Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Quote of the day, I: Describing Studio 60 as the best thing on television is intended as a bigger compliment than it somehow comes out sounding


"You have to understand that pro-family groups support our troops in this time of war just as long as we don't have to see or hear what our troops fighting a war looks or sounds like."
--NBS chairman Jack Rudolph (played by Steven Weber), on the logic of the FCC's decision to fine his network $325,000 per affiliate for obscenity for a live news interview in which a soldier in Afghanistan said a bad word when a rocket-propelled grenade whisked over him and exploded nearby--on last night's episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Later a network lawyer explained that a network could get away with broadcasting an obscenity spoken by John Gotti because it's understood that he's a bad guy, whereas a soldier is viewed as "a role model." And we all know that even in the face of death, our boys (and girls) in uniform would never use bad language.

The good news about Studio 60 is that, amid swirling rumors of imminent cancellation, NBC last month upped its order to a full season's 22 episodes. And in the network's current cost-cutting mode, even if it's paying less per episode than before, as reported, that's still a bigger investment than it seems likely to eat by not airing all those episodes. (Seen here are Amanda Peet as NBS president Jordan McDeere; Jack Rudolph; and Matthew Perry as Matt Albie, Jordan's personal choice as co-exec producer of the network's ailing flagship show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.)

If I may say just one thing about the show: What people still don't seem to be getting, just as they didn't get with Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme's last show, The West Wing, perhaps because of the intensely realistic detailing, is that it's a romantic fantasy. What would happen, both shows seem to ask, if instead of the scuzzy side of human nature predictably prevailing, the way it usually does in real life, someone (or ones) in high places somehow insisted on clinging to his/her better nature?

The silliest exercise was the commentatorish tendency to "equate" West Wing characters with real people from the Clinton administration or elsewhere, when the whole point was that the mythical Bartlett administration wasn't the Clinton administration--or, God help us, the Bush administration.

Sorkin's new fantasy is that a TV network president--in this case Amanda Peet's Jordan McDeere--could actually believe that she can make her bosses heaps o' money by steering clear of cynical crap and trying to put genuinely good entertainment on the air. And last night, even Jordan's boss Jack Rudolph showed a side of himself that surprised a lot of us, as did, for that matter, their boss of bosses, supermogul Wilson White. In this recurring role, by the way, Ed Asner is doing . . well, the kind of work we expect an actor of his quality to do, something he hasn't been given a lot of chances to do in quite a while.

Of course, one of the hallmarks of a Sorkin show is that you see a dizzying panopoly of simply terrific actors doing simply terrific things--many of them, as in the cases of Steven Weber and Amanda Peet, things that probably no one else would ever have thought of asking them to do.


At 9:10 AM, Blogger addy said...

I actually like the show and look forward to it every week. Though I never got into West Wing (not enough time to catch up after a few seasons and no time for the originals) the few bits I've seen seem wonderful. Anyways, I, and the other two people who like Studio 60, will be watching this season. it's dense enough and fun enough to keep me interested, even if I moaned a bit about John Goodman's judge. And I am finally warming up to Harriet, could it be the writers knew she was not very likable and have changed her bit? Such as the revolutionary idea of actually making her funny?

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous TV Watch said...

Actually, the threat of fines from the FCC has broadcasters pulling back from all kinds of content - even live news and sports programming - no matter what the context. The bottom line is that the government shouldn't be making these decisions at all. For more information about this debate, go to www.televisionwatch.org

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous teach said...

Very good show last night.

Love the twists.

At 10:45 PM, Blogger HRlaughed said...

"What people still don't seem to be getting... is that it's a romantic fantasy. What would happen... if instead of the scuzzy side of human nature predictably prevailing, the way it usually does in real life, someone (or ones) in high places somehow insisted on clinging to his/her better nature?"

Wow, Howard's impressed with this insight! And it perfectly explains why he loves Studio 60, as he did West Wing -- he's a romantic, in the literary tradition of imagining how great life could be rather than how low and base and cynical it actually seems.

Nice going. For this, your blog shall be raised three notches on the Howard Top 20 Blog List.


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