Sunday, September 17, 2006

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – Pilot Review

Okay, I’ve lost count of how many mini backlashes have occurred about this show, but the general critical consensus seems to be that this highly anticipated show is still a good show but doesn’t live up to it’s high pedigree and that there are better shows this fall season. I’m then even more excited about this great fall TV season than before, since the pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is a beautifully filmed breezy and whirlwind look into the behind-the-scenes of a network weekend comedy variety show (not so thinly veiled Saturday Night Live-ish show called “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” on a not so thinly veiled network NBS).

The excitement over the new show from The West Wing and Sports Nights creative duo Thomas Schlamme and Aaron Sorkin came from their teaming up with Bradley Whitford (again, The West Wing) and the return of Matthew Perry, one of our very best Friends. Then added to that, they kept adding to the cast, with names like Steven Webber (Wings), Sarah Paulson (Down with Love, Leap of Faith), Amanda Peet (Perry’s castmate on The Whole Nine Yards), D.L. Hughley (The Hughleys), Nate Corddry (The Daily Show), and Timothy Busfield (thirtysomething, Ed), with possible re-occurring characters played by Judd Hirsch (Dear John), Donna Murphy (The Joan Cussack Show and Broadway veteran), Evan Handler (Sex and the City). Guest stars already announced include Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives, TransAmerica) in the pilot and an upcoming appearance by Lauren Graham (The Gilmore Girls). Enough cast members yet? Not all might be household names yet but they are an interesting mix of actors that make it even more exciting and all have had previous success on television before. I mean, D.L. Hughley? Sarah Paulson? Nate Corddry? Steven Webber? I’m glad that these actors finally are given the chance to prove themselves as the interesting actors they are, and not end up in some drivel. I wanted to hate Amanda Peet as I have never been a fan but found her fine as the role of the incoming president of the network who may end up being the show (Studio 60)’s best ally.

The basic premise follows as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (the show within the show) showrunner Wes (Judd Hirsch) stops his live show to rant about the loss of artistic license on TV (the irony that in current times, we finally seem to have more quality on TV than ever). Steven Weber as Jack Rudolph, a head honcho at the network NBS, fires Wes, while new president Jordan (Amanda Peet) decides their best course of action is to rehire Matt and Danny, two now successful writer/director team that Jack had fired 4 years ago. Danny and Matt take the deal despite being on the verge of a movie career, a movie career that was about to be derailed by Danny’s cocaine use and thus, failure on an insurance medical exam thus entrapping themselves into this deal. Meanwhile, actress Harriet Hayes Sarah Paulson) from the show, is Matt’s ex, but now will be under his command.

The pilot for the show about the making of a comedy show, is not as funny as we had anticipated, perhaps a bit too much expectation from the team that brought us the great Sports Night, but the drama moves along swiftly and the fast paced witty dialogue that we expecting from the creative team of Sorkin and Schlamme was still top notch. Half the fun is watching some of the actors we probably had written off due to past projects, work on a show with great dialogue and turn out great performances. Steven Webber is fantastic as the asshole network honcho and I’ve always been a fan of Sarah Paulson’s since I saw her in Leap of Faith, but finally here she’s been given a chance to shine.

Meanwhile, teaming Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry may be a match made in television heaven since their natural banter makes them feel like they’ve been doing this longer than Friends had run on TV. I hope this show doesn’t get as idealistically perfect as The West Wing did (which I found as it’s downfall since everything seemed to happen so perfectly and smartly, and it made it ring a bit false), but Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip certainly makes for fun and engaging drama that I’m looking forward to watching.


Liz said...

Hmm...I actually found it to be funnier than I expected, since NBC has emphasizing that Studio 60 is a drama, and 30 Rock is a comedy, so there isn't much overlap.

I'd have to call out Amanda Peet as the weak link, just from the first episode, but that's just as much due to characterization/writing as it is to acting. Still liked her alright, though, and I'm sure she'll get better.

vance said...

Yeah, she (Amanda Peet) wasn't the best of the cast, but I usually HATE her so considering I didn't really mind her all that much is already an improvement! haha! I think I was hoping for a bit more Sports Night funny but I guess its still a good dramatic show with laughs. Can't wait for next week though!

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