Holy crap, that may have been the worst
hour 55 minutes of scripted TV I’ve ever forced myself to sit through. After a three-month hiatus, Studio 60 finally returned to burn off its last few episodes, starting with the aptly-titled ep “The Disaster Show.” The premise: a broadcast of the sketch show in which Murphy’s Law takes over with a vengeance (prop handlers and cue-card holders on strike, bomb threat in the studio, and the usual personal crises). The problem: the imitative fallacy — showrunner Aaron Sorkin apparently thought the chaotic shambles of the plotline should be reflected in the execution of his sloppy writing and Thomas Schlamme’s uncharacteristically blind and tone-deaf direction.
Seriously, this was amateur hour all around. Subplots fizzled out and were left to die. Poor Simon (D.L. Hughley) was stuck with a storyline that had him commit the same ticket to Hawaii to two different women (both of whom, of course, found out, leaving him with no traveling companion), a plot Sorkin stole from an old Brady Bunch episode. None of the actors was given anything to play except for Lord-just-let-us-make-it-through-til-curtain desperation. I felt especially bad for Allison Janney (playing herself, as guest-host), whom Sorkin must have called in as a favor (I made you a star on West Wing; the least you can do is help rearrange the deck chairs on my Titanic), and whom he thanked by making her look as ridiculous and out-of-place as possible. And we were still stuck with Harriet’s (Sarah Paulson) continued dithering over whether or not she should rekindle her romance with Matt (Matthew Perry), even though Perry and the other two leads (Bradley Whitford and Amanda Peet) were all MIA. (What happened to Jordan and her pregnancy, and her unlikely romance with stalkerish Danny? Or to the make-or-break Chinese deal?). No real explanation for the stars’ absence; maybe they saw the script and joined the prop guys on the picket line.
Observers have wondered why, when NBC is willing to take a chance on low-rated but intelligent series like 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights and renew them for a second season, it’s given up on Studio 60. After “The Disaster Show,” I think we have our answer. NBC programming chief Kevin Reilly said last week that the show had run its course; I think he was just being kind. I almost want to admire Sorkin for thumbing his nose at everyone and being determined to go down in flames no matter what anyone else thinks, but then I ponder this series’ colossal waste of a cushy spot on the NBC schedule, talent, money, and time (especially mine, since I had to watch and write reviews of every episode of this show), and I just get angry.
So, who’ll be tuning in next Thursday to watch more Studio 60? And will you be tuning in because you still hope against hope that the show can go out with some dignity, or because you anticipate another spectacular train wreck?