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  • Lance Mannion
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One of the things Sorkin fell victim to is believing that there was an audience just dying for him to do a new show, rather than him needing to put on a show that would satisfy an audience just looking for entertainment. The same thing happened with Joss Whedon and FIREFLY. It's as though instead of thinking of themselves as writers or entertainers, the two men thought of themselves as an established product that America was just demanding to have.

By the way, someone please get Kristin Chenoweth back on TV. She should be doing more than guesting on UGLY BETTY this week.


Raymondo Magnifico

You hit many nails on many heads, but Sorkin showed himself quite capable of handling the can't live with/without you dynamic on "Sports Night," the show that made me a fan. "Studio 60" fixed that. Mostly.

Melissa McEwan

But when she was on SNL only one of the writers had an inkling of what she was capable of.

There might have been one other SNL writer (and performer) who had some idea. ;-)

Great post, Mannion.


You can still do some final Studio 60 liveblogging, as I've read that the remaining existing episodes will be aired in the ER timeslot as soon as the season's done for that show.

Kevin Wolf

I'm incapable of missing a show I never saw, but I do think another live blogging "victim" could be found...

harry near indy

damn, lance. still torching for shelley long. what else is new?

Dan Coyle

Jack Rudolph, Action Executive will live on... in our hearts and minds.

I do hope Weber is cast as the next villain in Spider-Man 4.

Ralph Hitchens

That was a long, thoughtful critique and everything you said was true. Still, bad Sorkin is better -- in a certain slant of light -- than most other shows. I watched a couple of episodes of (just renewed) 30 Rock and was bored when it settled straight into the conventional sitcom groove. Lately, my heart leapt when I read somewhere recently that Studio 60 would be back (for a few episodes, at least) on May 23rd. But maybe I was dreaming.

Mike Schilling

I still recall the first time I ever saw Ms. Louis-Dreyfus. It was an SNL skit where she was doing a sort of Valley Girl review of "Gone With the Wind" ("What is wrong with you, Scarlett? Ashley Wilkes is a dog! Rhett is gorgeous! Do whatever he wants!")

Two things stood out. First, she's gorgeous. Second, she's hilarious.

Ken Houghton

What Jaquandor Said. There are five more episodes, starting, I believe, The Day after Sweeps End.

Working title for the much-anticipated livebloggings: "Nothing is forgotten or Forgiven/When it's your Last Time Around," Parts I-V.


great post lance mannion.

shelley long. absolutely. she carried ted danson -- so true (for me, in hindsight, of course .. thanks for the reminder).

i haven't been visiting the blogs lately, maybe you've commented (maybe not) ... but what are you thinking about this last season of the soprano's? it's very unfortunate in my opinion. a lost opportunity to go out with a bang. why so bad?


One of the things that pissed me off the most about Studio 60 was how contemptuous it was of TV during a time when TV is better than it's ever been. In fact, this is a pivotal moment in the history of television, when the economic and creative trends are converging to create a brand new medium: the long-form visual narrative. Cable has already figured out the form that works there, and shows like Deadwood, The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica and especially The Wire have mastered it (btw, I believe The Wire is to television as Birth of a Nation or Citizen Kane are to film). Even broadcast TV is beginning to work out the kinks with shows like Lost, Veronica Mars, Heroes, and Friday Night Lights.

Aaron Sorkin was given a tremendous gift with Studio 60. A star-studded cast, a network willing to commit to a full-season and heavy promotion, and complete creative control, and he completely blows it on a giant ego-trip. Why would someone so obviously contemptuous of TV and the people who watch it want to make a TV show in the first place, let alone a TV show about a TV show?


one day when the history of blogging is written, we will look back on these important, world changing moments and say, "i was there." josh marshall's important work to preserve social security, firedoglake's unmatched coverage and analysis of plamegate, the netroots takeover of progressive politics and lance mannion's unmissable live blogging of studio 60 will live forever in the pantheons of bloggy greatness.

lance, your work has made the world a better place. studio 60 live blogging will be missed but never forgotten...


Dear Mike, commenter #1:

Kristin Chenoweth will be back on TV this fall in a new ABC show called Pushing Daises. It will air Wednesdays at 8:00 pm.

YAY for no more Sorkin!



Thank you very much, but this just underscores what Eric Boehlert was saying. The Washington Post still won't give me the credit I deserve because I'm a liberal blogger.

Well, ok, maybe Eric didn't mention me by name, but I'm sure that was just an oversight and he meant to include me along with Josh Marshall and the rest.

Ken Houghton

Chenoweth will be Pushing Daisies and Studio 60 will be Pushing Up Daisies.

I'll volunteer to live-blog the third show (7 June, I think) if others take 24 and 31 May. (and, no, I haven't checked IMDB for descriptions yet--which I may well regret).


I think it's only fitting that Lance himself do the live-blogging for the final show... no frolicking in the comments section while someone else drives the bus off the cliff. :)

Jim Tourtelott

Sorkin has one real talent, which he only intermittently recognizes. He can write dialogue that approximates the way smart and talented people like to imagine that they talk--though even smart and talented people, in the United States anyway, only can utter witty and charming sentences occasionally. (I still have a childish belief that Brits educated at Oxbridge can construct whole paragraphs as they speak them. I'm sure it's mere snobbery, but I can't get over it.)

Unhappily, Sorkin doesn't understand that being the Noel Coward or Cole Porter of late 20th and early 21st Century American television ought to be more than enough for any writer. Mannered dialogue can't be Important unless it has Something to Say. But all that Sorkin has to Say is the same sort of thing that every reasonably educated American liberal already agrees with, which is why The American President, for instance, is so god-awful, particularly Douglas's final speech.

