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Darren H

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

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Sara seems to like the show, and I'm trying to give it a chance, but I'm not sure I'll still have enough interest to tune in every week.

Well, I don't think it's going to save television or anything, but I like it. You should bear in mind, however, that I also like America's Next Top Model, King of Queens, and Brady Bunch reruns.

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Sara seems to like the show, and I'm trying to give it a chance, but I'm not sure I'll still have enough interest to tune in every week.

Well, I don't think it's going to save television or anything, but I like it. You should bear in mind, however, that I also like America's Next Top Model, King of Queens, and Brady Bunch reruns.

I'm sorry, I was referring to my lovely bride (TexasSara) instead of the esteemed author, Sara Zarr. ::blush::

By the way, I'm planning to pre-order your book this week from Amazon. :)

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I loved the episode again last night. That makes three in a row for me. The fact that the sketches themselves are not hilarious - or even much better than what you might expect to see on a typical SNL - doesn't make a difference. S60 is about the behind-the-scenes, not the on-camera stuff (for the most part). As long as it's enough to get the point across (which it has been), it's enough for me. BTW, for those of you who were fans of Sports Night, I find Sorkin's portrayal of behind-the-scenes comedy to be MUCH more authentic than the behind-the-scenes sports show in Sports Night, even if the on-camera stuff isn't particularly groundbreaking. I never for a second believed that any of the characters on Sports Night cared a lick about sports.

There are some shows I really want others to like too, and I'm frustrated when people don't see what I see in them. I'm enjoying this show so much that it doesn't bother me at all that some people aren't, because that just makes it feel that much more like a little treasure all for me... :)

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Sara seems to like the show, and I'm trying to give it a chance, but I'm not sure I'll still have enough interest to tune in every week.

Well, I don't think it's going to save television or anything, but I like it. You should bear in mind, however, that I also like America's Next Top Model, King of Queens, and Brady Bunch reruns.

I'm sorry, I was referring to my lovely bride (TexasSara) instead of the esteemed author, Sara Zarr. ::blush::

That does make more sense. I wasn't sure why my opinion suddenly mattered enough to garner mention! When I was a kid, there was no one else named Sara. Nowadays I have three friends named Sara, and two named Sarah.

By the way, I'm planning to pre-order your book this week from Amazon. :)

Thank you!! And now, sadly, I'm taking off for a week with no laptop. I'll have to catch up next week.

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BTW, for those of you who were fans of Sports Night, I find Sorkin's portrayal of behind-the-scenes comedy to be MUCH more authentic than the behind-the-scenes sports show in Sports Night, even if the on-camera stuff isn't particularly groundbreaking. I never for a second believed that any of the characters on Sports Night cared a lick about sports.

Yes. And yes.

I still have some problems with the show -- the main cast's too big, I'm still a little iffy on Harriett, I desperately hope Jordan gets fired and replaced by Anna Deavere Smith, etc. -- but three episodes in, it's probably one of my three favorite network dramas. Particularly fun is the game Spot the Autobiographical Reference; just in episode three, there's a comment by Danny (paraphrased) that "no one can write 90 minutes of television every week without going crazy by week 6" and an ex-lover leaking sorid details of Jordan's life to promote his new self-published book. [R-rated language in the link.]

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins

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Best. Episode. Ever.

(Of course, there's only been four so far. But still.)

Dale

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Meh. Turned it off after ten minutes. Went to sleep.

My wife turned it off and on throughout the rest of the hour, between news segments. Filled me in.

I thought the resolutions to the issues to be ultimately facile and pathetic, almost like a Brady Bunch episode.

But then, what do I know? I slept thru most of it.

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I enjoyed it. I'm starting to like Jordan more and more. To me, she's the only one that's consistently funny.

Matthew Perry is doing a great job. I no longer see any traces of Chandler. He's a terrific actor.

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Meh. Turned it off after ten minutes. Went to sleep.

After about 10 minutes, I went to the computer room and played Monopoly against the computer. Sara watched it, although she switched back and forth between Studio 60 and Monday Night Football.

I'm really having a hard time staying interested in these self-involved characters. And I didn't like the West Wing either, so perhaps I just don't care for Sorkin's writing.

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I liked last night's episode. The dialogue flowed really well. Sorkin reminds of David Mamet, in that his dialogue has a recognizable cadence, and the way the characters speak it is as important as what they say. I'm a sucker for baseball, so I liked the subplot involving Harriet and the pitcher, and Matthew Perry's commentary on a pitcher autographing a bat, an instrument of hitting. That's funny stuff. And Harriett's Juliette Lewis impersonation wasn't too bad either.

I think these characters have way too much of a sense of self-importance for what they're doing. It's the gravitas of The West Wing as applied to something as trivial as a late night comedy show, and Aaron Sorkin using the show to work out his personal post-breakup and post-West Wing issues. It shouldn't work, but I find it fascinating in a strange kind of way, with that ominous countdown clock and the bubble these characters live in. Or maybe I'm just weird.

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...with that ominous countdown clock...

Pray, tell me, is there any real threat to the countdown of that clock? Is there not a doubt that there will always be something on?

