Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - The Complete Series
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Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The Complete Series (DVD)
When the beleaguered executive producer of a long-running late-night sketch-comedy series interrupts the live broadcast and has a "Network" moment on the air, the industry, the media and the viewers are galvanized. Into this melee steps shrewd and self-confident network president Jordan McDeere, who squares off against the chairman and rehires a brilliant, unpredictable writer/producer team--which had left the show years ago under a cloud of controversy--to bring it back from the brink. This daring, highly anticipated comedic drama literally goes behind the scenes to expose the politics, personalities and pandemonium of producing a flagship series on a major television network.]]>
Aaron Sorkin, bless him, believes that "the people who watch television shows aren't dumber than the people who make television shows." He also believes that "quality is not anathema to profit." He puts these idealistic words into the mouth of Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet), the new, impolitic NBS TV president whose first order of business is to revitalize the network's cash cow, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a long-running live late-night sketch-comedy series reeling from the Howard Beale-esque on-air meltdown of its creator (Judd Hirsch, alas, limited to the pilot episode). With this Upstairs/Backstage look at Studio 60's tumultuous network politics and stormy personal relationships, Sorkin, the creator of Sports Night and The West Wing, once again tried to raise the bar of prime time fare. That he didn't quite clear it makes this one-season wonder a fascinating object lesson of great hopes and dashed expectations. Studio 60 was perhaps the most hotly debated series of the 2006 season and, love it or hate it, all its strengths and flaws can be savored and savaged anew with this complete-series set.
Pretty much above reproach is the ensemble. Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford head the cast as comedy writer Matt and executive producer Danny, former Studio 60 hands whom Jordan brings back to "save" the show. Steven Weber costars as network chairman Jack Rudolph, who clashes with Jordan over reality programming (he wants it, she doesn't), is embroiled in network negotiations with China, and must fend off angry affiliates offended by such sketches as "Crazy Christians." Jordan contends with becoming tabloid fodder after her ex-husband leaks scandalous details of their past. Meanwhile, Matt, a sardonic atheist, is in a whole Ross and Rachel thing with Harriet (Emmy nominee Sarah Paulson), who is devoutly religious and the show's galvanizing star performer (she does do a mean Holly Hunter). Studio 60 has much to say about comedy in wartime, the divided states of America, the creative process, and patriotism. Some of it is deftly handled, some of it is ham-handed and some of it patronizing. Most of it is delivered in Sorkin's signature chock-a-block style and with walk-and-talk urgency. But even at its most maddening, there are enough riveting moments (a performance by displaced New Orleans musicians in "The Christmas Show"), jaw-dropping developments ("I'm coming for you, Jordan," warns Danny, suddenly-turned romantic stalker), and indelible performances (John Goodman's Emmy-winning turn as a plain-speaking Pahrump, NV judge not impressed with the Hollywood types before him in the two-part "Nevada Day") to make Studio 60 a series worth revisiting, if only as a guilty pleasure. The pilot episode commentary by Sorkin and director Thomas Schlamme, as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette, were produced before the show was canceled, robbing this series' fervent fans of the opportunity for some closure. --Donald Liebenson
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I watched "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" back when it was originally broadcast on network TV and thought it was everything one would want in a weekly series. I was sorry to see it go. I was recently drawn to watch it again after reading "Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by its Stars, Writers, & Guests". I was captivated here by Sorkin's writing from the POV of an inside look at a weekly late night comedy sketch show, as well as the directing, sets, acting, dialog, pacing, & camera work - love the signature extended "walk and talks" throughout the series. In addition, the casting of this show was sublime. The chemistry between Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford is genuine and it's so much fun to watch them together. You really believe there's a bond between these two guys that goes way beyond a working show business partnership. After "Friends", Matthew Perry was never better than he is here. Add in Steven Weber, Amanda Peet, Sarah Paulson (excellent on a couple of episodes of "Deadwood" by the way), Timothy Busfield ("Thirtysomething"), D.L. Hughley, Simon Helberg ("The Big Bang Theory"), John Goodman ("I don't roll on Shabbos!")...what more could you want? Weber, in particular, is a standout as a network executive. His performance is electric.
The subject matter here is unique - not another overly simplistic police procedural or medical drama. After reading "Live From New York: An Uncensored History...", I found Sorkin's writing about the inner workings of a late night sketch show to be spot on. Something I didn't truly appreciate the first time around and in a completely different league than "30 Rock". Tina Fey is great, but she's no Aaron Sorkin.
I agree with the other reviewers here. This show is a lost gem. Some of the references are a bit dated, but ignore those and watch this series. If you like smart writing, great dialog, and enjoy watching a superb ensemble of actors doing what they do at their very best, you will not be disappointed. Although, if you're like me, you'll be left wishing there was more than just this one season.
This show, though several subplots are left open--they don't feel as if they're unfinished--ends very well, with almost all character archs for the series comfortably ended (capable of more development, but no cliff hangers). It's a genius series, Aaron Sorkin's brilliant dialogue, quick witted ideas, and well crafted characters shows an innate genius for atmosphere, story, and especially dialogue. This is nothing like The West Wing, and again that's a good thing (though The West Wing is brilliant and people who enjoy this will enjoy The West Wing, and vice-versa).
If you love television, if you love quick witted educated dialogue and stories that don't treat the viewer like a moron, but doesn't complicate (though occasionally makes complex) or attempt to be arty or esoteric or surreal. It just makes realistic, entertaining characters, that wrap you into their stories, and bring you into their lives. This show plays like a 900+ minute movie, that's what it feels like to me, something you want to sit down and just watch and watch and watch in one or two days. Buy this show and you won't regret it, if you liked anything that Aaron Sorkin had ever written, you are going to love this.