If glibness were a saintly virtue, then Aaron Sorkin would have been canonized by now. Unfortunately, snappy patter can sometimes be a curse, which is why this short-lived backstage drama about a Saturday Night Live–like sketch program amply exhibits both sides of the Sorkin coin.
The most anticipated TV show of the 2006–07 season, Studio 60 soon foundered on its own smart-ass attitude and a healthy dose of hubris. The initial problem was that Sorkin’s tommy-gun dialogue—perfectly suited to a Hawksian screwball comedy—was a poor fit for the subject matter. Sorkin soon went in a relationship-driven direction, highlighting the romantic entanglements among various cast members and executives. Not bad, but when the viewers still didn’t show interest, Sorkin amped up the topicality, offering a multiparter about the angst of a cast member whose brother in the Air Force had gone missing in Afghanistan.
Viewers might have been turned off by all these tonal shifts, but for the most part, Studio 60 was solid fare. Flashy, well-produced, fun, intelligent and filled with cool one-liners, the show featured several top-notch performances: Steven Weber playing against type as a hard-as-nails network exec; the adorable Sarah Paulson as the sexiest fundamentalist in showbiz; and Matthew Perry, nevermore to be known only as Chandler Bing, doing Emmy-worthy work as a head writer whose love-hate relationship with Paulson was the linchpin of the series. Memorable TV? In parts. Embarrassing and over-the-top? Sometimes. But Studio 60’s strengths are what give the term honorable failure real meaning.