Thursday, August 16, 2007

Series, Interrupted

So what's wrong with "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" ?

It's intelligent, funny, well-acted and outstandingly well-written. It's got Matt Perry even.

Above all, Aaron Sorkin is the best writer to come out of America since Mark Twain - and from the episodes I've seen so far, the quality is well up to the high standards of "The West Wing" and "A Few Good Men".

So why does this series get canned with its ratings in a tail-spin while much lighter fare marches on, cluttering up the DVD Box Sets section at Blockbuster ?

For example, Boston Legal, to which Mrs Stan and I are quite attached. It's an inoffensive piece of fluff that amuses. It is well-enough written and well acted by an eclectic cast. James Spader is true talent, William Shatner pops up at the end to drink brandy and steal the show. A wonderfully diverse range of guest stars drift in and out. Where else could you see Michael J Fox, Adam Arkin and Tom Selleck in one place ?

To answer my own question, I think Studio 60 fails because it fails to impose a structure and its just so darned difficult to follow. It's like "Blank Verse". Repays the effort, but who has that kind of time these days ? Not enough people to pay the bills apparently.

By contrast, Boston Legal is a Limerick. There's a regular pulse, a pleasing flow and a punch-line at the end. Maybe something like this :-

"The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical,
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean,
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

I feel cheated that Studio 60 only got one season. But on the bright side, Sorkin has to go do something different. I hope he gets funding now that he's had a "flop". Can't help thinking the guy belongs in Britain. Wish I could start a rumour about him doing a project with the BBC, but that's just wishful thinking on my part.

Anyone at the BBC reads this - give the man a call.


Anonymous said...

It is a great shame Studio 60 was not given a fair shake, but Mr. Sorkin hasn't been crying over it. He's got a Broadway play opening this fall, "Charlie Wilson's War" coming out in December, and a new 3 picture deal with the first movie being about the Chicago 7. It might be a very long time before anyone can entice him back to television.

Stan said...

Very reassuring.

I suppose his Film and TV work is at its best the closer it is to a Play e.g Col. Jessep's "You can't handle the truth!" rant in "A Few Good Men" or the "17 people" episode of "The West Wing". So maybe the choice of medium isn't as critical as I fear.

Which reminds me, when I said he was the "best writer to come out of America since Mark Twain", I had totally forgotten about Arthur Miller. But you know what I mean.