One of the things that I promised myself that I would do to try to get back in the swing of writing again was a summer recap project. I want to recap a single season of a show that I’m particularly fond of, and it would help if the show ran a single season, and that I had the boxed DVD set. Well actually there are a couple of series that I would have broken one of those rules for. I was tempted to do the first season of Life even though I don’t have the second season (I’m too cheap to buy it at the local HMV and I haven’t seen it anywhere else), and I would love to do the seventh season of The Amazing Race, and would have except that I’ve lost two of the DVDs (I do have the complete first season, and maybe next year I’ll write it up).
Realistically though the only show that I really wanted to do was Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. There are several reasons why I want to write about the show, besides the fact that I didn’t at the time and regret it. First up, I know that it has gotten a bad reputation in the years since it left the air and I don’t think that it is entirely deserved. It is a poor effort by Aaron Sorkin, but the fact that people usually won’t acknowledge is that a poor show by Sorkin is generally better than most of the stuff that’s on TV today, and I think that’s true of Studio 60. Some people regard the show as a ratings bomb, and to a degree that’s true, but if you look at the NBC ratings for dramas in that time slot (or indeed any time on Mondays) since the show left the air, most have not performed as well as Studio 60. Certainly the show did well with DVR users, with the highest gain in viewership on the “live plus seven” ratings of any network show. According to the Nielsen ratings at the time, “Studio 60 adds nearly 11%, or almost a million viewers, to its total every week as a result of these ‘live plus seven’ viewers.” But ratings at the time only included those who watched the show as it aired. Today, ratings are based on “Live plus Same Day” viewing figures. And this is despite the fact that I think that the network reached a point where it treated the show worse than what you’d scrape off your shoe after a run through a dog park.
Two other reasons why I wanted to revisit Studio 60 are that I think that a lot of the criticism of the show that I can remember was more about what people wanted the show to be than about what it was, and that it provided more than a bit of insight into the big picture of TV. Those are tied together, and I think they’re more than a bit important. The critics, or maybe just those who wanted to watch a show about a show like Saturday Night Live wanted to see the comedy and when they did they found it wanting. and to a degree they’re right, but a lot of the show isn’t about the comedy, it’s about the making of the comedy and about the bigger picture of network politics and control. The show talked about issues that are coming to the fore today: “incidental indecency,” product placement, and the bi-coastal nature of the medium just to name three (there are more). It maybe “inside Baseball” to a lot of people but it’s the sort of stuff that I find interesting.
So let’s start looking at Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.