Save Studio 60 (from needing to be saved)

The buzz everywhere seems to be that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip will inevitably be cancelled by NBC. The current rumor is that it will be replaced by running Deal or No Deal into the ground even faster. Due to numbers, of course.

Numb-ers, as McLuhan said. The computers aren't tracking enough millions of dollars and eyeballs. The show's words are great, everybody agrees. The show is thoughtful. Moving. Uncompromisingly intelligent and witty, in Aaron Sorkin's I-dare-you-to-keep-up way. And starry-eyed, do-gooder liberal to the core.

The one problem I can see is that the comedy show-within-a-show doesn't feel true to life. There was a telling moment early on, when Bradley Whitford's character revealed he'd given up even watching the show he previously wrote for. One suspects Aaron Sorkin doesn't watch its real-life counterpart, Saturday Night Live, either, except maybe as homework, and with a kind of horror at its tame spoofs, repetitive humor and general vulgarity. The only public controversies I can recall SNL generating were imposed on it -- the reaction to Andrew Dice Clay, Sinéad O'Connor ripping up a picture of the Pope and shouting "Fight the real enemy!" -- rather than coming from its writing.

But overall Studio 60 is a very very good show that reaches for the stars and deserves time to find its audience, and vice versa.

I don't do petitions or marches or sit-ins, in fact I don't even willingly write editorials, so all I will exhort you to do is to watch the show. Enjoy the show. And don't get caught up in the backlash that it's not as much better than everything else on TV as it thinks it is.

NBC, do not cancel this show. Oh, and BTW don't cancel 30 Rock either. No wonder its ratings are sinking: it's a comedy that's funny. People don't quite know what to make of that. But give us the gift of time, let the shows find their voice, and audiences may get right on board.

-- John Malyon     October 30, 2006


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