Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why Studio 60 Failed

Today, The Los Angeles Times ran an article about Aaron Sorkin, television writing prodigy who is responsible for the political trendsetter The West Wing and underappreciated sports comedy Sports Night. In this article, Sorkin discusses with Patrick Goldstein why his much-hyped but greatly underwhelming Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip failed. While he does try to shoulder some of the blame, Sorkin falls into the traditional trap of blaming someone else for the failure of his show. In this case, Sorkin blamed the media. From the article:

Every failure in Hollywood gets blamed on something else, from movies that bomb (freak snowstorms back East) to anemic album sales (illegal file sharing by snotty college kids). But Sorkin sees a more insidious villain — a triviality-obsessed media no longer willing to separate gossip and idle speculation from reporting and criticism. "When all everyone does is try to draw personal connections between your characters and real people, you're not really watching a play or a TV show anymore," he says. "It becomes a tabloid experience."
While he might be technically right, this is a total copout. As someone who wanted to watch this show succeed as I grew to like The West Wing and love Sports Night, I can tell you why this show failed. Studio 60 failed because the show, along with failing to make its voice clear, made its characters far too preachy and didactic. If I wanted to watch someone lecture to me for an hour, I could watch C-SPAN and at least learn something that I didn't already know. As well, the show within a show was supposed to be comedy. All of the times that I saw it, the interior show nor the commentary between the characters was humorous in the slightest.

When you combine a didactic television show with non-humorous dialogue for a show about comedy, you end up with a show that is terrible. Sorkin should not attempt to blame anyone except for himself for the failure of Studio 60. Maybe Sorkin can take some time and learn from this flop. I don't want to lose his voice on television, but he will have to do much better than Studio 60.