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Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip Sailing Toward Cancellation-Land? Let’s Hope Not

The press rumors are now swirling that the highly touted and mega hyped Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is going to be "imminently cancelled."

Let's hope not. It's gotten better since its slow-ish start, and the most recent episode was pure and classic Sorkin magic.

Studio 60, a drama that goes behind-the-scenes at a Saturday Night Live-esque nationally televised show, is a show held (and which holds itself) to nearly impossible standards: it must reflect the "real world" of live television production, it must be groundbreaking or at least issue relevant commentary on society or pop culture in some way (Sorkin's characters on both The West Wing and Studio 60 strive to appeal to our higher angels), it must be interesting and dramatic, and it must be funny (at least within its show-within-a-show dynamic).

I'll argue it's getting pretty close to doing all of that, with the exception of the last bit. I would argue that we, the audience, really don't need to see the sketch comedy of Studio 60 very often at all in order for the show to work. But that's a different story.

The show works on the strength of the writing and characters, particularly Matthew Perry as Matt Albie and Bradley Whitford as Danny Tripp. Perry, especially, has been impressive of late, and, if nothing else, has thrown off the shackles of being known forevermore as Chandler, or "one of the dudes from Friends." Last week, Albie's storylines with Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson, who is growing on me after a sluggish start) and Simon Stiles (D.L. Hughley) drove the show. Perry and Hughley were especially fascinating in arguing over the limits of what any one comedy writer – black or white — can deliver to an audience. And the show really transcended to greatness as the two agreed to spontaneously take a chance on hiring a black comedian who had just gotten booed off the stage at a local L.A. comedy club.

Even though NBC is currently fretting over high production costs of scripted shows, the suits should take heed of Jordan McDeere's (Amanda Peet, who has never been better than as the new president of the NBS network) notion that quality television pays for itself.

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  • Louise

    Does it come as any surprise to readers to notice that the two sites that are saying that Studio 60′s demise is imminent,is Fox News (who apparently need to get a spell checker installed in the computers) and Marketwatch who is own by CBS.

    Gee Wiz guys… could you be andmore obvious!

  • Sally

    Studio 60 is funny, thought provoking, aspirational and, above all, different. It’s the only show I watch and if it’s cancelled I’ll probably give up on television all together.

  • http://bonamassablog.us Joan Hunt

    Congratulations! This article has been selected for placement on Advance.net

  • http://bonamassablog.us Joan Hunt

    I loved last week’s episode. It had heart, it had warmth, it had “humanness”, and it was, in my book, brilliant. I’d gladly watch the show every night of the week if I could if every episode delivered the same quality storytelling. And I think it’s absolutely possible to maintain that level if given time. My fingers are crossed!

  • Michael

    A lot of being said about this being a new “golden age” of television. It’s nice to see that NBC isn’t allowing this fact to get in the way of canceling a show with the potential to be truly great just because the numbers aren’t where they’d like to be. Why keep unexpected, intelligent, intriguing television around when we can have yet another Law & Order series? I’m disgusted.

    By the way, everyone comments on how the show isn’t funny. Just thinking out loud here…but maybe that’s because it’s a DRAMA about doing a comedy television show?

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    Studio 60 is fast moving from my favorite new show on television, to my favorite show on television period.

    Great article EB!

  • Susan Cohen

    I absolutely love the show Studio 60. It is smart,soulful,with brilliant powerful dialogue. (I often use some of the lines in my own life). The acting and directing are outstanding. It is actually my favourite TV show perhaps ever. If this show gets cancelled for whatever reason, I will give up on TV altogether. Perhaps the population doesn’t get the show. And what does that say about the population in general. Not too smart!

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    The show rocks. The Sorkin formula works well in this setting too. And the cast is absolutely the best.

  • handyguy

    Like “Nations,” the [not very exciting sounding] series that Danny convinced its young creator to sell to NBS, Studio 60 might be better off on HBO or some other outlet not dependent on ratings.

    NBC has already exiled an even better show, Kidnapped, to Saturday Siberia. It’s understandable as a cold business calculation, but viewers lose when good shows get treated badly.

    I do enjoy Studio 60 a lot, but I think the premise itself is still the show’s biggest problem. Saturday Night Live stopped being relevant many years ago, so it takes some effort to believe that the show within the show on Studio 60 is actually worth caring about. Luckily Sorkin’s dialogue and the gifted performers help us forget this central weakness most of the time.

