Better a Witty Fool than a Foolish Wit

Inner Workings of My Twisted Mind.

Best of the Best Part 2 of 3.

Okay peeps, well I promised three awesome T.V. shows (with a little crappy interlude about the Cohen Brothers that was written over a 4 hour period in between work stuff on monday…that’s why it kind of sucked) and here’s the Number 2, not that these are in any particular order (though I am saving the best for last). 

Let me just preface this by saying I DID NOT watch the West Wing.  Get your angry torches and pitchforks, that’s right, I didn’t watch it.  I always thought it was great, but I just never got hooked.  But before you come torch my tiny apartment, I will say that I plan to watch the whole series (and that’s what Netflix is for) because of a new series. 

If you all haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  The show was created by Aaron Sorkin, the creator of The West Wing and a short-lived, but great show, called Sportsnight.  Aaron Sorkin (also the writer of a movie being filmed at Paramount right now, called Charlie Wilson’s War), is just fantastic.  I love his idealism.  His political idealism comes through in the West Wing, much like the film ‘The American President.’  God, don’t we wish our President was actually like that?  Don’t we wish the government really ran like that?  Well in the same way The West Wing is my mother’s dream (though she’s never seen the show, but it would be if she had), Studio 60 is my dream of how Hollywood, especially television, should be run. 

The storyline I’m referring to in particular came to a bit of a head on Monday night.  I’m talking about the censorship storyline.  In the show, the network is called NBS.  Well, on one episode of NBS’ nighly newscast, during a segment on the war, a soldier yelled ‘fuck’ as a bomb went off directly behind him.  The FCC wants to fine NBS upwards of 70 million dollars (a few hundred thousand dollars for every network affiliate).  The Network Execs decide to fight the FCC on this.  Now, in real Hollywood there is absolutely no way in hell this would happen.  But God do we all wish it would. 

So for those of you who have better things to care about than how badly your T.V. is censored, I’m going to paint a little picture.  You might remember a few years back when a hot new singer named Justin Timberlake performed a song at the Super Bowl with a washed up pop star named Janet Jackson.  There was the little ‘gotta have you naked by the end of this song’ line that was followed by Nipplegate.  Yes, Janet Jackson’s ‘wardrobe malfunction’ flashed 80 million people (that’s how many people watch the Super Bowl) a glimpse of her nipple.  Now, if you watched it, you really couldn’t tell that that was her actual nipple.  And let’s face it.  It was a goddamn nipple.  We’ve all got them, what’s the big deal.  Now, some folks from that lovely part of the country commonly known as the Bible Belt (or What is Wrong with America) were horribly offended at seeing a nipple other than their own and called into the FCC.  The FCC then proceeded to fine ABC a butt-load of money (that’s an industry term), and ever since network T.V. has been suffering the consequences.  Every week, Shonda Rimes (writes Grey’s Anatomy) has to battle the FCC to say the word Vagina on television.  That’s right, in a show about doctors, there has to be a battle to use the correct term for female anatomical parts (of course if it weren’t for that, the phrase Va Jay Jay would never have been invented so…).  The moral of this is that thanks to Janet Jackson, everything, and I mean everything, is time delayed.  That means they can fuck with what shows up on T.V.  Hmmmm….what’s another word for this, oh right, CENSORSHIP. 

That’s right people, every single thing you watch on t.v, including most news broadcasts, are time delayed, and can be censored.  Isn’t that a scary thought.  Just sit with that for a bit.

While you’re processing that, I’m going to get back on topic (I can hear my professors cheering).  My above point was to show how Studio 60 is idealistic, but a kind of idealistic that has the potential to be realistic, and isn’t that the best kind?  The thing I love about Studio 60 is that it’s a version of Hollywood that we all wish and hope for.  It’s a version of Hollywood where the Executives are on the side of the artists (this doesn’t happen often in real life).  It’s a version of Hollywood where new writers are given the chance to have sketches on the air (lord do I wish).  And it’s a version of Hollywood where people get second and sometimes third chances. 

But you know what I love the most about Studio 60.  It gives all the people who get down on Actors a chance to see the fact that there’s alot more to acting then just standing in front of a camera and saying some lies.  Now, they don’t go into how technically difficult acting can be or how an entire scene has to be blocked and actors are actually counting steps between their marks while they are performing a scene.  It doesn’t get into the fact that actors are put in the most amazingly awful conditions (cold, heat, rain, snow, pretending that they are somewhere they really aren’t, etc.) and then asked to perform, and do it well.  Now, I’m not an actor, but I have an immense respect for them.  And I think that Studio 60 does a great job of showing some of the other stresses that actors have to go through in their job.  Say for instance, Sarah Paulson’s character Harriet Hayes (based on Kristen Chenowith who was the original Glinda in Wicked) is a christian woman who has to deal with the fact that her fans are mostly christian, who have traditional christian values.  Her whole struggle with this is really interesting because generally we only see the people/us magazine side of fame, not the fact that the actors have to actually deal with that too. 

But the plight of the actor is not the only thing Studio 60 does well.  The writing is absolutely phenomenal.  Of course it’s Aaron Sorkin and he’s just a master of words, the Shakespeare of television drama, but it’s more than that.  It’s the combination of fantastic writing, phenomenal acting (Sarah Paulson and Amanda Peet are especially awesome, even if no network exec would be as awesome as Amanda Peet), and an optimism about where the industry could go that come together and make this show a treat. 

Plus, it’s frankness about the state of television is absolutely priceless.  In one episode the network exec is trying to get a great show for NBS and asks the producer of Studio 60 (Bradley Whitford) to help with courting the creator.  The Producers response is spot on: he says that the show is good so it should be on HBO, not network T.V.  Now riddle me this folks, Are there better shows on HBO and Showtime or on NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX?  I think we all know the answer.  And I wish it would change because I can’t afford those channels. 

In any case, I hope I’ve done it justice.  I know many people who don’t like the show, but if you want the insider scoop it’s not going away because even though it’s not pulling in the huge ratings, it is pulling in the right demographic.  Pretty much, the people who watch Studio 60 are people who live in Beverly Hills and the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  In other words, the rich people who buy the cars that are advertised on the show.  So don’t expect Studio 60 to go anywhere anytime soon because advertisers love advertising expensive shit to people who will buy it.  And that’s what T.V. is all about.

Peace, Love, and Good T.V.

Julia

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June 14, 2007 - Posted by | Hollywood, Studio 60, Television

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