Monday, December 04, 2006

The Way TV Could Be (Can Be?)

I know I spend way too much time writing, thinking about and, more importantly, blogging about television, but I am just too enamored of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip to let another week go by without examining why it is so good.

First, and I felt this way about The West Wing for the first three or four years, Sorkin et. al. shows the world not how it is, because that's way too depressing. But he shows how it could be. But more importantly, how it should be. On The West Wing, this meant we got to see how the world could be if we had a President that, I don't know, knew something about economics. Was a Christian who didn't believe in literal interpretations of the Bible. Believed in the separation of Church and State. Upheld the Constitution.

Now, and I know even as I write this it sounds ridiculous, Studio 60 demonstrates how TV could be. But wait. Maybe it's not ridiculous. How much time do most Americans spend watching TV? If TV were more intelligent, more democratic, more socially engaged, wouldn't that be beneficial for boneheads like me who spend so much time watching it?

Let's take tonight's episode, for example. As Middlebrow pointed out, this is what SNL should be. On the fake SNL, Studio 60, there was a skit about Santa being caught on the Dateline Predator cam. Funny, right? And Danny (Bradley Whitford. I heart him) made room on the show for a tribute to New Orleans complete with black and white photos and a brass section from N.O. And, more importantly, the boy got to kiss the girl. Satisfying.

This show also afforded not one but three characters the opportunity to make speeches and stand up for the First Amendment. Ed Asner!! got to make a speech about the First Amendment. On primetime television, baby.

More importantly, and this is my main point, people, so listen up: the show is not saturated in irony and sarcasm. Here's what I love: characters make speeches about the First Amendment and they are serious. They are not tongue in cheek. The show is saying that these sexy, rich people feel things and that's cool. It's smart and funny. It's okay to feel. In fact, the show goes out of its way to make you feel things. About New Orleans, for example, or the First Amendment.

And that, my friends, is why I love it. Plus I love all the actors and the witty banter. There's that too. And the blonde woman from the British Office. Did I mention Bradley Whitford? And Matthew Perry has left that other show far behind. I may heart him too.

9 comments:

Lisa B. said...

I appreciate and applaud that you use your blog forum to talk intelligently about TV. I heart you for that. May I say, however, that the premier of the second half of The Closer was what occupied my attention tonight. I will have to watch Studio 60 in reruns. Which I'm very good at, as it turns out.

ErinAlice said...

Well all that sounds way too intelligent for me. I watch TV, at least until my papers are done, because I don't HAVE to think, and that is the beauty of it. I will have to check it out though, just cause you said. I have spent time watching old Seinfeld reruns-classic!!!

Nik said...

Matt Perry and Bradley Whitford are my favorite couple ever. I wish those women would stop trying to break them up with their girlishness. Amanda Peet drives me and Egg somewhat batty, but if it weren't for the Studio 60, my life would be devoid of any witty banter at all. Now Erin and Lisa B have to at least turn it on so the ratings go up. I know that they're probably not Nielsen folks but I'm convinced TV's secretly reoord our prime time choices. And, if they tell two friends and they tell two friends, maybe the show won't get cancelled.

Marcia said...

I would like to strongly recommend "Gilmore Girls" to all you fans of the witty banter and the strong women... though perhaps not so much the standing up for things that matter. Not so much of that. Unless you feel strongly about coffee. (And I know I do.)

Paulk said...

Let me second Lynn's commentary, for exactly the same reason. It's exactly the defense of the show I wanted to make myself when I read TAPPED (www.prospect.org/weblog) the other day and a whole slew of people started a discussion of why the show is total crap. They kept pointing out that people don't speak like this. That's exactly right. People DON'T talk like this, but they think like this, and in their better moments, they wished they could talk like this. It's a microcosm of positions good, bad, and indifferent. And the show doesn't really talk down to anyone. So we have the middle-American redneck (John Goodman) who can tell the liberal Hollywood types to stop treating him like he's stupid.

I never really watched the West Wing, but I think I'm more attracted to this idea. It isn't some artificial or idealized political situation (though I can understand the attraction of having a political discourse that's carried on by adults). But this is broader. It's about Hollywood, but it's about everyday people, too. It's a fantasy, but one that you come away from smarter and better able to converse about the world around us. That's mighty impressive for modern television.

Lisa B. said...

Wait! John Goodman is in this show? No one told me that. That would be critical information, people. Gosh.

ErinAlice said...

Yea I second that I love John Goodman. I will definately have to look at. And also the New Adventures of Old Christine...keeping with the Seinfeld theme.....

theorris said...

Why do I feel irrelevant?

Counterintuitive said...

My wife and I are quite enjoying Studio 60, though at times, esp when Brad is talking to Friend's guy, it might as well be Westwing. But maybe that's ok too. I live the banter and don't worry over as much about the demise of Westwing.

The episode with Goodman was amazing but I don't think we will ever get to see him again.