  • Rah

    They should move it to different time-slot, It’s a great show but going head to head with CSI Miami is not going to help.
    I think 10pm is too late..

  • bw

    The show’s audience dropped 7 million in 3 weeks. I’m sure some of you like the show, but its awful and the rest of the country seems to be agreeing. As for whether this is merely a rumour.Why would NBC pull the show this week without a word? It’s one of the most expensive shows on TV and it was 3rd place in its time slot with one of the hottest new shows on TV as its lead in.

  • Ozzyols

    My understanding as to why it was pulled for this week was as part of lead in to November sweeps.

    What interests me about the article is that the person was saying that it was purely contractual that there was an offer of 3 more scripts. Everything else that has been posted about the negotiations that were entered into regarding Ari Emanuel for this show was that it was guarenteed 13 eps, which they seem to already have. Why ask for 3 more if NBC know they can get out of it at the end of 13.

    People keep saying that the numbers have dropped since the first week – sure, but then they have held around the same level for the past three as well. Neither loosing (nor I grant you, gaining, much ground either).

    I agree with Louise that it’s all rumor at the moment. And that it is very interesting that it just HAPPENS to be two rival networks that are leaking this stuff. Spoilers have been VERY few and far between on this particular show so I get the feeling that the cast and crew would be keeping schtum over something like this as well. I would like the originating author from Fox to come out – and put his reputation on the line and NAME his sources… or would that be opening him a up whole can of legal troubles?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Thanks all for the great comments!

    I’m hopeful that the audience will stabilize and grow over the next several weeks, and that NBC will see its way toward keeping it around and giving it a fair chance.

  • Jason T

    The show started off fantastic, and has slowly gotten more and more awful. Last week’s episode was preachy, and Sorkin does a whole lot more “telling” than “showing.” I could care less what two Hollywood elitist liberals think about life in South Central. Addressing “issues” does not necessarily make a show “intelligent.” Actually coming up with plots that present issues without them having to be monologue my annoying characters does make a show “intelligent.”

    Matthew Perry’s delivery was brilliant, however, and kept me watching longer than I probably would have otherwise (one episode of The West Wing was enough to bore me to tears).

    Studio 60 is (or was) far from smart. It’s become a dull blue state editorial at best. There is no real tension or drama between the characters. And it was just insanely brainless that the characters would let a writer get away with plagiarism, and even worse, feel respect for the two hacks that protected the person. And the black character’s overreaction to the black comedian playing off stereotypes last week was completely unrealistic. It’s like he’s never seen Comedy Central, or talked to any other black person in his life before. I found it impossible to believe he grew up in the hood.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    I think it comes down to whether or not you’re a fan of Sorkin when he’s at his best, Jason. I loved Sports Night and The West Wing at its best, and found both shows passable when they were off-game. I feel the same way about Studio 60, as it turns out.

    We can of course disagree, but I found Hughley’s (and Perry’s) reaction to the “hot comic” to be great: true professionals feel emotional pain when they see someone hacking up and pissing on their craft. I liked that twist, also — Hughley finally dragged his boss to see a black comic to help prove his point and it backfired on him completely. And it was a nice moment to see the two heading off to the bar, Perry saying “Of course you are” after Hughley offers to buy.

  • rena jacobson

    STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP is sensational. The writing is pure magic. The casting is brilliant. This is one of the very best shows of this or any other season. In a world where “My Name is Earl” is considered good programming, “Studio 60…” is a masterpiece! Aaron Sorkin has, as always, put together a smart, fast moving, emotional, funny, topical piece of television mastery. The episode with Eli Wallach reminiscing about happy times gone by and then careers destroyed by the McCarthy Witch hunt, and the Hollywood 10…this was television at its very best. I am originally from the northeast, but have lived in Florida for many years. I have never been asked my opinion by Neilsen. However, this show is so important, that I must state that it would be a crime to deprive its audience of this special hour at Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip!

  • http://www.nbc.com/Footer/Contact_Us/ Ron Voll

    I also hope Studio 60 is NOT cancelled, and I took one small step for mankind by sending a nicely crafted note to NBC asking them not to cancel the show.

    If all the fans speak out, maybe we can keep it on the air long enough for it to catch on. I believe MASH, Seinfeld, All in the Family and many other great shows got off to a rocky start. Let your voice be heard.

