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SUBPRIME TIME: SORKIN’S ‘STUDIO 60’ STUMBLED
#1
LINK: Swing and a BIG miss for Aaron Sorkin
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#2
Ah Studio 60...what might have been. I continued to watch this lousy thing, so I got to see John Goodman as the Nevada sheriff who owned those devious comedy libz, and Nate Corddry's hilarious parents, who reminded him that his brother was "STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF AGHANISTAN!" or how Whitford charmed (and by that I mean stalked) Amanda Peet. I recall liking Steven Weber's character, however...he was kind of the forerunner of the "TV exec dickhead" Billy Crudup would master on THE MORNING SHOW.
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#3
The worst thing about it is I think there was actually a good show in there, somewhere. Unfortunately, as noted in the article and other discussion, the show also seemed like a carte blanche for Sorkin to indulge in all his worst inclinations. This includes his Charming Stalker Wins Closed Off Professional Woman plotline, which he's used in every show he's done, as far as I can tell.

Whitford and Perry are magic together; they have real, compelling chemistry as close friends and semi-broken people trying to find their groove in the only jobs they can. Supporting cast is overall good, too, though Paulson was woefully miscast. When the series focuses on the foibles, triumphs, and weirdness of the SNL-like show, it does pretty well. When it tries to make larger stories or importance out of it, it stumbles really fucking hard. Every single flashback we get in this only season of the show is utterly unnecessary and is one of Sorkin's worst traits: instead of economically giving us backstory as dialogue and moving forward, he insists on showing us EVERYTHING that was already talked about and adequately filled in by the viewer's imagination.

I even like Whitford and Peet together, however gross Sorkin's romanticizing of the Stalker Phase of the relationship. Once they're together, they work onscreen.

I did a rewatch a couple of years ago; after being a defender of the show for a long while, that rewatch cured me. There are still scenes and parts of the show I like but overall it's a failure and I don't know that I'll ever watch it again.
"Nooj's true feelings on any given subject are unknown and unknowable. He is the butterfly flapping its wings in Peking. He is chaos and destruction and you shall never see his true form." - Merriweather

My Steam ID: yizashigreyspear
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#4
I remember how enourmously excited I was for this, and my huge massive sticking point at the time was that the "funny new comedy" was lame as fuck.  Sorkin seemed to mistake being performatively as witty as humanly possible as hilarious comedy.
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#5
I was actually OK with us never seeing any finished sketches; it was better left to our imaginations.

And while I get the criticisms (especially since it again goes back to the same Sorkinian well as many other plot elements), I was OK with the cold open solution using the antique Broadway showtune.

Oh, and I forgot: Timothy Busfield is fucking gold in this series.
"Nooj's true feelings on any given subject are unknown and unknowable. He is the butterfly flapping its wings in Peking. He is chaos and destruction and you shall never see his true form." - Merriweather

My Steam ID: yizashigreyspear
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#6
The Gilbert and Sullivan clip linked in there is such a emblematic moment of a show about six feet up its own ass.

I love the idea of SNL opening a season with a full musical number from HMS Pinafore, but with the lyrics rewritten to be about how culturally important the cast believes themselves to be.
Brigadier Cousins on PSN
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#7
Conan nailed it with this spoof. As I recall, Studio 60 had already been cancelled by the time it aired.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOJuK7SD2Is



"I'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on Earth."--Steve McQueen
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#8
A 90 minute variety show written by one person (later extended to four) is high quality science-fiction writing. Peak Sorkin living up his own ass.

Also irked at the treatment of the rival showrunners as evil when, in fact, they were looking out for their staff.

The real ending to Big...
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#9
(10-14-2020, 10:30 AM)filmnerdjamie Wrote: A 90 minute variety show written by one person (later extended to four) is high quality science-fiction writing. Peak Sorkin living up his own ass.

Also irked at the treatment of the rival showrunners as evil when, in fact, they were looking out for their staff.

Sorkin based that somewhat on his writing a 45 minute drama by one person, but left out the cocaine.

And yeah, on my last rewatch, my sympathies were with the writers who jumped ship.
"Nooj's true feelings on any given subject are unknown and unknowable. He is the butterfly flapping its wings in Peking. He is chaos and destruction and you shall never see his true form." - Merriweather

My Steam ID: yizashigreyspear
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#10
Does the cocaine amplify Sorkin's douchiness or does it go hand in hand?

The real ending to Big...
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#11
From what I can tell, it's a six of one/half dozen of the other situation.
"Nooj's true feelings on any given subject are unknown and unknowable. He is the butterfly flapping its wings in Peking. He is chaos and destruction and you shall never see his true form." - Merriweather

My Steam ID: yizashigreyspear
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#12
The show failed to establish what was so Goddamn bad about Rick and Ron. All the leads mock them and write them off as hacks. When you go back to that scene in the Writer's Room, everything their team pitches to Matt sounds funny a la Bush II puts a literal Drug Czar in charge of the War on Drugs, etc.

But nope. Pimp My Trike and that horrid musical number. That is comic perfection. Right down to outside characters saying with a straight face "It hasn't been this good in years."

More likely than naught, they had the nerve to give Matt notes instead of kissing his ass. Zero doubt, something that happened to Sorkin.

And lest we forget Nations. Jesus Christ, that show.

The real ending to Big...
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#13
I mean, Nations was essentially West Wing writ larger, right? 

And it really belonged on HBO. Especially in 2006.

I did find the show working with only three writers for so long completely unbelievable. Was it budgeting issues? Was it Sorkin simply not able to write a scene in which multiple writers come up with good ideas instead of One Lone Brilliant Guy?

Conversely, I love the whole "Say it!" part with Matt and Danny funny. And I LOVED the episode with Danny failing to take care of the placebo baby.

