immediately contradicted, or coconuts smashing tables in half. (The one genuinely (and actually funny!) SNLesque sketch was in this episode: the Santa/Dateline bit was classy, but I suspect that someone besides Sorkin came up with that.)

Let's also not forget that The West Wing and Sports Night weren't exclusively comedies and that Sorkin spread the funnies over the course of the entire episode; but because Studio 60 is about a comedy show, viewers naturally expect Studio 60 to be essentially an hour-long comedy even though Sorkin doesn't have enough A-grade material to fill (ignoring again the fact that his humor tonally differs from SNL's).

And yet, he shoehorns (or ties to) humor into episodes and characters, most blatantly with the legendarily funny (allegedly) Harriet Hayes, who has yet to make the real audience laugh or tell the joke about the Jewish guy who called his mother and asked how she was and she replied etc. My pet theory: Double H isn't actually supposed to be Sorkin's valentine to Kristin Chenoweth -- conversely, she's supposed to be an annoying, depthless, and unfunny character whom the audience tired of a few episodes ago when she was mulling over the ladmag lingerie shoot. Which segues nicely to...

I'm a girl, and I think Sorkin is a misogynist!
Oh, quit whining and take the show's chauvanism like a man. But seriously, Sorkin has trailed a chauvanist streak since Sports Night, but he does it in a romanticized and idealized way that makes it palatable to liberal losers like me. In the case of Studio 60, last night's episode concluded with Josh Danny telling Jordan that whether she likes him likes him or not, he's coming after her and at the moment he didn't have to take no for an answer because she had been divested of her power to speak (by having a sandwich in her mouth). I'll admit that I thought that seeing her chow down was funny, and I was actually hoping that Josh Danny would kiss her anyway.

Tangentially, I did not enjoy seeing other characters pair up (Matt unilaterally smacking one on HH, Jetes making eyes at London Lucy).

Last point that I had trouble expounding upon: Sorkin's point-making. Unavoidable on TWW, and avoided on Sports Night (at least I think so, for some reason), but so far, Sorkin seems preoccupied with establishing strawmen to make his favored characters look good, usually at the expense of good taste. The show has bent over backwards to make political points too many times to cite a specific example, but when Ed Asner Whatever His Old Name Is says that the upcoming FCC showdown is the fight he's been waiting for for his whole life, it hit straight in my leftist already bleeding heart.

And finally, Andy, the new/old writer who doesn't remember laughter, is my new favorite character on the show, if only because he delivers his lines much less manically than the other principals do.

Indie rating: Ghost - "Regenesis"

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