Thursday, September 28, 2006

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - 'The Cold Open' (1x02)

A lot of times the second episode can be a low point for a show. After pouring everything into a pilot, the second episode is when the business of really introducing characters and ongoing plot threads comes to the fore. In the case of this show, the pilot was so well crafted, clearly taking advantage of the extra time allowed to produce the pilot. But, as they move on to a more regular production schedule, a lot of the location shooting and music driven sequences fall by the wayside in favor of a rhythm that's reminiscent of The West Wing.

I'm a bit surprised that Sorkin chose to bring back the same font used on The West Wing. Beyond that, the show is providing the same basic pleasures as its predecessor. We're here to watch smart, articulate people do their job, battling against aspects of bureacracy that are working to stop them from doing what they want, and in this case, what they want to do is always considered the right thing to do. It's a bit odd that this show, set on a sketch comedy set, feels more self serious than The West Wing. The West Wing characters were always joking about stuff, but here there's a very serious vibe, and only occasionally does witty banter shine through. Part of this might be a reflection of the cavernous, dark sets, which give everything a dark feeling.

The episode does demonstrate that there's plenty of opportunities for drama in this world. There's the insider/outsider vibe with Matt and Danny vs. the rest of the staff, and I'm guessing that will not be an easily resolved conflict. And then there's interpersonal conflict between the staffers that can also provide a lot of material.

However, I'm not really clear what will be happening on a week to week basis with the network exec characters. Clearly the issues with the Christian right are a Sorkin preoccupation, but I don't think they can just have a boycott every episode. And the other big issue with the episode is that the sketch they do doesn't seem particularly hip. I don't think most of their target demographic knows who Gilbert and Sullivan are. It's possible this will be an issue raised next week, but as treated here, it seemed to comic gold.

So, I wasn't as enthusiastic about this episode as I was about the pilot. I still think there's a lot of potential here, but it'll just take some refining to get the show into a workable week to week model.

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