    The URL I posted leads to the NBC Contact Page…

  • http://thedailygoblin.blogspot.com John

    I can’t say that “Studio 60″ is the best show on TV, because it’s really the only one I watch with any sort of devotion.

    Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme have been criticized for trying to bring the behind-the-scenes gravitas of the White House (really?) to Tinseltown. They’ve also been accused of self-righteousness. A number of scenes are full-array broadsides against a studio system that leaves little room for the Sorkin-Schlamme brand of television: smart, affecting, dialogue-rich, more likely to be influenced by Aristotle’s Poetics than Canham’s Reality TV Show Pitch e-book.

    If indeed “Studio 60″ gets the axe, NBC will not bear all the blame. In public at least, the network has stuck by the show. But if viewers don’t fill out the only petition that matters — watching at 10/9 p.m. on television and not on the web, then ordering a land-line and waiting for Nielsen to call — “Studio 60″ will have the same fate as “Arrested Development” and “Sports Night”, critically-acclaimed television shows cut down too early. And to fill the time slot we’ll be given more of what we least need but most deserve: “Trading Mommies” and “Survivor: Segregation.”

  • Jewels

    I have no idea why the networks are so eager to kill off shows just because they enter with a slower groove. This show has more talent and potential than most out there now to become an icon endeavor. It’s the “immediocity” (my word)factor killing the potentially great programs and leaving us dependant on the reality genres which fulfill that itch. This show has the potential to rise to some level of TV ‘greatness’ if only someone in programming has one iota of intellectual ability and patience. “Arrested Development” one show that was killed off that should not have been.

  • Unto the Breach

    Killing of shows as soon as they are out of the gate seems to be a fundemental flaw in the American TV culture.

    In the UK generally we give a show AT LEAST a season or two to get their feet under them.

    One Channel head over here (I forget which) commented that some networks are like 14 year old boys – 15 seconds of self gratification and if they can’t make it work – that’s it – Good night nurse.

    I think that given the investment that they have made with Studio 60 that we will get at least a full season. Remember, shows like M*A*S*H, Cheers, Seinfeld and more recently 24 and House all performed badly in their freshman year.

    24 is a lot like Studio 60, in the sense that there is a lot to take in in one hit – I am not sure of the wisdom of having such a cerebral challenging show on at 10pm. 9 would probably be better. Even when West Wing was on – we would record it, and go back and watch it again later to catch what was happening in case you missed something. 24 didn’t take off until after Season 1 was released on DVD.

  • http://thedailygoblin.blogspot.com John

    I can’t say that “Studio 60″ is the best show on TV, because it’s really the only one I watch with any sort of devotion.

    Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme have been criticized for trying to bring the behind-the-scenes gravitas of the White House (really?) to Tinseltown. They’ve also been accused of self-righteousness. A number of scenes are full-array broadsides against a studio system that leaves little room for the Sorkin-Schlamme brand of television: smart, affecting, dialogue-rich, more likely to be influenced by Aristotle’s Poetics than Canham’s Reality TV Show Pitch e-book.

    If indeed “Studio 60″ gets the axe, NBC will not bear all the blame. In public at least, the network has stuck by the show. But if viewers don’t fill out the only petition that matters — watching at 10/9 p.m. on television and not on the web, then ordering a land-line and waiting for Nielsen to call — “Studio 60″ will have the same fate as “Arrested Development” and “Sports Night”, critically-acclaimed television shows cut down too early. And to fill the time slot we’ll be given more of what we least need but most deserve: “Trading Mommies” and “Survivor: Segregation.”

  • 2legs

    It’s a shame if they cancel Studio 60 after so few shows – it’s the only show currently on TV that I’ll actually make an effort to watch. Heck, I even cared enough to come online to find out why it wasn’t on tonight – that has never happened before!

    Maybe they can use the time slot for yet another low brow, contrived “reality” show that will further lower my opinion of our society and render my TV completely without use…

  • http://www.iamcorrect.com Lono

    I am a big fan of the show as well, and was quite confused tonight when it wasn’t on. The show is better than the real SNL, and is the only thing holding NBC in place, in my opinion.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Update: Good news for all y’all Studio 60 fans out there: “Fox Gets It Wrong, NBC Says ‘Studio 60′ Stays Onboard.”

