I want to like “Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip.” I want it to be a hit. After just two episodes, I fear that the former will turn out to be true, but not the latter.
I know it’s a drama, but it’s about a comedy show, so a few funny scenes here and there would help. Aaron Sorkin is a brilliant dramatist, but what was the last thing he wrote that made you laugh? You probably have to go back to the first season of “Sports Night.”
When do we get to see the cast of the fictional “Studio 60” doing something funny? That cold open they spent all of episode 2 building up to certainly wasn’t it. First of all, Amanda Peet’s character told them to open with the Crazy Christians sketch that had caused all the ruckus in the pilot. Not only did it not open the show, but we didn’t even get a glimpse of the premise.
Worse, Sorkin fell back on his love of Gilbert and Sullivan — he’s not just a member of the fan club, he’s the damned president! — as he did in several forgettable “West Wing” episodes. Most Americans are more familiar with Gilbert O’Sullivan (“Alone Again, Naturally”), and there’s no one clamoring for more G&S references, certainly not on what is supposed to be the hot, new, cutting-edge direction of a late night comedy show.
On the plus side, Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford are very good together, and Perry is proving that he’s a real actor. Matt LeBlanc will never be anything more than Joey Tribbiani, but Perry has already proven he’s much more than just Chandler Bing. Amanda Peet is fine, DL Hughley and Tim Busfield are reliable but given too little to do, and Steven Weber may give James Woods a run for his money as the season’s best scenery-chewing attention-stealer.
The characters and concept off to a good start, but “Studio 60” may be a little too inside-the-biz for a mass audience. “Grey’s Anatomy” is a drama about the lives and loves of people who work in a hospital, but Shonda Rhimes is smart enough to include some real medicine in every episode. If “Studio 60” is going to succeed as a drama about the lives and loves of people who work on a TV comedy show, Sorkin had better find his funny bone, fast.