I remember seeing the SNL episode, way back when, Eddie Murphy was a cast regular, and the guest of that evening, Nick Nolte, had to bow out at the very last minute, due to some stomach virus. They did the entire show with Eddie Murphy taking the helm, and at one point nearing the end, he was just pushed out there, just killing enough time before the commercials went back on.

It was incredible. It made great TV, even if that last part was completely throwaway. It's something that will NEVER happen at S60.

Unless the countdown clock gets somebody electricuted in some freak accident, it serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever.

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I think these characters have way too much of a sense of self-importance for what they're doing. It's the gravitas of The West Wing as applied to something as trivial as a late night comedy show, and Aaron Sorkin using the show to work out his personal post-breakup and post-West Wing issues. It shouldn't work, but I find it fascinating in a strange kind of way, with that ominous countdown clock and the bubble these characters live in. Or maybe I'm just weird.

But Crow, that kind of attitude and self-perception is absolutely ESSENTIAL to success in the arts... or in entertainment, if you don't want to think of sketch comedy as part of the arts. When you start out in any field -- be it music, literature, theatre, TV, painting, sculpture, what have you -- NO ONE is impressed with your work. Not even your friends. And if you don't develop some kind of confidence that yes, what you do is the single most important thing on the planet, you'll never get past being poor and being ignored and being dismissed out of hand.

If there is anything about that show that is RIGHT, it is that people in the arts and entertainment world are, almost out of necessity, some of the most self-involved and self-important people around. And I will freely include myself in that category.

If you're lucky, you'll find people who call you on the carpet when your ego goes berzerk, but if you don't actually BELIEVE in the importance of what you're doing, even if it's "Just writing sketch comedy," then you're really not going to succeed.

I'll tell you what, that kind of conviction is more important to success than talent. By an exponential amount.

P.S.

You know Nick, I'm starting to wonder which bothers you more -- the show, or that other people like it. :D

Edited by The Baptist Death Ray

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I disagree. I think the belief that a sense of of self-importance is essential to successful art is largely a remnanant of the Romantic archetype of the tortured artist and/or the modernist elevation of the prophet/poet.

I think there can be and have been lots of successful artists who have personal humility and/or a healthy respect for their craft and work that doesn't necessarily attach huge amounts of social significance to what they are doing.

Humility is learned and attained over time. That many artists have not learned it is their failing, but I continue to maintain that you cannot succeed without believing that your job is *important*. Especially in an age where if nobody knows who you are then nobody cares to get to know you.

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Well, the point I was trying to make -- and I probably didn't make it very well -- is that in the arts there is a fine line between the one and the other, and the reason (in my opinion) that line is crossed so often is because when you begin your career you are, in the eyes of most of the industry, non-existant and unimportant... the people who succeed learn to believe in themselves and the value of their work when no one else does. A lot of people who succeed move from that to full blown narcissism, especially if they reach a point where a lot of people are telling them things that beforehand only they said to themselves, only now he or she is hearing it in a ridiculously overblown fashion.

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As someone who works in the entertainment industry, I can tell you that regardless of whether or not artists/entertainers *need* to be self-important or *should* be self-important, they most certainly usually *are* self-important.

So in that sense, the show's nothing if not accurate. Of course, we are expected to like these characters - at least to varying degrees - so perhaps that mixture is part of what people are finding irritating?

To steal a baseball metaphor myself, the show's batting 4 for 4 in my book...

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For what it's worth, I really liked this week's episode. It felt like vintage Sorkin. The stakes were high. The tension was great. The dialogue made me laugh... several times (but no, the sketch-comedy they wrote still isn't working for me.) Overall, I think each of the episodes has been an improvement on the one before it, and that's a promising trend.

Matthew Perry is proving himself a much better actor than I'd thought.

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But Crow, that kind of attitude and self-perception is absolutely ESSENTIAL to success in the arts... or in entertainment, if you don't want to think of sketch comedy as part of the arts. When you start out in any field -- be it music, literature, theatre, TV, painting, sculpture, what have you -- NO ONE is impressed with your work. Not even your friends. And if you don't develop some kind of confidence that yes, what you do is the single most important thing on the planet, you'll never get past being poor and being ignored and being dismissed out of hand.

If there is anything about that show that is RIGHT, it is that people in the arts and entertainment world are, almost out of necessity, some of the most self-involved and self-important people around.

I agree that an artist needs to have that kind of belief in oneself in order to succeed. What I probably should have said is not that these characters have too much self-importance, but rather that they're wound up so tight that the comedy they are trying to write suffers as a result.

One thing Studio 60 does well is show the paradox of trying to write comedy in a high-pressure environment. On the other hand, it doesn't look like any of these characters really enjoy what they're doing. That cast could use a Chris Farley-type of character to loosen them up once in a while.

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I enjoyed the episode. But I defend anyone's right to think it sucks. I like a lot of really crappy TV, and I haven't liked a lot of some of the allegedly best TV.

