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Month: November 2007

Punch In The Face Index: S2E10

This is the tenth PITF Index for Season 2 of Heroes, the superhero TV show where punching people in the face will last as long as someone’s writing the screenplay.

Face-punch count: 1. It might have been more but you know, it’s not like Monica’s powers could actually help her in a fight or anything. If only she’d seen some old martial arts footage… oh wait.

PITF Index after the cut.

Studio 60

I just finished watching the first season of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I hadn’t expected brilliance; I’d watched enough of it the first time round to know I was buying some pretty flawed television. It was no Sports Night or even West Wing. But I am a sucker for Sorkin, and in this case I figured I’d get a ton of interesting insight into watching him fail fairly noisily.

It took me the whole season to figure out what was wrong with the show. Not, parenthetically, that there wasn’t a lot that was right. Matthew Perry was great. I like Sorkin dialogue. I liked a bunch of the characters, even the minor ones, some of whom had their arcs and character development sadly cut short when the show ended. Oh, and I really liked Mark McKinney. Man, what a deadpan. And Steven Weber! There’s a show waiting to be made about his character. More on that later.

Lance Mannion had a lot to say about Studio 60 while it was running, and a lot of the stuff he says about why it failed is accurate. I think the comedy was better than he gave it credit for, but I’m picking nits at that point. Sarah Paulson was in fact sorely miscast and abused as a stand-in for Sorkin’s own love life; the whole show moved kind of slowly; enough with the rants about Christianity already. Sheesh.

But he missed the big thing. (Come on. The whole point of blogging is to talk about why the clever person over there is wrong. It only lacks class when you don’t give them credit for clever.)

The real, deep problem with the show is that network comedy sketch shows are about the most unimportant thing on television these days, and Sorkin wanted to do a show about a very important network comedy sketch show. It’s all over the show; the characters treat Studio 60 as if it were the arbiter of cool. Sorkin is writing a world in which everyone in America, not to mention Afghanistan, cares a lot about late night network television.

I can’t name a single Saturday Night Live cast member except for those Lonely Planet guys, and that’s cause of YouTube. OK, I cheated and peeked — Maya Rudolph’s name rang a bell. But SNL is not, in fact, making what one could call an impact on pop culture these days.

So the premise is flawed, and as a result all the storylines — nearly without exception — feel slightly off. It starts out with the story about how Danny and Matt rejoin the show. Realistically, if a couple of SNL vets came back to run SNL again after winning a WGA award for Best Screenplay, the story is about how they’ve lost their career in a big way. Not in this universe.

This continues. Reporters flock to the stage doors, high-powered lawyers hang around the set because it’s so damned compelling, and major reporters push to do big stories on the show. It doesn’t ring true, because it’s all predicated on the idea that Studio 60 really, really matters.

If the show had been set in 1980 or so, it would have worked. Sadly, Sorkin needs his current events. C’est la vie.

The good show that sort of lurked at the edges of this one is the Jack Rudolph drama about a seriously competent network executive who has to grapple with the changing face of media. I want to see Stephen Weber figuring out how to use the Internet to sell his shows. I want to see him using the Internet to create his shows. NBS as the network which breaks with tradition and puts user-created content on prime-time television? Sure, why not? It’s the Sorkin universe. Weirder things happen. But make the stories about…

All the stuff that pisses Sorkin off. He’s always sneering at bloggers in his scripts. So that one is probably a lost cause.

Still, it was interesting to watch him trip up. I’d certainly recommend the DVDs for anyone who’s into that sort of thing. Also there’re more than a couple great bits.

Tim Kring: “I’m so sorry.”

I paraphrase his remarks on Heroes. What he actually said was “romance isn’t a natural fit for us,” and “We took too long to get to the big-picture story,” and “We made a mistake.” I.e.: the Claire storyline sucked, and the meandering around sucked, and season 2 in general has not been good.

This is true. I noted a while back that the problem with season 2 was that it’s very much like season 1. That worked for season 1, because they were introducing the world and building our relationships with the characters. But now we have relationships, and we are unhappy to see them neglected while yet more characters are introduced.

There appears, however, to be hope.

Writers Strike

I’m finding the WGA strike really interesting, for reasons above and beyond the obvious fact that it affects a lot of my entertainment. (Equal link doctrine: here’s the AMPTP home page so you can read up on the other side’s viewpoint.) Perhaps predictably, screenwriters like to write, and that means there’re a lot of screenwriters with blogs, and that means this is going to be a heavily blogged strike. This is only appropriate given that the major sticking point is residual income for Internet-distributed television and film.

Worthwhile blogs on the strike include United Hollywood (a strike-specific blog), John August, The Artful Writer, Kung Fu Monkey, Jane Espenson, and I’m sure there are dozens more. Nikki Finke is not a screenwriter but what else is a Hollywood blogger going to be writing about?

It’s not just that they’re being pretty candid and frank about their opinions on the whole thing; it’s the arguments getting underway in various comment sections. The effect of this strike on non-writers will be significant — set dressers, location scouts, etc., etc are all gonna be out of work if this goes on very long. Those people aren’t shy about expressing their opinions by any means.

So what I’m seeing is evolving labor relations in the field of intellectual property, weighted towards the question of Internet rights, with a hefty dose of class consciousness included on the side. And it’s playing out in real time where I can see it. Yeah, interesting.