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There's no place like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

By Clarissa Stark

Section: Arts

September 22, 2006

Your Monday nights at ten just got a new home. Just tune in to NBC and prepare to indulge in some televisiony goodness. The latest from West Wing mastermind Aaron Sorkin is already one of the best shows out there right now and, incidentally, one of the strongest series premieres that Ive ever seen.

Seriously. Get excited.

Even from the very opening sequence of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, theres an excited tension in the air. The show starts with the moments before a live sketch comedy show a la Saturday Night Live aptly named Studio 60 goes on the air. Simon Stiles (D. L. Hughley), one of the lead three cast members of the show, warms up the audience before the show airs while the cameras pan backstage for a look at all of the false walls, wiring, lights and lack of ceilings that we dont normally get to see in television. You get the sense that you are about to be let in on a secret, something interesting and seedy basically, the underbelly of Hollywood is right before your eyes. And who doesnt want to know about that?

This show seems real for all intents and purposes, it is SNL, and the audience gets the behind the scenes peak at the politics, bureaucracy, as well as the personal lives of the cast, crew, producers and writers. Felicity Huffman guests stars in the first episode as herself (making mention of Wisteria Lane, for all of those Desperate Housewives fans. Dont worry, you dont have to identify yourselves), adding a touch of realism.

Theres also, however, the producers hating each other and behind-the-scenes crew dissing on the writing staff as wells as people arguing about whether or not to walk on eggshells when it comes to appeasing the FCC and offending the more conservative groups in the viewing audience.
It also feels like the real, high-stress environment of live tv with the last minute, down to the wire, cutting a sketch at the last second and writing another one just as the show is about to go to air drama that is intense and all too familiar to many a procrastinating college student.

The writing for show-within-the-shows has been accused of becoming highly unfunny in the last few years, a criticism that SNL has been accused of for years, adding to the sense that this could be real. The writing on the actual show, however, is amazing. Take it from an English major, its hard to write especially bad writing to achieve the effect you want (generic bad is pretty easy, however), but Sorkin can do it all. He writes the bad sketches for the show-within-the show that make the actual show amazing. Not bad, Sorkin.

And not only that this show is funny. I mean, its about a sketch comedy show. One of the first shots of the series shows a staircase backstage with the words Be funny tonight! scrawled in all caps on it and the show definitely takes its own advice. Aaron Sorkin and company are basically masterminds of witty dialogue, and they blend it perfectly within the framework of the show. For instance, Matt Albie (played by Chandl- I mean, Matthew Perry), a former writer for the show, has recently had back surgery and spends all of the episode high on a mix of Vicodin Percocet.

Funny. Then we learn that Danny Tripp, Matts best friend and partner in crime/Hollywood (basically the Joey to his Chandler) recently tested positive for cocaine after 11 years of being clean. Heartfelt. This show has both. The friend-chemistry between Matt and Danny is strong and enjoyable to watch. Theyre not perfect, they joke around too much basically, theyre 12 year old boys but they are completely bonded to one another. I mean, when Matt says to Danny, I dont want someone else, I want you (sure, its about directing a movie, but ignore that for a second), thats love. And its beautifully played out on this show.

The basic premise is that Matt and Danny, fired by the higher-ups four years ago, have been offered of all Studio 60 in an attempt to save the show. Their new boss, the lovely and ballsy Jordan McDeere (played by Amanda Peet), intends to give them free reign over the studio, thus allowing them to air whatever and offend whoever they want. Its the dream of writers getting to say what they really want to say on a show written by people who are in the business. If that isnt an inside scoop, I dont know what is.

There are about a million places this show could go, tons of storylines to be developed, and all I know is that I cant wait to find out. Its going to be an awesome ride. As it says in Studio 60s profile on IMDB, 2006-????, which is exactly right. If you want a show to fall in love with that will stick around for a while, this ones for you. Stay tuned.

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