Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'll Give You Four

So here's my idea:

I'm gonna try this every Sunday. What am I going to try? Again, here's my idea:

Let's say that you like something, whether it is a television show, a band, a movie, anything. Ok, great. Now why do you like this particular thing, or even better, why are you right about this thing that other people are wrong about? Fantastic. "Give me a reason" is what is usually said.

Instead of doing you one better, I'll go ahead and do you three better.

"I'll give you four."

Four reasons why I am right and why others are wrong. Four valid, logical, arguable reasons why you should join me against the grain (or, if in the case of a critical darling, why you should jump on the bandwagon). And that's the idea.

So I'll start with one that not a lot of people are in on, a television show that was cut tragically short by a lack of viewers, which is often the case with shows like this. It's critically lauded (at least by some) and is professionally produced with a top-notch cast and an award-winning creator. And for some reason, it only lasted one season. And that one season, 22 episodes of roughly 40 minutes each, makes this one of the greatest 15 hour movies I have ever seen. Or, at the very least, became one of my favorite television shows (and would be number one, if it had only lasted longer).

NBC aired this Aaron Sorkin dramedy about the life behind the camera of a late night sketch comedy show (like Saturday Night Live) called the same thing as the show that we watch. It is run by Matthew Albie (Matthew Perry - this was my only gripe with the entire show; Perry is fantastic in the role, but Sorkin couldn't have named this character anything else but Matthew?!?!) and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford) and contains a cast that includes "The Big Three"; Simon Styles (D.L. Hughley), Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson) and Tom Jeter (Nate Corddry). The network is run in part by Jack Rudolph (Steven Weber) and Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet). Drama, hilarity, and a lot of coincidental occurrences, well, occur.


1. The writing.

This is what Aaron Sorkin is known for. He wrote and created SPORTS NIGHT (another show that might get featured in this spot at another point) as well as the award-winning THE WEST WING (a show that I desperately want to watch - I found the entire series on for under $100 if someone would like to buy it for me). He also wrote THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, an above average film starring Michael Douglas as the President who has lots going on in his life and then decides to get involved with a woman who also happens to be a lobbyist. The final speech by Douglas earned my vote, that is to say that if a candidate for the president or a sitting president actually gave that speech, I would be on his side.

You know these things already. Sorkin is well-known and for good reason. He writes better than anyone (arguably) and the banter that he creates between his characters makes someone like me just ecstatic. I love listening to his characters talk. And the Ramblerette (which is Heather's new nickname on here - I give credit to people like the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, who names his wife The Sports Gal, and Fletch over at Blog Cabins, who calls his wife Mrs. Fletch) cannot stand it. I have been watching the series over the past week and a half that I've been on vacation and occasionally (read: rarely) it is on while Heather is getting ready for work or playing on Farmtown (don't ask) and she asks "What are you watching? It's so boring." She complains that it's too much talking. That's what I like about it. What he does is show how you can entertain without a car driving 120 mph or someone shooting another person in the chest fifteen times or better yet, being 300+ pounds and massaging another 300+ person in a hot tub. Because that's out there. None of those things are as entertaining as smart people talking fast and challenging each other with logic, whether or not these people could possibly exist in real life.

2. Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry.

I could be very generic and give you "The cast" as a reason, but I already gave you "the writing" as number one and I figured that I would be slightly more specific. These two men create characters in Matt and Danny that are at best brilliant and personable, and at worst arrogant and assholeish. Their "bromance" caused me to increasingly cherish the friendship I have with George, my co-creator of "Life 101," the screenplay that we wrote together. I can't help but believe that their relationship is based somewhat on the one that Sorkin and co-creator Thomas Schlamme share, as they certainly have a long lasting one (Schlamme was an executive producer on both SPORTS NIGHT and THE WEST WING). My hope is that there are more friendships in Hollywood like the one personified by Whitford and Perry and that people creating the shows that we watch are at least close to the characters that they portrayed.

3. Reimpactability

Yes it is a word that I just made up. But break it down. The "re" means again. I have now completed the series three separate times (once when it was on television, and twice since I bought the DVD) and I know that this time will not be the last. I pick up on jokes and lines that I had not ever before each time that I watch it. I marvel at the acting skills of relatively unknown and unseen actors like Nate Corddry, who shows both his comedic and dramatic chops throughout the show. "Impact" in this sense is all about the effect that the show has on the viewer. There are several episodes that have caused me to get rather choked up (alright, alright, they make me cry) and this has happened every time I have watched it (The Christmas Show, in particular the last scene, gets me pretty good). The laughs are the same each time. The appearances by guest stars (John Goodman is more than good in his two episode stint - he even got an Emmy nomination for guest star; Allison Janney is very funny as herself in The Disaster Show) are an extra treat in addition to the quality of the cast that puts in "A" work each show.

4. Fearlessness

Aaron Sorkin is a brave man. In certain episodes, executives and presidents of the network are complaining to the television show creators about ratings, advertisers, and more. Sorkin was dealing with this on a personal level. As the season hit its midpoint, there were such vivid parallels to how the actual show was doing on NBC to the "show within the show" that I remember wondering at the time if Sorkin was taking actual conversations he was having with his bosses and putting them into the words of his characters. But he didn't stop. He created a world that was so real that I was certainly convinced that the world of television worked as he was portraying it. Whether SNL or other variety shows are anything like STUDIO 60, I really don't care. This was the behind the scenes of THIS show. And after the pilot episode, I was in. I cared whether or not these characters succeeded or failed in their endeavors. A major knock on the show was that the parts of the actual variety show were not funny. Well, I agree that not everything was shown in the sketches was as funny as the funniest seasons of SNL. But some of the recent seasons of SNL (Horatio Sanz anyone?!?!) were not that funny either. This was not the point of the show (although I would argue that some of the sketches are good ideas and could really make for funny television). Sorkin was showing how this show got made and the characters that make this show come together. And when he wrote about the difficult times, that's when he was at his best, in my opinion at least.

There are the four reasons why you should check out STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP. It's only one season long (again, a tragedy) so not a difficult show to jump into. Give it a shot. Ultimately, its an interesting take on the late night variety show (as a side note, let me include that 30 ROCK came on at the same time and now has lasted much longer and to great success - see: multiple Emmys - and I cannot stand the show. I have given it many chances and it still cannot make me laugh. Sorry. Maybe it is too smart for me. Like Arrested Development, right? Pass!)

So this is my new idea. I have some other ideas lined up and you can expect me to keep up with the new stuff that comes out and about. What do you think?!?!

1 comment:

Jamy said...

Oh! I remember seeing a commercial for this show but totally forgot about it! This sounds like something I might like to watch. I loved 'Sports Night' and, as a matter of fact, just added it to my Netflix queue a couple of weeks ago.

It's a good idea to start a recurring post topic. I am in need of one on my boring blog.