'Studio' Worth Studying


NBC's self-referential Studio 60 debuted Tuesday night, equal parts West Wing in La La Land and a Late Night take on Sports Night.

It started self-indulgently, with a rant against the TV industry, the FCC, the war in Iraq, reality shows, "the man's" celebration of worm-eating over scripted brilliance and "art," and the religious right and more, as though creator Aaron Sorkin was taking the opportunity to exercise personal and professional demons on our dime. Of course it's his dime, too.

I don't discourage TV as political platform. I'm all for social conscience so long as it does not beat on me with its fists but rather persuades me with its rhetoric in service to the overall story.

Hammering the Howard Beale-ness of the on-air blow-up of the veteran Studio 60 show-runner–played by Judd Hirsch–did not succeed in turning the self-indulgence into seamless plot point.

But, hey, it was the first show and maybe that was a "get it out of your system in the first 10 minutes" kind of a thing. I hope so.

That said, the show grew on me as the hour went along. There is something about it being Hollywood that makes me care less about the people than a show about the President.Not not because I care less about Hollywood, but because the D.C. folks are dealing with "fate of the free world" stuff, while the Hollywood types are dealing with "let's get the bong out of the dressing room" type stuff.

Still, as I said, it grew on me. The cast is strong and so is Sorkin's writing.

The chemistry between actors and characters will be the key to this show, particularly among Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry and Timothy Busfield, all veterans of West Wing.

Things I liked: Ed Asner as new head of the NBS (NBC with an S); Timothy Busfield (always).

Things I didn't like: What appeared to the shot at Robert Smigel's SNL animation in the dissing of Studio 60's "Periperal Vision Man" animated bit; the telegraphed-from-across-the-room plot point of our heros having written the "Crazy Christians" sketch whose axing by standards and practices prompts the Hirsch tirade.

All in all, an uneven but interesting start, and worth sticking with a while to see where it is going.

By John Eggerton