Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Is Studio 60 Finally Settling Into a Groove?

Studio 60 Settling Into A Groove?

I've been a fan since the first episodes, and a worrying, wondering type of parent as well.This is what happens to me when I take a liking to a marginal series. Of course, this one didn't come out of the blocks like a marginal series. It is well produced, with Aaron Sorkin and a cast of mid-level heavyweight actors full of talent and light on big star name-splashing crap to take away from what was being produced.

What is being produced is a smart, frenetically paced drama wrapped around a Saturday Night Live type television show, it's producers, actors, and power-wielding corporate executives. I've always liked Matthew Perry's characters, both in movies and on "Friends". This character, Matt, is an executive producer, he is smarter, more passionate, and tougher than "Chandler", with writing talent and some people skills. The show revolves around him and his best friend, Producer Danny, played by one of the other talented actors, I've read he comes from "The West Wing", all I know is that I like him here. The rest of the cast is strong too, and also come with great pedigrees, I'm not trying to belittle them, it's just that they are not what could be the problem with this show.

After the first episode of this show, it was my favorite this season. After the second, it gained even more steam. Then they lost me a little. It was around the same time that the ratings were bringing up rumors about cancellation that the scripts went to a way too somber tone. This is a drama but it should be rooted around it's core, a comedy, and thought provoking pieces are best placed carefully. A side plot about a black-listed actor from the McCarthy witch hunt era fell flat with me and many,calling on the dogs. Still, I rooted for it.

It quit being appointment TV for a few weeks, when one episode just didn't air and the next two, a two-parter with John Goodman as a back-desert judge, seemed to be all over the place. I watched it on DVR and it wasn't bad, and then, this Christmas episode once again shows why there is promise and the always lurking black holes it threatens to fall into.

We have witty and touching banter between Matt and Harriet, his once and probably future love. Where at first the interaction between these two seemed to be contrived, they are now developing chemistry. It is now possible to see them as having been a couple, without having to be told. There is a burgeoning romance between Danny and Jordan, the embattled Network head. This hasn't turned into a show about romance, but these little plot sidelines help with the other heavy tones. The heavy tones are a steady, drumming battle with powers that be over censorship. I'm sure tat being talented writers and all, it is not an accident that this plot line seems to be a nagging pain in the neck. This seems like a theme that should be recurring, not constant.

What also worked was the snippets of skits that make you wish that these guys were writing for SNL instead of whoever has that gig now. A takeoff on Dateline's sexual predator series where they catch Santa coming down the chimney? That was funnier than anything I saw on SNL last week alone. Okay, the bar is not exactly high anymore at SNL, but that's another show I can't give up on.

Network television is a wasteland of reality shows and mostly very bad sit-coms, I'm hoping "Studio 60" sticks it out. The last rumors I read say that it got picked up for the season, which seems to correspond with an upgrade in the scripts. I guess the writers decided to quit using their time sending out resumes and started developing their characters. There are those out there just waiting each week to chew episodes to little bits, and a devoted cheering blog , I'm hoping these things even out.

No comments: