Friday, June 29, 2007

“I took it to mean you’re gay and you want me”: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Todd once justified his continued viewership of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip by describing it as an ‘interesting failure’, and to be quite honest I can’t think of any word or phrase that better sums up what Studio 60 has been for me. I loved the pilot. I continued to like the episodes following. As the show gradually went downhill, I appreciated its faults while confessing that I was still hooked to it. Only in its last batch of episodes (excluding The Disaster Show, which I loved) did it become, in my eyes, unforgivably bad. Yet even then I was not going to stop watching it – not just because I was reviewing it, but because it had proved so continually fascinating. Almost everything about it – the fact that it was written by Aaron Sorkin, the talented cast that was being wasted, the terrible plotlines being pursued – was just fascinating. Often not in a good way, sure, but in a good enough way that I knew at every point that I would continue watching the show right up until the end.

However, I think this blog has ranted quite enough about all of Studio 60’s various faults and mistakes (although if you’re actually up for more of that, there’s no shortage), so I’ll just stick to commenting on last night’s happy finale. Thankfully, it did everything that a good series finale is supposed to do – tied up all the loose ends (Tom’s brother was saved, Matt and Harriet got back together, Jordan was fine), covered its own tracks (apparently, Jordan was in love with Danny since the moment she first met him – at which time, I might point out, she was blackmailing him) and went out on a sweet and life-affirming note. The finale (especially its last couple minutes) actually accentuated one of the show’s mistakes by putting the focus on Matt and Danny as an unbreakable team. The audience always knew this, but beyond the pilot it was a largely ignored theme as the two of them spent less and less screen-time together. Still, it was nice to see their comradeship back in full swing by the episode’s end. I was equally glad that all of the big storylines got happy, uplifting conclusions.

I also really liked the flashbacks (for, like, the first time ever). In sharp comparison to everything else that was going on, I found Matt and Danny’s reasons for leaving the show believable and nicely understated. I especially liked the moment where Danny realised that he had to stick by Matt and follow him out the door. Speaking of which, wasn’t Bradley Whitford just magnetic in this episode? I know I’ve already said it, but boy, he’s really sold every one of his scenes throughout Jordan’s pregnancy scare. It almost made up for how bloated and overwrought the proceedings increasingly felt. Steven Weber was also hilarious once again, and did well with his character’s ‘dramatic realisation’ moment (otherwise an abrupt and hurried character turnaround that I didn’t buy). Nate Corddry once again did beautifully. As for Perry, well, he has been the glue holding this very unstable show together, and his performance throughout has been nothing less than exemplary.

I’m being nice, I know. I’m fully aware that ‘What Kind of Day Has it Been’ exemplified all of Studio 60’s greatest faults and then some. This has been a terrible show, and I am glad to see it go. It has been so frustrating to watch that as of now, ‘Studio 60’ could conceivably enter one’s personal lexicon as a phrase referring to anything which despite great pedigree somehow ended up awful. Yet at this point, who can really be bothered to tear into it? It’s over. It’s done. I doubt many people will be mourning Studio 60 for long. But it will always remain a fascinating example of a surprising TV failure and the ‘downfall’ of a formerly beloved writer – who, by the way, I hope returns to form soon. After all, one misstep doesn’t discount years of quality work.

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