They do seem awfully self-important in a way I don't find completely convincing. I get the impression that real life people who do comedy (especially late night sketch comedy) have a healthy sense of humor about themselves and the relative importance of what they're doing. There is a giant difference between confidence and self-importance.

I don't think a sense of self-importance is necessary or good for an artist or entertainer. In Annie Dillard's book "The Writing Life" she writes about the problem with works that bear too heavy a load of the artist's struggle to create it: "How many books do we read from which the writer lacked courage to tie off the umbilical cord? How many gifts do we open from which the writer neglected to remove the price tag? Is it pertinent, is it courteous, for us to learn what it cost the writer personally?" Replace "books" with "tv shows/movies" - I do think Sorkin's work has this underlying feel of someone going, "But this is important! It's important! It's a metaphor for everything, and I went through all this! Don't you get it?" Or maybe I'm getting that from critics.

But I still like the show.

There is a Chris Farley-esque guy lurking around in the background. He hasn't really had any lines since the first ep.

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I don't think a sense of self-importance is necessary or good for an artist or entertainer. In Annie Dillard's book "The Writing Life" she writes about the problem with works that bear too heavy a load of the artist's struggle to create it: "How many books do we read from which the writer lacked courage to tie off the umbilical cord? How many gifts do we open from which the writer neglected to remove the price tag? Is it pertinent, is it courteous, for us to learn what it cost the writer personally?" Replace "books" with "tv shows/movies" - I do think Sorkin's work has this underlying feel of someone going, "But this is important! It's important! It's a metaphor for everything, and I went through all this! Don't you get it?" Or maybe I'm getting that from critics.

I don't know, it seems awfully common for people to disparage artists who take their work seriously because it's, you know, "just [whatever it is]." I get that vibe here at A&F, too, but maybe in this case I'm reacting to things that aren't there.

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I don't know, it seems awfully common for people to disparage artists who take their work seriously because it's, you know, "just [whatever it is]." I get that vibe here at A&F, too, but maybe in this case I'm reacting to things that aren't there.

Well, again - big diff between taking one's work seriously and being "self-important" which is the phrase that got this whole discussion going. I found the definition "having or manifesting an exaggerated idea of one's own importance or merit" to pretty much sum up how I'm using it.

I really do get what you're saying. Because I write young adult fiction, I often face attitudes in others (sometimes really well-meaning others) about when I'm going to write a "real" book, and if this YA stuff is just a phase before I get the hang of this writing thing and move on to an adult audience. It's "just YA." At the same time, while I take my work seriously, I'm not deluded enough to think anything I write is going to be around in 100 years like Shakespeare or Dickens. I don't think my book is going to save the world or herald a new era of adolescent literature, or that everyong should pay more attention to ME because what I do is "art" and what other writers are doing is "just YA" or "just entertainment."

I don't think we disagree here. You're right - sometimes craftspeople in any field who dare to say that their work might be important are quickly shot down. It's the kind of statement that invites extra critical scrutiny. Artists who aren't already famous have to self promote and have enough confidence to believe that it's worth their time and people's attention to throw another movie, another show, another book, another CD, another painting, another dance out into the world. But then once you start getting too much attention, people kind of start to hate you. Or at least resent you. Or at least wait for you to make a misstep so they can pile on. I do it, for sure. Ahh human nature!

Edited by Sara Zarr

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Here's how the Plugged In review of Studio 60 starts:

"You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God."

Writer and producer Aaron Sorkin penned that memorable line in 1993 for the movie Malice. It was one of the first times the American public got a taste of his often vitriolic take on matters of faith.

Um... no.

That line was meant to be the first sign that Alec Baldwin's character was a bit off his rocker. That line got laughs. That was not a "vitriolic take on matters of faith." It was a line spoken by a supremely arrogant character.

Well, we're off to a good start. Here's what comes next:

Before a single episode of Studio 60 had aired, it was dubbed "the most exciting new show of the season" and a potential "small-screen classic." Critics heralded Sorkin as the long-awaited savior of NBC and praised him for his acerbic yet "accurate" take on matters few other writers are willing to touch.

Well, there are many matters in which he does deliver admirable, acerbic, and even accurate takes on matters. Just because he doesn't embrace Christians on his show doesn't mean the guy's totally off his rocker. He's an impressive writer, and one who takes the time to study the subjects and contexts he portrays.

On the "Crazy Christians" sketch that was so controversial in Studio 60:

They, of course, lobby hard for the routine, despite knowing that it will incite the criticism (and boycotts) of an increasingly vocal Christian audience. The stuffy network suits, on the other hand, threaten to pull the plug, not wanting to lose red-state viewership.

Yeah? So? That happens.

Then Yoars gets upset that the film put Pat Robertson in a critical light. Hasn't Pat Robertson done more than enough to deserve being shown in a critical light?

Never mind. That's just the beginning, but this "review" of Studio 60 is already so slanted that I'm not going to read any further...

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Tonight's episode was another winner.

Sting's performance was a very classy touch.

Amanda Peet's speech about changing network television was a highlight.

And I'm starting to warm up to some of the supporting characters.

Nice progress. Too bad it's doomed.

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