— When this past TV season began, NBC, the critics and anyone who follows television put big money on the success of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Writer Aaron Sorkin's follow-up to The West Wing, the show boasted some of the finest behind-the-scenes talent working in TV today, combined with an all-star cast. Friends star Matthew Perry, The West Wing's Bradley Whitford, and hot young movie starlet Amanda Peet took the leads, flanked by a cast of very familiar faces to TV viewers. It was destined to become the breakout hit of the year.
Or not. The show died a long time ago, but it's taken until now tor NBC to burn off the last episodes. Tonight, NBC airs the series finale of Studio 60 after a tumultuous year of episode cutbacks, chronic rescheduling and an increasing apathy towards Aaron Sorkin's attempts to find a distinct voice for the show.
After being pulled from the air in February, NBC decided to burn off the final six episodes during the summer TV season, when audiences typically turn off their sets. For the past four episodes, the show feels more like The West Wing or 24 than a show about sketch comedy, taking place in real time following two simultaneous tragedies.
Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet) went into premature labor and is in critical condition while her new fiancé, Studio 60 executive producer Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) waits for more information. Meanwhile, back at the studio, star Tom Jeter (Nate Corddry) is waiting for word on the fate of his brother, a soldier kidnapped in Iraq and being held by terrorists.
Tonight's episode, title "What Kind of Day Has It Been?" looks to wrap those storylines up and will hopefully remind viewers why they had such great expectations for the series. Aaron Sorkin's first two shows, the short-lived but critically beloved Sports Night and the four-time Emmy winning Outstanding Drama Series The West Wing, both ended their first seasons with the same episode title, one of many recurring Sorkin trademarks.
The Studio 60 pilot episode was well-received, a strong indictment of the state of television that inspired hope in viewers about the media in the same way The West Wing inspired us about politics. Sadly, Sorkin didn't know where to take it. Sometimes the show was an inside-joke about Sorkin's own experiences as a television writer. Other times it became a romantic comedy involving liberal head writer Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and ultra-religious star Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson). Then Sorkin tried to morph it into his earlier success by writing about the war in Iraq and serious political issues.
Sure, the show was a colossal commercial and critical failure, but it was hard to ignore. Sorkin's dialogue hasn't lost its edge, even if the material has. Tonight is your last opportunity to get a glimpse of how a show that worked perfectly on paper can fall apart in its execution.
-John Kubicek, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image courtesy of NBC)