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Monday, February 21, 2011

An Overlooked Accomplishment by Aaron Sorkin

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The Complete Series (Warner Home Video)
Video and DVD

By Steven Rosen . . . . . . .


2006, Not Rated

Aaron Sorkin's screenplay for The Social Network is probably going to get an Oscar on Sunday, and deservedly so. But the previous accomplishment by this writer, who knows how to tackle topical ideas about the role of media in society and offer complex, compelling characters, has been unjustly overlooked. Hopefully, Social Network will encourage people to take a second look at Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip -- a great series.

As they did with Lisa Kudrow's superb but ill-fated The Comeback, wrong-headed TV critics attacked the daring Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Sorkin's knowing, brainy and fantastically-acted follow-up to the The West Wing. They labeled it "pretentious" and "not funny enough." As a result, the show never got the buzz it needed to be a success, and NBC canceled it after its first season.

It's a great loss. This drama -- it's not a comedy -- ostensibly is about the struggle of two head writers/producers (Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford, both excellent, with Perry a revelation) to put on a weekly Saturday Night Live comedy show.

But that's just the window into Studio 60's real subject -- the ethics, policies and politics of network television. And, next to the White House, what better institution for Sorkin's lacerating, fast-paced and quick-witted writing style? The best of these 22 episodes include sizzling, literate, argumentative back-and-forth among Perry, Whitford, Steven Weber as the network chairman and Amanda Peet as the network president. Grade: A

(Adapted from Cincinnati CityBeat)


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