Sorkin could get away with this ponderous nonsense on The West Wing partly thanks to a cast that did miraculously gel, but also because a significant part of his audience really, really needed an hour's worth of fantasy about what living in the world where Florida wasn't stolen would be like. He could not get away with it on Studio 60 largely because that cast, though immensely talented, did not come together, and because whatever there is to Say in standard liberal about television was already said long ago either in A Face in the Crowd or in Network. (In fact, the acknowledged Paddy Chayefsky homage cum rip-off that opened the series may have told us everything we needed to know about what was going to happen.)

Only once in his writing career has Sorkin played to his strength and minimized his tendency to Say Things (or at least had the sense to let one of the most sly comic performers of the last thirty years, Robert Guillaume, undercut them when they Got Said.) That was on Sports Night, the only Aaron Sorkin project anybody ever wanted more of.


Sorkin sucks. He's always sucked. His dialog is stilted and annoying and every character speaks in that manner.

Big problem with Studio 60's casting was putting Perry and Whitford together. It's kind of hard (for me anyway) to tell them apart.


Always late to this party, that’s me. I will miss live-blogging Studio 60, which I found engaging and fun, in no small measure due to LM’s combination of commentary and artful performance.

But, Lance, Lance, Lance… You force me to go out arguing, even though it seems silly in a space where the snark meme has become rooted in the notion that “Sorkin sucks.”

Yes, the series never hit its creative stride, but I agree with Ralph and virtually every actor who ever worked with Sorkin: “bad Sorkin is better -- in a certain slant of light -- than most other shows.”

I also think it’s worth at least considering Amanda Peet “on the train wreck of “Studio 60”: “It could have been an unknown writer-director, unknown cast, and we would have had a chance to find our groove and become a hit show, but that’s not what happened.”

As someone who has made a certain amount of my living as a script doctor for network projects, here’s my experience of script development: I get a script that does not in any way work. That’s why they hired me, but they can’t explain to me why it doesn’t work. Instead, they ask me to tell them why and if what I say sounds plausible, they hand me some money and say, “Yeah. Do that, what you just said.” After I hand in my first draft, I go to a script conference in which as many as six or seven “producers” show up with copies of my draft, all thick at one corner with dog ears on the pages for which they have notes. Over the course of three or more grueling hours, we go through the script page by page by page by page as these six+ people - who read in two hours what I spent six weeks laboring over - give me wildly contradictory notes (something they rarely notice by the way). I return to my hotel room with a throbbing headache. The aspirin I packed doesn’t begin to touch what is fast growing into a migraine, but as I wait in vain for relief I stare catatonically into space and eat everything in the complimentary fruit basket. Then I throw up what I just ate…finally fall into a deep sleep with the covers over my head… wake up around three in the morning and go spelunking for the real notes beneath the expressed notes, which Walter Murch rightly points out are usually the equivalent of deferred pain. My job is to figure out “deferred from where” and hope to god some workable direction coalesces. I might as well be working with a divining rod.

I have the same sense of deferred pain as I review the litany of complaints about Studio 60: (1) “cast bland and unfunny actors playing bland and unfunny actors” – D.L. Hughley, bland and unfunny? In what universe? Nate Corddry, unfunny? Did you see him on The Daily Show? He’s absolutely fearless in his funny. (2)(Jordan) “has nothing better to do than pine about her sex life and take naps on her boyfriend’s couch” – When did she pine about her sex life? And once she napped on a couch late at night. (3) Speaking of contradictory, he had “no clue how SNL was made” even though he could have read it in a book; on the other, he was lifting straight from Jay Mohr’s book. (4) The beef about Matt Albie being a too-brilliant writer as a reflection of Sorkin’s ego – Sorkin should write a lead character brought in to save a show who is not a good writer? Gee, I really want to tune in for that. And by the way, Albie was failing as a writer in at least three episodes.

Was I off at a meditation retreat when Sorkin did the terrible thing that was in all the papers that makes people hostile to him?

I have no idea what all went into keeping Studio 60 from hitting its stride. I believe Sorkin had a movie (Charlie Wilson’s War) shooting abroad and a new play premiering at La Jolla all at the same time, so maybe he was understandably distracted by a combination of projects coming together in a scheduling nightmare that was out of his control. Perhaps Amanda Peet’s unexpected pregnancy shifted the story development in ways that blew holes in things he had planned and cost some momentum. Who knows?

For me, the ongoing frustration was a sense that interesting potentials hovered but never quite landed. One example: the idea that Harriet could have been Matt’s muse and that that got confused with love. Luke suggests the dynamic: “She would be so grateful for the part I wrote that it would feel almost like love.” I think it would be interesting to have two characters who have to navigate such a profound creative bond and the tension that creates in their other relationships… say, for instance, as Matt starts to date the glorious sex discrimination attorney. It would beat the heck out of the done-to-death “Can’t Live With You/Can’t Live Without You.”

I’ll miss Studio 60 because I take this world seriously and these days that can burn a person out, and sometimes it’s a comfort to spend a diverting, well-played hour with characters who aren’t criminals, or emergency room doctors, or street thugs, or dumb-ass mafia types. Hold the adrenaline. A little style + rhythm is not a bad thing.


I couldn't disagree more with all of you. I am glad we have gotten to see Studio 60, and I am very disappointed that there are so many people that can't recognize good television.

Andy Moran

I know it's a little after the fact to be posting this now, but now is when I ran across it. In regard to Sorkin attempting to make Chenoweth seem foolish for leaving him, it seems unlikely to me. Sokrin made himself look like a drugged and obsessed ex boyfriend. He seemed more faithful to what he believed to be the truth to me. After all, Chenoweth did remark that much of what was on the show was verbatim to had it had recurred in reality.

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