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September 27, 2006



Ken - your blog is great, keep it up please.you wrote:"when you saw the scene where Matthew Perry viewed his writing staff as all hacks, didn’t you think in the back of your mind that that’s what Aaron Sorkin thinks of all of us?"Matthew Perry's character made fun of himself in a later scene, about how he actually thought to say that to the writers. His partner is left to follow up: What HAPPENED to the whole situation here? How did it get to this, etc... It worked well to introduce the writing table first like that. I didnt identify with Perry's outburst, but with his sense of being out of place. And - dont we all hate that middle aged man trying to pretend to be a teenager?I think what Studio60 did with its second episode, is establish that in their world the best comedy is going to delivered from messy, human, reality, and that is the problem AND the solution. And it is opposed to a culture and society that works censored, uptight, homogenized (such as stale, formalist jokes on "politics" as we witnessed on the writers-table, that drove Perry crazy).There is something gratifying about seeing how the set-up of introducing the supposedly televised conference that introduces live, spontaneous and publically the troubled psyche of the producer/author ( the problem = I am a recovering cokehead) transforms into an in your face scripted (and live, televised,) solution and so on.My favorite line was when whats her name asked Perry why did she get a laugh with a scene involving butter at rehearsal, but then not at dress rehearsl, and he says the first time you asked for the butter, the second time you asked for the laugh. Simple.I agree no one knows Gilbert and Sullivan today in that audience demographic, but isnt that also true back when Linda Ronstadt was doing G&S "Pirates"? I watched Sat.Nite Live when she performed a number live there eons ago. Wouldnt you agree no one knows most of the references who watches Sat.Nite Live. A Ronald Reagan reference? Watergate? the whole 1950s B-movie culture? i doubt they get those either, its just types. But I admit it IS against all odds how Gilbert and Sullivan get quoted still today, like with Sideshow Bob on Simpsons.


Gilbert and Sullivan still work today because they knew their audience. Sullivan was a pretentious ass but he needed the money to travel in the elite circles that he preferred and so he wrote the trashy popcorn music that would stick in your brain like a McDonald's theme. Gilbert hated everyone but he knew what they liked and he had a way with words that is hard to beat. Studio 60 might work better if there was more tension between Whitford and Perry's characters. If they hated each other as much as Gilbert and Sullivan hated each other but knew that they were magic when working together. From what I have seen so far, the show has great quality in production but the characters are all pablum and no sauce.


In the last five years I have caught snippets of SNL, hoping to find a laugh with my random sampling and have come away with nothing. What makes you feel Fey can pull of this new show?


This is off topic, but I heard that MASH is making it to TV Land starting in January.

Paul Duca

I hope that's true, because I don't stay up until 2:30 in the morning for the only broadcast airing in Boston, and as my cable system does not care enough to send the very best, I don't have the Hallmark Channel (at least beyond a few odd movies in On-Demand).


A couple of comments - first, i'm quite sure that real doctors, lawyers and cops find most of the shows about their profession absurdly inaccurate. It doesn't make them bad shows or not entertaining. I can assure you, it didn't bother me one bit that they didn't talk about food or goodie bags at the news conference. Second, I also can't help but see Whitford in West Wing, and I try mightily. I think they would go a long way to helping with the obvious by putting him in something other than the same suit (with or without a jacket) and tie every day. Let the guy wear a sweater once in a while and it'll help break the spell !


Insightful and funny, as always. I also agree that Tina Feys show will probably be funnier and more realistic than Studio 60. But I don't think it will last as long anyway, because the shows don't really have the same premise.Studio 60 isn't about the sketches, it's about the people behind the sketches, and that's probably why we haven't seen the Krazy Kristians sketch and might never do.To me the second episode was everything the pilot wasn't and now I'm happy, it's definately the best new show this season (yet).


I've always thought that Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry were the same guy... still not sure that they are not...


In the original pilot script, dated October 6, 2005 the network name was UBS.Which was also the fictional network where the brilliant talk-show parody "America 2Night" (successor to "Fernwood 2Night" with Martin Mull and Fred Willard) aired. Its slogan: "Where we put U before the BS."

Ger Apeldoorn

The network turned down the original Police Woman on a show about the writers of a show about a police woman?


Someone commented that Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford seem to be the same guy. I think they are both Sorkin, just split off into two men. But why do they BOTH have to have drug issues? Sorkin should strive a little harder to create some differences between these two.


But for all its flaws I still find STUDIO 60 fascinating and will watch again next week.And yet, at the end of the day I bet the Tina Fey show will be more realistic and funnier.I think NBC is blowing this to some extent by trying to bill this as a knee-slapping laugh riot. It's not. At best, I'd call Studio 60 a "dramedy", that yes, takes itself a bit too seriously. But my wife and I like it, if for no other reason that it isn't "fluff". It may be doomed, though.One thing that bugs me about the show is that they keep dangling one act or another (such as the "cold open") for 45 minutes and cut it close enough that I swear the next scene will be everyone toweling off and saying "good show tonight". Fortunately they haven't wussed out like that, yet.

