Studio 60 Lives On (at Least for a Little While)

I love Aaron Sorkin’s new show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. But it’s not doing so great ratings-wise. That’s what led to reports like this one, calling its cancellation “imminent.” Happily for me and about 7.7 million other people, however, NBC has ordered up nine more episodes, which means that the show (which is very expensive to produce) will at least finish out its maiden season.

I think the show is interesting, clever, funny, tear-jerking, and a few other things. But almost no one I know feels the same — especially the people who work in television, who think it’s trite, bland, melodramatic, confused, and a few other things. I don’t care if they’re right; I happen to like it. I’ve liked Sorkin since I first moved to New York and saw his play A Few Good Men. I was shocked to learn it had been written by someone so young. Nice brains, his.

Anyway … What I really love about Studio 60 is its audio track. As with Sorkin’s monster hit The West Wing, this show has a dense, fast-paced, jargony audio track that actually bears repeated listenings. Since I watch the show mostly on my iPod while traveling, I sometimes will just listen to an episode a second or third time even without watching the image. It’s like listening to a really good radio play. This strikes me as a nice bonus to watching TV shows or movies on the iPod: because you’re listening with headphones, you pick up all sorts of stuff you don’t in a large-screen (and big-speaker) format. Just as Napster and the iPod (may have/sort of) saved the record industry by reminding everyone that people want to hear songs and not albums, it may be that the iPod is also paving the way for all those audioheads in film and TV to finally be properly appreciated for the great work they do.


BryanMacTavish

I agree whole heartedly and hope to see Sorkin have an outlet to display his dialog which is the best part of his shows.

If his show only appeals to a smaller audience is there any way to produce a Sorkin show for the long tail? Will Google Video and YouTube begin to see Sorkin-quality productions available to a targeted audience that cannot support an hour of broadcast network advertising?

ReubenMoore

Well, I agree with you for the most part - Good writing and Good Acting. Usually a winning combination. So, what's the problem - well, it's the concept! They are trying to discuss serious issues with the SNL-like background. Scrap it! And, then take the same writers and the same actors and place them in say, oh I don't know, how about a Web 2.0 media site.... Winner!

saulweiner

Actually, it feels like this would have been better on cable (like the show 'It's always sunny in Philadelphia'). That way it wouldn't have to appeal to the lowest common denominator of television viewers (such as the plethora of reality and slapstick comedy shows).

It frustrates me when higher quality shows are forced to close. Long live good quality programming... or something like that.

jcgoodchild

There was actually an article (in the NY Times, I believe) that quotes one NBC executive mentioning that the iTunes Music store saved The Office from being cancelled.

So there is certainly something to be said for the power of iTunes (or at least digital distribution).

jyb

On the topic of iTunes, I'd love to hear what you think about the Microsoft Zune/Universal deal.

bogey4

I love the show. Where else can you hear (and I paraphrase) "There's a whole cast of a Fellini movie on a plane to Pahrump?"

deepakln

Steve, I could not agree with you more. Even though I think there's still some kinks to work out, the show really works on various levels. There's an exchange between the "NBS" Chairman and "Simon Stiles" while in the corporate jet that demonstrated the agility of the writing. Watching John Goodman at work (in the last episode) was a real treat. I think Sorkin should also work on putting "Nations" on the air.

KLSnow

I also think it would be a bit harsh for NBC to put together a new show, run it against Monday Night Football for 3 months, and then can it due to low ratings.

I don't have the numbers on hand to back this up, but I'd bet The West Wing, my all-time favorite TV show, didn't immediately produce tremendous ratings either...there were too many intricate storylines and character relationships to pick up on in one episode. It took me a long time to get past the learning curve, but I did, and now I own all 154 episodes on DVD.

MusicCityMafia

Aaaron Sorkin is hands down the best writer in TV. I couln't even watch "West Wing" after he left.

