Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

A Look at Studio 60

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There’s a line in the movie Network that goes, “Is dehumanization such a bad word?  Because good or bad, that’s what’s so.  The world is becoming humanoid, creatures that look human but aren’t.” 

The story of Howard Beale’s evolving madness in the film achieves a clear perspective on the state of the culture after television.  It says that the people of the world are becoming programmed groupies, incapable of individuality, and lumps people and groups into stereotypes and labels.  Though there are magnanimous efforts to rage against this current, it is what’s so much of the time. 

As Network begins with the rant of a man whose finally had enough of this, so too does Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  Wes Mendell (Judd Hirsh) finally has enough after seeing his late night comedy sketch show devolve to an inoffensive effort that, in the end, just isn’t funny anymore.  “Free speech,” he says, “means sometimes you’re gonna get offended.” 

Thank God, somebody said it. 

And so begins a show that, though it starts slowly, builds to satisfying, intelligent response to programmatic, stereotyped television.  Creator Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night, The West Wing) has delivered a strong, curious mixture of wit, intelligence and poise in the world behind the scenes of a Saturday Night Live-esque program. 

Among the aspects of talent that I admire about Sorkin is his ability to deftly handle both sides of an issue without resorting to clichéd talking points rehashed over banal dialog.  Sorkin introduced Ainsley Hayes—a Republican lawyer—into the liberal pool of the Bartlett administration early in The West Wing’s second season.  Here was a conservative who could articulate her convictions without sounding like a vengeful banshee.  Through her character, Sorkin would put two sides into conflict and let them tussle, not once doing his audience the dishonor of not allowing us to decide things for ourselves.

Therefore, it comes as a pleasant surprise that Sorkin has written into Studio 60 a Christian.  Like Ainsley Hayes before, stereotype is thrown right out the window.  This character carries her faith without beating it over people’s heads, and, in her short amount of screen time, appears to have developed a professional and respectful working relationship with the people around her.  She is courageous, and stands up for herself with admirable dignity.  And I look forward to seeing where Sorkin takes us from here. 

Instead of giving you a synopsis, I’ll just direct you to NBC’s site for the show here, and tell you that Studio 60 premieres Monday, September 18.


Written by taj

August 26, 2006 at 4:28 pm

Posted in General, Television

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