Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Wouldn't that demonstrate that she's into deviant sex?": Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

So this may be the very, very last time any of us ever sees Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, especially if The Black Donnellys, which spells the series next week, takes off in the ratings (I'm not expecting it to, given the audience's rejection of complicated dramas this season, but stranger things have happened). For as much as I give this show a hard time, there's some stuff that works about it, and I wish that it had managed to find its feet. As it is, I think all involved will have to chalk it up to a noble failure -- something where they all did good work but just couldn't quite figure out what the show was all about. It happens to the best of us.

Still, there's enough good stuff in every episode that the bad stuff is that much more frustrating. The popular thing the show's fan's say to those who continue to watch it and harp on it is, "Well, if you're not enjoying it and you don't think it's going to get better, why do you keep watching it?" I think the answer is that it's just such an INTERESTING failure, the kind of show where talented people obviously put their backs into it and made some of it work but just couldn't pull all of it together. It's like a weird perfect storm of personal hubris, bad plotting and characters that just didn't make sense.

The thing is, though, I think the creative team knows it. Witness all of the references tonight to weak writing on the show within a show and how that has been dragging the ratings down. An argument could be made that a very similar problem dragged down the ratings for the actual show. And, what's more, the Matt/Harriet coupling, that chemistry-less thing that dominated so much of this back half of the season, finally turned a corner tonight. I still don't want to see them together, but they seemed to realize just how much they irritate everyone else with their schtick. And, what's more, Sarah Paulson has chemistry with the guy playing Luke, and Matthew Perry has great chemistry with Kari Matchett (of the late, lamented Invasion). This could have been a feasible love quadrangle if it was introduced earlier. Now, it's just so much what if.

I guess I'm feeling nostalgic for the show that wasn't because tonight's episode wasn't awful. I smiled when Cal accidentally beheaded the virtual baby. And I enjoyed most of the rest of the baby plotline. I always like the episodes where you get the sense that everyone has stayed together late into the night to work on this show they love so much, and this was one of those.

But there was bad stuff too. The Friends sexual harrassment lawsuit (where a writing assistant complained about having to listen to some of the sexual discussions in that show's writers room) could have made a great plotline for this show, but I think it got botched by being turned into a chance to lecture at "not very good" writers and THEN being turned into something that was all about Harriet. And the bit with Simon thinking he slept with the plaintiff was funny until it was all resolved too quickly.

I'm hoping that Studio 60 comes back at some point, if only because I have a thing about seeing these sorts of things through, but for now, we'll have to content ourselves with a truly interesting TV failure.

Talk about what didn't work about the show for you in the comments section.

No comments: