Friday, October 27, 2006


I can't stop watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Not because it's good, but because it's failing in such a miserably interesting way. It's the classiest train wreck I've ever seen on TV. Let's take last Monday's episode, "The Wrap Party":

Eli Wallach plays an Alzheimer-afflicted writer from the Addison Theater's heyday. He can't tell people why he's here, where he lives, or who he is for 40 minutes of the episode. But, when it suits the show, he's suddenly an archive of comedy history who remembers everything as well as his place in it. Because, really, debilitating diseases on TV are only as debilitating as the episode needs them to be.

Rob Corrdry is giving his folks a tour of the studio, his poor, stupid, uni-dimensional folks. Who, apparently, have never heard of Abbott and Costello or "Who's on First." Who are, apparently, angry at their eldest son because he isn't in...wait for it...Afganistan! Or because their younger son is. Unclear, since these characters don't seem to exist for any other reason than for them to go on a tour and we can learn why pop culture in general, and Studio 60 itself, are Important.

If you'll recall one of my earliest posts, I love me some casual racism. So, when Corrdry's mom mentions to D.L. Hughley that they loved the last James Bond movie and that they even found Halle Berry attractive, Hughley's character smiles and walks off, impervious to the token gesture of "A negro made It move...see, I like some of you people, the ones who sing and dance." He didn't even roll with it, give the slightest perception of the glancing blow. But I guess he was saving his indignation for...

The hiring of a black writer. Which, in and of itself, is a fine idea. But from the outset, Matt and Danny have established something of a meritocracy. If you can do the job, then that's why you're here. You get the vibe that's why Hughley's Simon Stiles is in the cast: because he's (allegedly) funny. Period. So then we go to the comedy club for the first of two performances. Which, yes, wasn't funny. And was stereotypical. But should've been funny. While not Oscar Wilde, sometimes, that kind of base humor can kill. Robin Harris used to do hysterical routines about women with huge asses and why he loves them. Sure, it might not've been Studio 60 style, but to blithely dismiss that venerable branch of humor is akin to saying country music is all about pick-ups and unfaithful spouses. (I hate country music, excepting Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, but for other reasons.)

But wait. Before we get to second comedy guy, we need Simon Stiles' backstory, in which he has to justify himself to Matt by explaining just how black he is. And, judging by the fact that he grew up in South Central and saw a guy get shot once, he's Super-Black. I'm sure he's even got a badge on his car, like a PBA sticker. Does that make me any less black, because I grew up in the burbs? Or because I've been lucky enough not to have witnessed a homicide?

Okay, second comic. Not funny, but smart. You can tell he thinks big thoughts, but isn't cut out to be a performer. Fine. And he gets hired as a staff writer by Matt on the spot. (After, of course, he passes Stiles' Super-Black Test.) Now, would they have made the same offer if he was a white kid? Doubt it. They were out to hire a black writer, dammit, and they weren't going home without one. Funny or not. (Then again, the "Studio 60" sketches aren't funny either, so maybe he'll fit right in.) Because it's the Right Thing to Do. And That's One to Grow On. And More Than a Little Patronizingly Offensive.

And I won't even get into the inanity of Programming Honcho Jordan McDeer so desperate for company she's hanging out with interns.

The only bit that rang true was the three bubble-heads who kept asking Matt "Okay, but what does a writer do?"

A whole lot better than this.


Tom McLean said...

I'm right there with you, Marc. While Studio 60 is in many ways a first-rate production, it's concept is so out of sync with the execution that it is a fascinating car wreck to watch. The show makes me cringe and leaves me with a deep feeling of frustration because, for whatever reason, I can't not watch and I know I'll tune in again next week just to see how bad the train wreck gets.

marc bernardin said...

I really think that if they mashed Studio 60 and 30 Rock together you might have one good show instead of two mediocre ones...

That said, I will watch this fucker until it limps into the grave. And then buy the DVD.

LonelyGuy51 said...

Did you watch the latest episode of 30 Rock (with the poker game)? I thought it was pretty funny... the show seems to be gettng better each week (and recovering from the disastrous pilot). Or maybe I was just blinded by the promise of hot lesbian action... or maybe it just seems funny compared to Studio 60 and the real SNL.

marc bernardin said...

30 Rock is nowhere near as funny as it oughta's a show that's totally redeemed by Alec Baldwin. But it succeeds where Studio 60 fails: it's a show about a variety show that doesn't take itself seriously. So they alleviate themselves from actually having to write funny skits. The show-within-the-show is supposed to suck.

I would give Studio 60 a lot more slack if it could make me believe that Danny Tripp and Matt Albie were actually as talented as they're supposed to be. If they actually made me laugh.

Ken Lowery said...

You know, I was pretty into the first couple episodes of Studio 60. I was excited about it. (But then, I'm a Sorkin virgin, so this is my first taste). And I see all the hate piled on it, and I wonder what for?

And then I realize I haven't actually watched an episode since episode 2. Not intentionally, not out of malice, I just... forget. And don't look it up on later. And continue missing it. And don't mind.

I only ever saw two episodes of 30 Rock. It's all right. Baldwin will always be great in that kind of role... I just wish Tina Fey would do something a little more worthy of her (apparent) talent. I could do with less goofball.

LonelyGuy51 said...

Well... episode 4 of 30 Rock kinda brought me back down to earth a bit. But the poker ep was gold I tell ya... comedy gold. Wow... did they write the blonde "star" of TGS:Tracy Jordan off the show or what? The whacky hijinx with the Page was lame... especially after the character's set up the week before. I'm reading a lot of rumors that Studio 60 is toast... we shall see.