  • Lou

    Studio 60 is incredibly lame. I watched 2 episodes and while the show has a great cast and sometimes clever dialogue, there is absolutely nothing about the show that wants me to tune in the next week. Studio 60 is pseudo-intellectualism at it’s best. The show thinks it’s too smart for most people. and it’s few fans think that the reason for the awful ratings is that most people aren’t smart enough to “get it”.

    Why make a show about SNL? A show that has had no cultural significance since Dana Carvey’s Church Lady. Why not do a Daily Show type premise instead? I live in Los Angeles myself (about 15 minutes from the Sunset Strip) and the last thing I want to see on TV is a bunch of rich spoiled entertainment types blab on about nothing important. I could just imagine what people in Columbus, Ohio might think. After all, the last episode of Studio 60 I watched did their best to insult Columbus.

    Note to NBC: People watch TV show for entertainment.

  • Bryan

    I love how people describe this show:

    * cerebral challenging
    * smart,soulful,with brilliant powerful dialogue
    * Perhaps the population doesn’t get the show
    * And what does that say about the population in general. Not too smart!

    No I just think most people don’t want to tune into another preachy liberal show. I think the show is fabulous except for the fact they can’t go 2 minutes without saying something about a) how great liberal ideas are or b) how horrible the conservatives are. Wow, they say some well thought out, but completely one sided political statements, it must be ground breaking. No, it’s just the west wing in a different setting…if this supposedly “powerful” dialog was with the reverse political slant would everybody who loves this show care? Yeah right, it would be stupid then ;)

  • Jimmy

    The show-within-the-show is the only real problem. The comedy bits they serve up there are so lame, it undermines the main premise that what they’re working on has any cultural significance. Why not get some of the greats who crafted the best SNL sketches (Michael O’Donoghue, Alan Zwiebel, etc.) to write something new for these segments? Even if they fail, it’d be nice to know there’s genuine comic minds behind these bits.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    You bring up an interesting point, Jimmy. I think part of it ties into the self-setting of so many hoops to jump through. The episodes that have featured the sketches the most tie the content of the show-within-show to the overall storyline. Now *that* is hard to pull off. So while “Science/Schience” and the Gilbert & Sullivan song parody may have worked for the storyline, they weren’t really funny.

    When you think about it, how many classic SNL moments are really politically edgy, anyway? I’ll wager that they might be “risky” in the sense of taking a chance comedically — from Wild and Crazy Guys to Gumby to Wayne’s World, etc. The focus was on the comedy and not the “message.”

  • L.A. sophisticate

    This show just plain phony.

    And no, I’m not part of the crowd that “isn’t smart enough” to “really get” Studio 60. Everyone seems to be blaming middle America for the show’s downfall.

    I’m a liberal and an academic, so I’d like to think I have a brain. I loved the pilot episode but it was downhill from there. I can’t deal with Studio 60.

    The show needs to get over itself. It’s definitely not as smart as it thinks it is. And Aaron Sorkin’s autobiography really is not that compelling. Studio 60 simply does not know how to connect with an audience. The characters are empty, at best. Is anyone buying that Matt and Harriet have chemistry – a real romantic connection? Harriet may just be the weak link on the show. The token fundamentalist Christian that Hollywood loves to pander to these days because they think that alone will draw ratings. And her fellow comedians really add nothing.

    The one bright side is that Amanda Peet, Steven Weber, Timothy Busfield, and Matthew Perry are all excellent. Too bad the show doesn’t revolve around those 4.

  • Ann Coulter

    * Matthew Perry’s delivery was brilliant
    * The casting is brilliant.
    * last week’s episode … was, in my book, brilliant
    * smart,soulful,with brilliant powerful dialogue

    Brilliant? Maybe, but too bad it’s not very entertaining. I saw the pilot and found the plot lacking any real suspense or even conflict. The characters didn’t have any attitude or emotion. You can substitute garbage cans for the actors and the result would be the same.

  • http://livebythefoma.blogspot.com/2006/09/studio-60-drinking-game.html Jacob

    I hope Studio 60 isn’t canceled; otherwise I’ll have to wait until the State of the Union to drink again.

