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Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip 1.07 & 1.08 - "Nevada Day"

If Josiah Bartlet's campaign team spent 20 hours in America a few years ago, then the bigwigs of Studio 60 have just spent 8 hours in Nevada. In both two-parters the smug, insular, liberal (mostly, in the case of the Studio 60 crew what with corporate chairmen tagging along) elite come foot-to-mouth with the "real" world, where folk don't hold to the same values and also don't subscribe to the redneck hick stereotype (or at best, only superficially). The clues are planted early: "Yeah we got brothels," says the deputy who looks like he stepped out of an Owen Wilson comedy, but then goes on to equate these houses with the urban infrastructure critical to the town's founding.

"Your side hates my side because you think we think you're stupid, and my side hates your side because we think you're stupid."

Sorkin's gotten a lot of good mileage out of making fun of his characters' self-satisfaction and it's always fun to see intelligent conservative voices take them down a notch or three. (Though John Goodman isn't anywhere near as cute as Ainsley Hayes.)

Part I, like so often before, opens with a great teaser. There were a lot of laughs before the credits. John Goodman immediately establishes himself as an imposing (but lovable) public servant - recreating his Glen Allen Walken arc, sans suit and dog, in about five minutes.

Pahrump is a funny name.

Tom's incarceration ended predictably, but sooner than expected, half-way through Part II, as if the plotters of this episode (David Handelman & Cinque Henderson) didn't know what to do with the threads Mark McKinney left dangling from Part I. Also predictable was the resolution with the Taos (the Chinese business partner and his daughter) though Jack's rant in defence of Jordan and the network was nice. I like Steven Weber's character a whole lot more than I expected to from his portrayal in the pilot. He has his own principles, wit and humour. Steven Weber, like Matt Perry, knows how to extract both the funny and the edgy from his role.

The scenes back in LA didn't work quite as well. A half-hearted debate on gay marriage consumed a lot of screentime and furthered the Harriet/Matt UST. I don't have a problem at all with serious issues being highlighted in a show about a sketch comedy (and in fact feel it adds depth), but suspect that Sorkin and his team are suffering under the weight of past successes. If there had never been such an animal as The West Wing I'm sure that critics would be falling over themselves praising a series that embraced the topical via the entree of a satirical show. But after having tackled the issues head-on in the corridors of the White House, Studio 60's political forays seem light-weight and arbitrary in comparison.

"How is your marriage affected by the marriage of the gay couple two doors down?" asks Matt. Harriet doesn't answer, possibly signalling the point at which Sorkin believes resistance two gay marriage stops being about values and starts being about prejudice, but I would have liked to have seen Harriet respond with some substantive arguments (which must exist somewhere), because intelligent discourse is always interesting. Concluding with "I don't know" seemed like a bit of a cop-out.

Incidentally, there's something touchingly naive about Jordon's concern that someone's career could be ruined because they're homophobic.

The "gay street toughs" (as Matt wryly describes them) worked. They were antagonists that didn't conform to the extremist Hollywood homosexual serial killer stereotype, but neither did Sorkin shy away from having them act unpleasantly and, later, pettily. No signs of political correctness here. And one of them, I'm surprised to learn from imdb, was played by my second favourite Vorta, Christopher Shea.

The Jesus Christ sketch contained the by-now-expected Sorkin proselytism, but also had some good jabs. I liked "Jesus", saying about his Father: "Get him."

I swore I could hear the cadences of Jed Bartlet in Wilson White's questions about the viola early in Part I, but in subsequent scenes (such as the ones with Jordan) Ed Asner finds his own presence.

The bits with the Lucy (the British writer) and her romantic problems were cute and funny, but didn't add to the thrust of the episode. Ditto for the bits with Darius, the black writer hired last episode.

Did I see a former joint chief of staff as a studio security guard? (Come to think of it, he's been in previous episodes as well.) How the mighty have fallen ....

Not as funny or as touching or as tightly written as "The Wrap Party", and not really successfully fleshed out to 90 minutes, but still very entertaining.

After much speculation following a steady ratings decline, NBC a few days ago announced that it had picked up Studio 60 for a full season, citing:

Studio 60 has consistently delivered some of the highest audience concentrations among all primetime network series in such key upscale categories as adults 18-49 living in homes with $75,000-plus and $100,000-plus incomes and in homes where the head of household has four or more years of college.

Guess there are indeed a lot of Vanity Fair readers tuning in. I've always thought that, like the much-loved Sports Night, Studio 60 would last two seasons, but would love to be proven wrong in a good way. I could blissfully watch this show for years to come.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip 1.07 & 1.08 - "Nevada Day":

» Pahrump, Nevada, sticks it to Sorkin and the US Constitution from world in progress...
In an ironic turn you wouldn't believe if it happened on TV, Pahrump has just confirmed every redneck, narrow-minded stereotype that Sorkin tried to repudiate only days ago in "Nevada Day". [Read More]

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 15, 2006 12:36 AM.

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