This is my second post defending Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which seems like one or two too many, but I find it distressing that my own opinion of the show seems far removed from its critics. Because given the declining, already troubling ratings, its critics are winning.
Much of the criticism is centred around the fact that we’re supposed to buy into the comedic genius of Matt Albie (Matthew Perry, who I’m cursing for forcing yet another unexpected TV crush on me), when many viewers don’t find the skits we see very clever at all. It’s not particularly unusual for me to be the only one in a room to find some random remark funny, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I disagree. I actually think it’s clever that we get a glimpse of a skit in rehearsals, where I’m thinking – “Science Schmience? This is painfully bad.” Then we see the final version on the show-within-the-show, and I thought it was hilarious. Plus it was cool to see the transition from rough sketch to polished one.
Similarly, the Nancy Grace skit was being rehearsed for some other reason – lighting? timing? – and Harriet ends up trailing off at the end when that reason is fulfilled. Yet the rough glimpse gives us a mockery of an annoying woman obsessed with victimized white girls in foreign countries, and the concept was funny and had a point to make, too.
I don’t really need to see the finished skits kill on the show, because that’s not the point of Studio 60. The point is that I love these characters and their relationships and their passion and their ideals, and the love story between Matt and Harriet is starting to be a surprising highlight. It’s that damn Matthew Perry being all sweet and vulnerable and funny. But I’ve got a little crush on pretty much every character, including, starting with last episode, Christine Lahti’s and – shudder – Ed Asner’s.
More criticism of Studio 60 is the fact that creator Aaron Sorkin treats the world of behind the scenes television as earnestly and importantly as the world of politics in The West Wing. But I’ve worked in the peripheries of health care, where everything’s life and death, and in theatre, where nothing is – but to the people on the front lines, their world is wrapped into the life and death of their productions. So the earnestness of Matt and Danny and Jordan has never struck me as overbearing or unusual.
There’s also some insider bitching that it doesn’t represent what it’s really like behind the scenes of a TV show. Excuse me while I ponder the documentary-style reality of House, CSI, The West Wing … good god, any show. There have been times when I’ve been surprised to realize, why yes, that character does have the same career as me. It’s just cleverly disguised as something that might have dramatic or comedic possibilities, disguised as something people outside the industry might actually give a shit about. Get over it, insiders.
Some TV columnists, like the Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes and TV Guide’s Matt Rousch, are saying NBC has too much invested in the show to abandon it early, but no one is holding out much hope of a second season unless ratings start heading in the other direction. There’s no indication a timeslot change is in the works, but I hope NBC tries whatever it can to give the show a boost. And if the people speak and still say “yawn” … well, I’ll just add this show to my pile of reasons to be bitter at the people.