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

Reactions to “Studio 60”

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I highlight here two critics’ reviews of the show—one positive, the other, not so much.  In fact, the split between these two have already caused me to wonder if we could have another Sports Night on our hands. 

Sports Night, also created by Aaron Sorkin, ran only for two seasons.  Due to a number of factors (ABC’s apparent ineptitude in marketing the show among them), it never developed the kind of following needed to keep afloat.  It started out slow, but it eventually found its bearing, earning several critical awards.  TV Guide even went so far to call it “the best show on television you’re not watching.”  And those of us that did tune in knew exactly what they meant. 

“We’re all being lobotomized,” Judd Hirsch cried in his opening soliloquy, lamenting the state of television. 

“Sorry,” writes Tom Shales in response, “but the whole speech comes off as if Hirsch were speaking on Sorkin’s behalf and wreaking some kind of revenge on muck-a-mucks and higher-ups who wronged him during his career — or maybe he’s chastising the audience for drifting away from “The West Wing” when the show grew tiresome.”

Perhaps Mr. Shales fails to remember that The West Wing took a dive when Sorkin quit writing the show.  Either that, or he’s never had to endure a half hour of George Lopez.  Otherwise, he’d know what being lobotomized by television really feels like. 

Matthew Gilbert acknowledges this staple of network TV in his piece for the Boston Globe.  In response to the Hirsch rant that opens the show, Gilbert writes, “A pop cultural moment ensues, as it would if Lorne Michaels exploded on “Saturday Night Live,” and Sorkin gives us TV news shows mimicking one another’s observation that Wes Mendell’s [Hirsch’s character] break down was right out of Paddy Chayefsky’s playbook.” 

Look closely and you might be able to spot the point at which my concern stems.  Have you ever heard of Paddy Chayefsky?  I have.  Maybe you have too.  He wrote the screenplay to the movie Network.  But I’m betting that most of the TV audience won’t have a clue.  Mind you, this is not lost on Sorkin—he’s written one of his characters to express a similar sentiment. 

See, we really have been lobotomized.  Audiences really do shrink away from a challenge.  They prefer their TV harmless and easy—you know, something to “veg out” with.  And that’s not an altogether terrible thing.  But overindulgence is detrimental; just look at that fellow in Super Size Me. 

So watch and cross your fingers.  Here’s to hoping for a solid year for Studio 60. 


Written by taj

September 19, 2006 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Television

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