Awright, Tina Fey! Now that’s the credibly mediocre comedy I’m talking about!
M. Sorkin, meet Mme. Fey. She’s worked in one those real-life late-night outfits. She knows from semi-painful, occasionally inspired television sketch. So when she set out to create 30 Rock, a show about the backstage goings-on at an SNL-like program, she used the limitations of a shabby reality – not some gleaming Aristotelian ideal – as her touchstone. As a result, Fey’s show-within-a-show, The Girlie Show, is ”a real fun ladies’ comedy show… for ladies!” (in the words of Kenneth, the earnest NBC tour guide played by budding scene-stealer Jack McBrayer). Sounds horrible, right? It kind of is. And Fey exults in it. She knows wherefrom she writes. She doesn’t try to pass off hot dogs as prime rib. And she knows that ad-hoc TV comedy doesn’t come striding down from the Acropolis. It comes wafting up from the bazaar.
In last night’s pilot, we only saw two sketches: The all-too-SNLian”Pam, the Overly Confident Morbidly Obese Woman,” and ”The CatLady,” a floundering, laughless character bit that was supposed to becut. Both looked trashy-familiar, the product of last-minutedesperation, lowest-common-denominator failsafes, and networkpusillanimity. (”Standards” won’t let the writing team suggest thatMichael Jackson has a vagina.) This is showbiz, buddy: It’s fictionalwild man Tracy Jordan (real-life wild man Tracy Morgan, pictured) yelling thenon-sequitur, ”Funky grandma be trippin’!” and the audience goingwild, just because it’s a catchphrase.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is a show for a world withoutfarts, without awkward silences, without grammatical errors, a worldwhere comedy is clockwork (which might explain Sorkin’s attachment tofarce, comedy’s least anarchic form). It’s a world any intelligentperson might like to visit, maybe for an extended stay. But just once,I would like to see the team at Studio 60 try to sneak in a Jacko vagina joke. Just once. C’mon, Aaron Sorkin. Even August Strindberg (in Miss Julie 2: With a Vengeance)worked in a Jacko vagina joke. Come to the dark side, Aaron Sorkin.Join Tina Fey in the gutter. Seriously, it’s funny down here.