In contrast to some of the other series that premiered last month in the US, Studio 60 has been slowly improving rather than losing its shine. While ratings haven’t been good, quality has gone up and the show is now recognisably the work of Aaron Sorkin, the man behind The West Wing.
It wasn’t looking quite so rosy last week, when the big opening sketch that was supposed to relaunch “Studio 60” turned out to be a Sorkin favourite, a Gilbert and Sullivan set piece. Oh, oh. Impressive, but lacking the vital ingredient of all comedy sketches: humour. Nonetheless, you could see how it might have worked in the context of the rest of the show – which of course we never got to see.
This week, however, things perked up.
While Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry both continued to work their magic as the leading duo, the rest of the cast got a chance to shine in their respective roles. Sarah Paulson in particular put in a fine performance, and who knew she did such a good Holly Hunter impression? Amanda Peet also managed to convert her too-good-to-be-true network exec into something more sympathetic, bringing in some of her more recognisable comedic talents with a spot of pen-play later on.
The sketches were funny for once, with “Science Schmience” giving Sorkin his first real chance to do an issue of the week à la West Wing, poking fun at fundamentalists who choose to ignore the findings of modern science.
Still, while it’s getting on for the quality of The West Wing, there’s still this slightly unsettling feeling that it’s all just a bit too trivial. While the actions of the characters in The West Wing could affect millions, if things go wrong for these characters then… a TV show will get cancelled and they might have to work on another TV show instead. Oh no. This feeling increases in direction proportion to how earth-shatteringly seriously a character starts to take their job, so it’s not something easily dismissed.
All the same, if the quality keeps increasing at the current rate – and the ratings don’t make NBC pull the plug – this is going to be outstanding in just a few episodes’ time.
PS Lucy Davis from The Office appeared in episode three as one of the writers. She gets one line that she more or less mumbles. I suspect she’s going to be in it again, but if she isn’t, that was a bit of a waste, wasn’t it?