Herbie Popsfarter

You are ABSOLUTELY right! That's exactly the feeling I got. That Sorkin was just expressing his own sentiments about writers in the industry. (Though I must admit, I love most of his writing i.e.: A Few Good Men, WW, etc.) But then again, I AM a hack.


Honestly, I couldn't care less what Aaron Sorkin thinks of me as a writer. I respect his success and the power he seems to wield with the network, and like any human being, I probably envy both. But I think, and this is strictly my opinion, that his writing is very overrated.People constantly mention "SportsNight" as if it were some gem of a sitcom that the network just didn't support... but it wasn't funny. Did anyone ever laugh out loud at "SportsNight"? My idea of a gem of a sitcom that a network didn't support was "Police Squad" or "Buffalo Bill". And as for "A Few Good Men"... geez, is the over-the-top "You can't handle the truth" in the same league with anything Paddy Chayevsky ever wrote? And what about "The American President"? If you want to see a great film about the Presidency, watch Gore Vidal's "The Best Man".My problem with Aaron Sorkin is that he seems to be viewed in a vacuum... because TV blows so bad in general right now, he's looked at as some sort of genius because his shows are beautifully shot and usually cast very well. But again, take a West Wing script, remove the character names of C.J., Toby, Josh, and whoever the hell Rob Lowe played and see if you can tell which character is wittily finishing each other's sentences? His characters all sound the same. In fact, the most common thing I have heard from others about Studio 60 is "I don't really think it's particularly good, but I'm going to keep watching it." God, now THAT is something I can respect Aaron Sorkin for. He's figured out a way to write a very medicore show that people will criticize but still watch. Now THAT I can respect.


The only way Tina Fey's show will be better than Studio 60 is the correct use of Alec Baldwin.


I want so much to love this show but I just don't care about any of the leads. Poor Tim Busfield is the only guy on the set with a heart and a smile that isn't chiseled into a grimmace or a snarl. He must feel like he's Michael Landon plopped into the middle of a Jerry Springer show.


I still can't separate Brad Whit from his star turn in Billy Madison. He needs a little more of that comic timing in this role, less of the harried wonk. Though it's not like it matters because this show will fail only because it takes comedy too seriously. There is nothing less interesting than listening to comics discuss their craft. There's a reason there's no Inside the Comics Studio. B to the oring. Also, if you look at the actual writing staff on the show there's not a single writer with any comedy background. It's all Sorkinites.

Cap'n Bob Napier

Maybe I'm too old to be the intended target for this show, but I recall a Studio One live drama series and everyone knows 60 Minutes. Studio 60 sounds like a blend of the two. Not a catchy title.


Yes, the butter line was good, BUT the woman asking this question is supposed to be a COMEDY GENIUS -- she should know the answer to this question. Anyone who is familiar with comedy or a student of the history of SNL can see that this show is riddled with cracks. Sorkin is talented, but he is out of his element.


Ken, with ya on the Steven Weber- isn't it weird the funniest scenes about the backstage of a Late Night comedy show involve the purportedly humorless Network "suits"?


Brian...SportsNight was not a sitcom. It was a dramedy. It's only crime was that the great American public doesn't really go for that format. Any number of other similar carcasses on the television highway. Brooklyn Bridge, maybe even Picket Fences come to mind.(Hell, even Northern Exposure wasn't that wildly popular)Corrie said "I'm quite sure that real doctors, lawyers and cops find most of the shows about their profession absurdly inaccurate. It doesn't make them bad shows or not entertaining." I agree, but...WKRP was not a sitcom...it was a documentary!!!!


Looks like our Ken Levine has a problem with the level of aaron sorkin's writing :)

Michael Zand

As far as originality goes, I’d love to see this premise incorporated into “Deal Or No Deal.”http://www.glumbert.com/media/tonguetwister ps. I meant to post this on the latest entry, so sorry about the repeat in the later post.

Media Yenta

The Tina Fey showis may or not be more realistic, but it's funny. Tracy Morgan and Alec Baldwin are great on the show. If you treat it more like a funny sitcom and not a docu-drama you won't drive yourself crazy. Studio 6o- i didn't know comedy shows had so many hallways.

Michael Zand

As far as originality goes, I’d love to see this premise incorporated into “Deal Or No Deal.”http://www.glumbert.com/media/tonguetwister ps. I meant to post this on the latest entry, so sorry about the repeat in the later post.

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    Ken Levine is an Emmy winning writer/director/producer/major league baseball announcer. In a career that has spanned over 30 years Ken has worked on MASH, CHEERS, FRASIER, THE SIMPSONS, WINGS, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, BECKER, DHARMA & GREG, and has co-created his own series including ALMOST PERFECT starring Nancy Travis. He and his partner wrote the feature VOLUNTEERS. Ken has also been the radio/TV play-by-play voice of the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres.
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