Friday, April 06, 2007
Dump 'Studio 60'? Then what?
At the risk of immersing myself even deeper in flames ...

Most shows I watch for work; a few I watch for enjoyment. I thought "Studio 60" was going to be one of the latter.

I was excited when it was announced. I read the script excerpt in Esquire, watched an advance portion of the debut episode online and made sure I was in front of the TV at 10 p.m. Mondays.

So consider my criticism the disappointment of someone who had his high hopes dashed -- and with continued exposure to "Studio 60" (including tuning back in upon its short-lived return) found disappointment hardening into dislike.

But many of you brought up an excellent point: What would replace "Studio 60"? After all, the show NBC currently has slated for that slot (after canceling "The Black Donnellys") is ... "The Real Wedding Crashers." Which means I'll continue to spend my 10 p.m. hours the way I have when I haven't watched "Studio 60": catching up on movies or reading books. (Hey, there's nothing that says you have to watch TV.)

I like catching up on my reading. But I'd give "Studio 60" yet another shot -- if some changes were made. Here's what I'd like to see:

- Matthew Perry is the best thing in the show. Make his Matt Albie character the center -- perhaps more in the mold of dyspeptic Fred Allen in Allen's memoir, "Treadmill to Oblivion."
- Make the network suits -- yes, including Amanda Peet's Jordan McDeere -- background characters. At best. About the only one who lights up the show (because, perhaps, he doesn't sound so much like Aaron Sorkin) is Ed Asner's corporate chieftain.
- Get rid of Kristin Chenowe -- uh, Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson). Paulson is fine, but the character is the show's most flatly written.
- Dump the conceit that the "Studio 60" within "Studio 60" is NBS' flagship show. Maybe in 1955 it would be, perhaps in 1965. Certainly not in 2007.
- And make it FUNNY.
- And Mr. Sorkin, I know you like having final control over the writing. But please try out voices besides your own.

There. I feel better.

Besides pushing me over a cliff, what suggestions would you have for improving "Studio 60," either creatively or promotionally? (Assuming, of course, that you think it requires any changes in either direction.)
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Dear NBC, please kill 'Studio 60'
NBC renewed "30 Rock" Wednesday. It's the right move: The show, though still weak in places, has an offbeat, loopy charm, and when Alec Baldwin is on, it's top-drawer comedy. (I wonder if Baldwin has prompted the rest of the cast to raise their game; in the beginning, it was as if he was on another, better comedy.)

The vaunted "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," however, is apparently on the edge of cancellation. NBC, here's my advice: Shove the show off the cliff.

I generally enjoy creator Aaron Sorkin's work. I loved "Sports Night" and thought "The West Wing," though its self-importance could be maddening, was a fine program. But "Studio 60" hit its peak with Judd Hirsch's "Network"-inspired monologue in the first episode. Since then, the show has had its moments, but "monologue" is probably the right word to describe "Studio 60." It's Aaron Sorkin talking to himself.

The characters aren't characters; they're stick figures for Sorkin's mouthfuls. (Contrast them with Martin Sheen's "West Wing" president or Josh Charles' "Sports Night" anchor, two people who appeared to live outside Sorkin's script pages.) And the "plots," such as they are, appear to have no basis in reality. The episode in which the show hired an African-American writer was downright embarrassing.

It's a shame. The actors are really trying and the show, visually, looks great. But NBC, time to cut the cord. With all the money "Studio 60" costs, perhaps you could invest the funds in something worthwhile. "Larry Sanders" reruns, perhaps?
And then there were eight
So now Gina's gone.

Did America make the right decision? (CNN's Troy and Steve have their own opinions -- watch.)
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
'Idol' chatter: Singers benefit with Bennett
From CNN.com Special Projects producer -- and "American Idol" fan -- Steve Almasy:

So just a week after I said LaKisha Jones was turning into an also-ran, she charges right on back. (Watch Steve and Troy disagree about "Idol.") With Tony Bennett coaching the "Idol" hopefuls this week, we were treated to one of her best vocals of the season. Kiki smoked "Stormy Weather," and each time I listened to it, it got better. There were some odd notes in the beginning, but 90 percent of that song was blazin'.

I also had to listen to Chris Richardson several more times, because I thought he was average (although I liked the way he finished). But the judges all praised him, so I listened like three more times. I'll stand by my opinion. He was cool -- way cooler than Blake -- but the vocal for most of the song wasn't that great.

I had had high hopes for Haley Scarnato and Sanjaya Malakar because big-band tunes should have made for their easiest week. And while Haley did pretty good vocal with "Ain't Misbehavin' " and we got a glimpse of her gams, she didn't impress anyone with her performance, which was a little too cutesy and, as Simon says, cabaret.

Sanjaya -- who is gonna be safe for a few more weeks -- was horrendous. Well, when he was singing with Tony Bennett he was good -- encouragingly good -- but then on the show he put style over substance. He dressed the part, but he didn't sing it.

Who's going to be gone tonight? Look out Haley, Gina Glocksen (sang great, completely the wrong look) and Phil Stacey (poor song choice). Also, I worry Jordin Sparks' song choice will work against her, but she sang so well, she should be safe.
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