Skip to main content

A Look Back: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

"Look, I hate Los Angeles just like everybody else, but I have to work here because in any other part of the country I'd be unemployable."- Matthew Perry as Matt Albie in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip


In the fall of 2006, fresh off a successful seven-season run for television's The West Wing, creator and writer Aaron Sorkin launched his next project. With an all-star cast in place, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was set to be a huge follow-up for Sorkin.

If you've never heard of it, there's likely a good reason. The show only ran for one season.

Studio 60 was centered on a behind-the-scenes look at the production of a weekly, live sketch comedy show. 

If that sounds familiar, it's because NBC also launched a little show called 30 Rock at the same time. While the Tina Fey creation lasted seven seasons and was lauded critical acclaim, Studio 60 did not make it past 2007.

What happened?

The talent for Studio 60 was present. The show starred Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Steven Weber, Amanda Peet, Sarah Paulson, and D.L. Hughley, to name a few among many. 

The show had the same whip-smart dialogue, walk and talk scenes, and pivotal, current themes that Sorkin is known for.

Truth be told, it's biggest downfall was that people thought it wasn't The West Wing.

Would Studio 60 been better served if it had premiered within the last few years rather than immediately following the success of The West Wing? Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, network and cable television, and other streaming services, Studio 60 might have found a better hope among today's drama filled landscape.

On top of that, fans might have better embraced the slightly melodramatic back episodes and not turned their noses at the political story lines they at first demanded.

Recently, I re-watched the one season of Studio 60. While I liked the show back when it aired in 2006-07, I found myself really diving into this show again. Much like Sorkin's pre-West Wing attempt at television with Sports Night (Josh Charles nails it), Studio 60 is an underappreciated role of its time.

The show covered themes still prevalent in today's world. Wars in the Middle East. A president ripe for satire. Hollywood versus the conservative far right.

Episodes featured characters dealing with women in power, a producer fighting back against censors (it's how the series begins), drug addiction, religious rights, and, more topical at the time, the displaced people from New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina.

It also made me pause and think: What if this show lasted, say, five seasons? How would have today's present television/film landscape changed because of it? Let's look at a few examples:

Aaron Sorkin

Five years of writing a show, in addition to the previous seven  he'd just finished up on, might have prevented him writing this modern era classic:

Sarah Paulson


Paulson was fairly unknown at the time Studio 60 premiered. She played one of the three major stars of the show within the show. Her acting was superb, a preview into work in future years in the American Horror Story anthology and her Emmy-winning turn as Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson.

There is a good chance, though, none of that would have happened if Paulson had done five seasons of Studio 60. She was outstanding as Clark and one of the reasons I turned into AHS for parts of four seasons. (The first season was still the best.)

Simon Helberg


Helberg was a supporting player on Studio 60 so it's entirely possible he may have not returned beyond season one. If he did, though, America would be seeing a different Howard on The Big Bang Theory. And maybe the cast dynamic would have never been the same, forcing the show off the air after one season. If only that were true.

These three are simply just a taste. And it happens all the time in Hollywood so I won't go pretending this shift is something new. Over the last ten years, though, to see so many pop culture favorites that could have been affected is an interesting aspect to the failure of Studio 60. (This isn't even talking about The Odd Couple remake with Perry.)

For fans of Sorkin, if you somehow missed out back in 2006, it's time to take a look at Studio 60. It can be hard, especially with so many good, new shows premiering each day, to watch (or re-watch) something from the past.

If you are fans of any of these actors, though, take the time. It's like looking back at another one season wonder, Freaks and Geeks. It's entirely possible, especially over the past ten years, to let a good show slip through the cracks. For all the fans of Breaking Bad, there are many that missed, during the same time, the spectacular Timothy Olyphant vehicle Justified.

Studio 60 may have not won tons of awards, like the West Wing, or received the critical acclaim of 30 Rock. Even in the pantheon of television history, one day it will be lost forever and not go down as one of the greats. For now, though, take the time and enjoy it for what it is: Sorkin at his best and the stories and cast to back him.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Bromance of Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Matthew Lillard

In the late 1990's and early 2000's, there was no greater bromance than that between Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Matthew Lillard. The two of them appeared in no less than five movies together in a five year time span. These two were meant to be. Two young stars destined to take the world by storm as a team. Hanging out, meeting women, and enjoying the good life. And then, just like that, stardom was ripped away from them. Though they continued to work, they would never appear together again in a film.
What was it that pulled them apart? Did they just choose to go different directions? Was it Sarah Michelle Gellar that drove a wedge between these two? While Lillard eventually went on to star in an Oscar nominated film (The Descendants), Prinze, Jr. went on to write for the WWE and occasionally show up as a guest star on television shows. While both have tried, neither has recaptured that joy that once displayed on screen. Tonight, I want to dutifully remind the world of t…

From Negan with Love

YouTube screenshot
*The following contains Spoilers from the season 7 premiere of "The Walking Dead"
"Pissing our pants yet? Boy, do I have a feeling we're getting close."- Negan, The Walking Dead

And people thought Ramsay Bolton was sadistic.


The much anticipated season seven premiere of The Walking Dead hit the airwaves last Sunday. Boy, was it a doozy.
I am not going to spend much time on what side of the liked/didn't like it/I'm never watching again spectrum I fall in. I will say that I was enraptured, on the edge of my seat for nearly the entire one hour, six minutes (including commercials) of the episode. This was an episode that filled me with a sense of existential dread for the characters inhabiting The Walking Dead world. It is a feeling that is still with me nearly two days later.
As a disclaimer, I am only through the first ten volumes of the graphic novels. I have yet to reach the Negan arc. I am also on the side of the court that didn't m…

NFL Referees Fail Cam Newton, Fans

If the NFL is serious about the safety of players and finding ways to limit concussions, the referees in last night's Denver Broncos/Carolina Panthers game had a funny way of showing it.
Instead of talking about what a great rematch of the Super Bowl these two teams put on, much of the focus was placed on the amount of hits Cam Newton took to the helmet last night.
And rightfully so.
There were at least three occasions during the course of the game in which Newton was on the receiving end of helmet-to-helmet hits. 
These hits were not of the "blink and you miss it" variety of hits. They were in the course of game action, delivered to Newton after a throw or in the midst of being tackled.
The Broncos were flagged for this infraction once.
Once.
For a league that is looking to protect its players, especially quarterbacks, these calls were not simply "mistakes" or "errors" by the referees. And to right it off as such is simply another loosening thread o…