Last week Media Bistro sent me this piece from the Wall Street Journal about the future of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." Since a new episode airs tonight, I figured now's a good time to spout off about why this show annoys me so much.
I wanted to like the show, because ever since "Sports Night" I've enjoyed Sorkin's work. They got a megawatt cast and spent fajillions in advance marketing, and suddenly it was nice again to have Sorkin on the air after he left "West Wing" so abruptly. But now, only six episodes in, I'm sour. And here's why:
- The characters are interchangeable. This is a standard Sorkin trope that has been a problem in all his work. I can appreciate characters that are jaded and hyper-intelligent, but they're all that way. They all have the same personality, talk in the same cadence, rattle off the same polysyllabic prattle. This is probably why Steven Weber is my favorite actor on the show. His on-air persona dares to be different.
- You can't hear a damn thing. This might be the fault of all the street noise outside my building (or my aging, tinnitic ears), but the characters spend so much time speed-mumbling that the only way to understand every word is to rewind your DVR and watch it again, or enable your TV's subtitles. (We do both.) The dialogue is funny and thought-provoking as always, but why do I have to work so hard to appreciate it?
- It's just not believable. Do I think that writer/performers on late-night skit shows jabber urbanely about Kierkegaard and the Hollywood Ten? No. I think they bounce off the walls hopped up on Red Bull with disheveled hair and stained sweatpants. These are comedians, after all, who are nuts. They backbite and cajole and make fart jokes and bang their heads in self-doubt.
- Amanda Peet. She's lovely, but no.
- The same old Sorkinian tics are starting to grate. The worst is each character's need to say "Yeah," except in that blunt staccato that makes it sound like a breathless yuh. Try this: Sit down with a bottle of Wild Turkey tonight and do a shot every time a character says yuh. By the end of the show, you'll be good and crocked.
Given the expense of each episode, NBC's recently announced budget cuts, and the diving ratings, Studio 60 is probably doomed. I'll continue to watch, but I'll probably DVR it and watch on Friday, so I can at least sleep off my hangover.
[EDITED TO ADD: Last night's episode was pretty moderate: only 8 or 9 yuhs, by unofficial count. For some real fun, find a "West Wing" rerun on Bravo. You'll put away so much booze that you won't remember turning off the television.]