Also, Matt was a fucking idiot to let that lawyer slip away. Holy shit she was a SMOKESHOW.

ETA: that we've gone this long without mentioning Steven Weber as Jack Rudolph is a crime. Regardless of how unintentionally ridiculous the show got, Weber brought his A game and was always really enjoyable as a proto-Jack Donoghey.
"Nooj's true feelings on any given subject are unknown and unknowable. He is the butterfly flapping its wings in Peking. He is chaos and destruction and you shall never see his true form." - Merriweather

My Steam ID: yizashigreyspear
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#14
Jack Rudolph was good. Weber and Busfield were pretty keyed in, and a glimpse of the good version of this show.

But what I remember when thinking about it is the endless score-settling and axe-grinding from Sorkin. The entire plotline with the writers is a great example. But so is everything with Sarah Paulson, except even more personal. Studio 60, more than anything, made me think Sorkin the man is probably a real asshole. When he goes on to nail empathy for other real assholes in Social Network and Jobs, that felt more or less confirmed.
Brigadier Cousins on PSN
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#15
*meekly raises hand*

I mentioned Steven Weber in the first response.

Agree totally that Sorkin is, most likely, a gigantic prick.
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#16
That's just swell, Mangy.

But right now YOUR LITTLE BROTHER IS STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF AFGHANISTAN!

The real ending to Big...
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#17
(10-14-2020, 05:58 PM)filmnerdjamie Wrote: That's just swell, Mangy.

But right now YOUR LITTLE BROTHER IS STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF AFGHANISTAN!

[Image: giphy.gif]
"Nooj's true feelings on any given subject are unknown and unknowable. He is the butterfly flapping its wings in Peking. He is chaos and destruction and you shall never see his true form." - Merriweather

My Steam ID: yizashigreyspear
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#18
Oh yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

That moment that like, killed the show for most people.
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#19
You fuckers.

This conversation/thread has led to me rewatching the show on YouTube. Some mega fan uploaded every episode.

This Goddamn show...

The real ending to Big...
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#20
I still own the DVD set!
"Nooj's true feelings on any given subject are unknown and unknowable. He is the butterfly flapping its wings in Peking. He is chaos and destruction and you shall never see his true form." - Merriweather

My Steam ID: yizashigreyspear
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#21



The real ending to Big...
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#22
Speaking of which, I randomly watched the very first episode of Sorkin's first show, Sports Night, recently. It was not nearly as good as I remember. Or, more to the point, not good at all. Despite a good to very good cast.

Like, the first episode of West Wing, only a year or so later, is exponentially better.
If you're happy, you're not paying attention.

Originally Posted by JacknifeJohnny: 
Glad that you guys worked that out amongst yourselves.

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#23
The second season of Sports Night has probably the single most misogynistic/gross recurring plotline in any of Sorkin's stuff, which, considering we're talking about Studio 60, is really saying something (Jeremy and the adult film actress, for what it's worth).

As someone who covered S60 for this very site, and who has gone back to it a couple of times over the years - including this past year to show a friend who had never seen it how bad it is, it is still very bad. It is especially bad the more you know about Sorkin's relationship with Kristen Chenoweth, and just how much of the show is relitigating their relationship vis a vis Matt and Harriet.

It's one of life's ironies, though, that I spent all that time dunking on "THAT'S SWELL, TOM, BUT YOUR LITTLE BROTHER IS STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF AFGHANISTAN!" only to have my own younger sibling (my sister, who was assigned male at birth and identified as male at the time) do a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

And yet, as bad as STUDIO 60 is, I would still take the worst episode of STUDIO 60 over, say, the worst of THE NEWSROOM. The campus rape episode of that show comes to mind.

BOONE'S SORKIN RAAAANNNNK:
(I have not yet seen Chicago 7, Farnsworth Invention, or To Kill A Mockingbird)

1. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
2. THE WEST WING: SEASON TWO
3. A FEW GOOD MEN
4. THE WEST WING: SEASON FOUR
5. MONEYBALL
6. STEVE JOBS
7. THE WEST WING: SEASON ONE
8. THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT
9. THE WEST WING: SEASON THREE
10. MOLLY'S GAME
11. THE ROCK (script doctor only, but if you know Sorkin, you can pretty clearly pick out what dialogue is his, including the prom queen exchange).
12. SPORTS NIGHT: SEASON ONE
13. THE NEWSROOM: SEASON TWO
14. SPORTS NIGHT: SEASON TWO
15. THE NEWSROOM: SEASON ONE
16. STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP
17. MALICE
18. THE NEWSROOM: SEASON THREE
19. THE WEST WING: "ISAAC AND ISHMAEL"

(If I was counting all of the WEST WING, including the non-Sorkin years, I'd probably put it at 3 collectively.)
home taping is killing music
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#24
(10-21-2020, 03:47 PM)Neil Spurn Wrote: Speaking of which, I randomly watched the very first episode of Sorkin's first show, Sports Night, recently.  It was not nearly as good as I remember.  Or, more to the point, not good at all.  Despite a good to very good cast.

Like, the first episode of West Wing, only a year or so later, is exponentially better.

Yeah, S1 E1 of Sports Night is very much a theatrical show badly "translated" to television. 

That said, S1 gets better while also exhibiting the worst of Sorkin's tendencies ("stalker as a romantic," period jokes, and so on). "Shoe Money Tonight" and "Dear Louise" are pretty great episodes.
"Nooj's true feelings on any given subject are unknown and unknowable. He is the butterfly flapping its wings in Peking. He is chaos and destruction and you shall never see his true form." - Merriweather

My Steam ID: yizashigreyspear
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