Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Over the weekend, I had a (completely legal) chance to see the pilot episode of Aaron Sorkin's new television series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which will debut in the fall. And although NBC made it completely clear that the rough cut was provided for media awareness and not review, I'm sure they won't mind if I toss a small bone their way.
I recommend you block off late Monday evenings come September (heck, with How I Met Your Mother earlier in the evening, block off the whole night). Though there were still rough and decidedly in-progress sections, Studio 60 promises to be one of NBC's sterling new shows. After all it's Sorkin. The writer/creator of The West Wing and Sports Night and the screenwriter of A Few Good Men and The American President has taken the last few years off, caught his breath, and returns with a vengeance.
Don't confuse Studio 60 with 30 Rock, Tina Fey's behind-the-scenes of a sketch comedy show, also on NBC. Though the latter is garnering some buzz, 30 Rock is a comedy, while Studio 60 is a very serious look at what goes on behind the scenes to make that comedy.
As the pilot opens, one of the show's executive producers has a meltdown--on the air--very reminiscent of the Oscar-winning film, Network. The studio immediately goes into damage control mode, and the brand new network entertainment chief Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet ), sees the show's only hope of survival in "wunderkind" director Danny Tripp (The West Wing's Bradley Whitford) and writer Matt Albie (Friend's Matthew Perry) who aren't exactly sure it's a job offer they want to take. Rounding out the phenomenal ensemble cast (is there any other kind in a Sorkin show?) are Wing's Steven Weber, Serenity's Sarah Paulson, The Hughley's D. L. Hughley, The Daily Show's Nate Corddry, and The West Wing's Timothy Busfield.
It's obvious from the kinetic opening frames that this is a Sorkin show, though his rapid-fire dialogue is oddly muted in comparison to his earlier work. In just the first hour, Studio 60 deals with the possible implosion of the show due to the producer's meltdown over a censored skit parodying "Crazy Christians" and a subplot with a religious member of the cast, drug use with one of the main characters that seems to mirror Sorkin's own plight through the years, scuttled romances, chauvinistic bosses and first-day jitters.
It's far from a perfect show out of the gate, but then I can think of very few series' that have hit their mark right from the starting gun. Instead, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is a remarkably solid show that teases its audience with all the signs of brilliance hiding just below the surface. A few more scratches and we just may be seeing next year's breakout hit.