  • John

    I love this show. I really hope all of the cancellation talk is just rumor. I think it’s and extremely unique concept that hasen’t been done before. It’s different from all of the cops and robber and attorney type shows. The cast has great chemistry. The acting is incredible. And while it is great drama, I also think it is funny. Some shows take a while for the public to catch on. I hope NBC gives it a chance to do that before they rush to pull it off the air too quickly. If I am remembering correctly, Friend’s (along with some other great shows) took a season or two to get a large public following. I do think some of the problem may be the time slot it’s in. It’s too good of a show to start at 10:00pm. I really hope it doesn’t go away. Along with HOUSE, it’s my favorite show on right now.

  • Bob

    It will be a sad day if they cancel this show. It is the only show I watch. It is certainly the only show that has made me laugh out loud repeatedly. I was disappointed with The West Wing went off the air but when Studio 60 came on, I was very please to once again have a show with the writing and direction quality that it has. A damn shame that the masses are idiots and they apparently watch idiot reality TV and version 10 of CSI crap.

  • Caitlin

    I was a huge fan of Sports Night, and the first four seasons of the West Wing are my favorite TV show ever (I got so sick of the horrible writing post-Sorkin that WW ended for me at the end of season 4). Studio 60, however, makes me sad. The Sorkin model of storylines and writing in general is just not working in this context. There are valid points to be made about networks pandering to the lowest common denominator in programming and dumbed-down writing on many popular tv shows, but an episode that features a storyline about Nate Corddry’s father not knowing who Abbott and Costello were sets up too much of a straw man to be taken seriously. The show-within-a-show is so horrifically unfunny that its fictional popularity just makes everything else implausible. We loved the Bartlet administration for being what government should be. The fictional Studio 60 is in no way what TV should be.

  • Caitlin

    And just to clarify: I am what many would call an East Coast, educated, liberal elitist snob. I have no problem with Sorkin taking potshots at conservatives; I just wish they were wittier and worked in context.

  • AM

    My husband and I have started watching S60 the last three weeks and have really enjoyed it. Where do we tell NBC not to cancel? I’m tired of the stupid reality shows and stupid sitcoms… this show rocks.

  • JIM LEWIS

    I read an artcle recently that I think was from the L.A. Times. It was talking about Studio 60 and how it’s not funny. I guess comedy writers like to wite on blogs and such on what’s wrong with the show. One, it’s not funny. I know it’s not realy supposed to be seeing it’s more of a drama but I guess the sketches on the show need to get funnier. I guess Aaron Sorkin needs to hire some actual comedy writers. I mean, It’s supposed to be a show about the the goings on behind the scenes of the funniest sketch show on TV. Two, comedy writers and people working on sketch comedy shows aren’t that smart.
    I guess it’s not real in that sense. Maybe a drama about a comedy sketch show isn’t what people want to see. It seems to be a good show though,
    and I hope it does last.

  • Floyd Henderson

    I don’t know and never have known why the American public hates to be pushed toward quality television. I just know that they do. My only reasonable guess would be that they have constantly been spoon-fed the sorriest excuses for entertainment by network executives who refuse to hire the best writers and then get the hell out of their way and let them do their jobs. For example, write quality dialogue for well-conceived and well-developed characters in the framework of a good storyline.
    Hey, NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox….stop thinking we are all as ignorant and stupid as the worst and lowest common denominator. Give us something and someone we can relate to and care about, and we will skin those dollars off towards your sponsors. And, you get to keep your jobs by doing something of which you can be proud, instead of the same old pap reheated ad infinitum (that means over and over, since I’m assuming you all are as stupid as you assume we are).

  • Floyd Henderson

    Also, I just finished reading some previous comments about Studio 60′s ”shortcomings” and I must say most of the posters just don’t get it. It’s not supposed to be about funny comedy sketches. It’s supposed to be about the writers and performers for such a show and what they go through each week while trying to produce that show. It’s about the people and the process, not the end product. The conflict(plotline) is the problem of writing and producing such a show in the midst of each of the main characters’ everyday crises in just getting from midnight to midnight each day.

  • Sadie

    Exactly! Who cares about how funny the sketches are when they are really just background pieces to the story of the show. That is not where the focus is. If people are going to be critical of it they should concentrate on the actual show, not the sketches.

  • Sadie

    Also, I have a question. There wasn’t an episonde on my tivo this week. Does this mean it’s already gone on hiatus, or are they just taking a week off?

  • Salty

    Studio 60 was a well written great show, It is to bad it did not make it.