Class is Back on Television


I swear from the first few minutes of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" that's the only response I had. I'm a fan of "Sports Night." I was a religious watcher of "The West Wing." I count "The American President" and "A Few Good Men" among my favorite movies. What do all of those projects have in common? Aaron Sorkin. All of the TV shows listed above also have Thomas Schlamme in common. If you've read even one or two of my blogs before, you know I love good television. I'm a fan of film, but TV at its best has a chance to be better. The two hour format of a film limits the stories you can tell, with television as long as the ratings are high, the story continues. For the last several years, broadcast TV has been far outpaced in quality by cable and pay networks like HBO. What is really interesting is that the ultimate passing of the torch came right about the same time that Sorkin and Schlamme left NBC's "The West Wing." But they're back.

"Studio 60" is an hourlong comedy/drama, the format that Sorkin likes best, and in the pilot episode (aired last night on NBC available soon on iTunes) he shows that he hasn't lost his touch. The plot concerns a writer director pair (mirroring Sorkin and Schlamme) that are brought back to the show they were run out of, after an on air meltdown from the creator. The show in question is a fictional "Saturday Night Live" type sketch comedy, that is just beginning its twentieth year on air. What Sorkin does best is dialogue, and the actors he assembles (some of them returning from "The West Wing") deliver it like it was made for them. Matthew Perry (Friends) and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) are the leads here, playing the fictional versions of Sorkin and Schlamme respectively. Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards) and Steven Webber (Wings) play the studio heads that in a moment of panic bring the pair back to "Studio 60." Other cast members of note include, D.L. Hughley (The Original Kings of Comedy), Sarah Paulson (Deadwood) and Nathan Corddry (The Daily Show) as the "big three" actors on the sketch show, and Timothy Busfield (The West Wing) as the Director of the show.

In only the first episode Sorkin shows that he plans to tackle some of the same issues he confronted on "The West Wing." Things like drug addiction, censorship, religion, as well as interpersonal relationships as complicated as real life are all touched upon in the pilot. The show does have pedigree and huge praise from critics, but I know that television can be fickle, so I urge you to watch "Studio 60." Give Sorkin the time to tell us another great story. I'm sure that you won't regret it.

Mondays on NBC 9pm.