When THUD reported on the March 5th premiere date for the NBC I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-The Departed crime drama The Black Donnellys, there was a lot of buzz about how the announcement didn’t come with a return date for the show it was replacing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. At the time, I said that we shouldn’t take this as the final death knell for the Aaron Sorkin Vengance Hour, because the Donnellys –S60 switch was something that was always in the cards.
Now, as Jon Stewart would say, “…not so much.”
NBC announced in a press release today that Black Donnellys will premiere on Monday, February 26th, a week earlier than expected and, once again, the announcement from President of NBC Entertainment Kevin Reilly came without a return date for Studio 60. The ratings are circling the drain — S60 dropped from 13 million viewers to about 7 million since the pilot, and the 18-49 demographics blow with commitment. I’ve written about Sorkin’s inability to keep his mouth shut in the press, which only furthered people’s opinion of him as a delusional egomaniac, a delusion that apparently extended to his cast as well – I loved the quote from Sarah Paulson about how people who don’t like the show should shut up. And while I didn’t watch Monday’s episode, the Tuesday reviews of it were some of the worst the show’s ever gotten, which is really saying something.
This looks like the end for Studio 60 after all – even if NBC chooses to give it one final shot, a second season is unlikely. And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if we heard a cancellation announcement sometime soon as well.
I want to get upset about this and I want to be able to rant about how American audiences just don’t know great TV when it’s thrust in front of them. I want to rank Studio 60 alongside such brilliant-but-swiftly-cancelled shows as Now and Again, Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development, and Joan of Arcadia (fuck you, it was good). But we all know – whether you dropped out at “STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF AFGHANISTAN,” “Are you crazy about me or are you just crazy?”, “I’m from New Orleans,” or the most recent, “Tim Batale is an anagram for Matt Albie” – that simply isn’t the case. Studio 60 was repeatedly and consistently a self-important show that had no clue how to make one of the most entertaining concepts out there (Aaron, did you even read the Saturday Night Live book, Live from New York?) an unfunny, painful slog.
But maybe some good can still come of the demise of Studio 60 (other than it won’t be on the air anymore). Maybe the fact that this show from the man who brought us The West Wing and Sports Night is now ranked among Supertrain and anything Kevin Williamson did after Dawson’s Creek as big, expensive, over hyped shows that failed spectacularly will pull Sorkin out of his delusions of grandeur and make him reassess. Maybe he’ll shake himself off, go do this movie with Mike Nichols, and remind himself that he used to be great. I doubt that, though, and my own disillusionment with Sorkin and Studio 60 brings its own lessons with it.
I’ve learned that no matter how great the guys behind a show have been in the past, the show itself can still stink.
I’ve learned that no matter how unbeatable a concept and cast seem, there are still ways to fuck it up.
I’ve learned that while shows like Studio 60 are getting all the press and hype and good buzz and bad buzz, there are better, more deserving shows out there producing great television that really are in danger of becoming the next brilliant-but-cancelled show.
I’ve been hearing phenomenal things about Friday Night Lights, but last week was the first time I watched more than a minute of it – and I liked what I saw. Maybe it’s time to give that a shot.
Sorry, Sorkin. You had your chance to make us all believe in you again, and you blew it. There’s not much else to say besides that.
Note from Nick: I don’t care how cheesy this thing is, I still enjoy watching it as drama OR comedy. Doesn’t matter. I wish it could continue as either a cautionary tale or a missed opportunity for a really good show. I love Busfield, Perry, and Steven Weber on this bitch.