His audio tracks sound like radio plays because , it's my understanding, that while other teenagers locked themselves into their room and listened to AC/DC albums, he locked himself into his room and listened to recordings of plays over and over again, He definitely writes for the ear.

For a real treat, pick up a DVD of his first TV show "Sports Night"

Tristram_ZX81

Jcgoodchild, I read the same article, but here. I also read this article, published before itunes changed The Office's fortunes, which says that the reason The Office wasn't cancelled initially was because the studio were aware that a slightly 'richer' audience were watching it. As such they could sell the advertising space to companies that were keen to appeal to that market, despite the fact it was only getting around seven million viewers. When I read this I was appalled; so TV scheduling is no longer about quality or even popularity, but whether enough rich people are watching it! Having said that, I liked the end if not the means as I am a big fan of The Office.

Tristram_ZX81

Sorry my attempt at writing in html has failed. Here are the links proper:

http://www.gadgetlounge.net/archives/2006/11/03/how-itunes-saved-the-office/

http://www.imdb.com/news/sb/2005-05-18#tv4

Puplet

I want to like Studio 60, I really do... Not that I have downloaded it, but it's quite popular on various peer-to-peer networks... Perhaps, alongside the 7.7m who watch it on tv, the people who calculate these things should somehow record the number of illegitimate downloads if they really want to guage popularity...

sophistry

The illegal downloads are stripped of commericals so there are no direct advertising benefits from those viewers. If these online downloaders spread the word to their TV watching friends then it might be worthwhile, but people who download online are probably semi sophisticated and their friends probably own Tivo.

wesleyb41

I rather enjoy the irony of Studio 60 and it's "imminent" cancellation. In the first episode, the show's producer interrupts the show with an indictment against the network for it's continual promotion and acceptance of less than stellar programming. Now it would seem Studio 60 is too smart for the average viewer, who is apparently too busy wondering what happened on the reality shows currently gripping the nation.

NBC - you're on notice - keep Studio 60 for as long as you can.

glenwood3646

Yesterday I was at IMDB.com and ran across a cross reference to Max Headroom and found this in the memorable quotes area:

As, 'tis Max Headroom here, and I quote from the bard, Shakespeare, a writer: "The quality of TV is not strained, it dropeth as the gentle ratings dropeth to a very tiny percentage share and, lo, 'tis gone." Of course, Shakespeare would have loved your rating system. Twelfth Night would have been lucky to have lasted *one*!

Truthiness to the core.

prosa

KLSnow has it nailed down - running a new show against Monday Night Football is not a smart decision, especially a show which (someone correct me if I'm wrong) may be somewhat more male-oriented than most network programming.

The original posting also noted that the show is very expensive to produce. Would be it possible to cut some costs without sacrificing too much quality?

BryanMacTavish

I agree whole heartedly and hope to see Sorkin have an outlet to display his dialog which is the best part of his shows.

If his show only appeals to a smaller audience is there any way to produce a Sorkin show for the long tail? Will Google Video and YouTube begin to see Sorkin-quality productions available to a targeted audience that cannot support an hour of broadcast network advertising?

ReubenMoore

Well, I agree with you for the most part - Good writing and Good Acting. Usually a winning combination. So, what's the problem - well, it's the concept! They are trying to discuss serious issues with the SNL-like background. Scrap it! And, then take the same writers and the same actors and place them in say, oh I don't know, how about a Web 2.0 media site.... Winner!

saulweiner

Actually, it feels like this would have been better on cable (like the show 'It's always sunny in Philadelphia'). That way it wouldn't have to appeal to the lowest common denominator of television viewers (such as the plethora of reality and slapstick comedy shows).

It frustrates me when higher quality shows are forced to close. Long live good quality programming... or something like that.

jcgoodchild

There was actually an article (in the NY Times, I believe) that quotes one NBC executive mentioning that the iTunes Music store saved The Office from being cancelled.

So there is certainly something to be said for the power of iTunes (or at least digital distribution).