Baseball Toaster Screen Jam
Right off of Sunset
2006-10-10 08:13
by Jon Weisman

A show doesn't have to be bad for me to abandon it. It just needs to have enough remarkably frustrating moments to make its redeeming qualities not worth the aggravation.

Studio 60, you can take your feckless comedy, your quizzical, antiseptic love story and your occasionally compelling but far from profound drama and go on without me. You have plenty of friends, so there's no need for tears. You're just not for me.

Grey's Anatomy reascends as the single most annoying, occasionally worthwhile show that I continue to watch. There are guilty pleasure shows, and then there are innocent pain shows. Grey's is an innocent pain.

2006-10-10 09:32:07
1.   Howard Fox
I'm with you Jon...I think I posted earlier about these shows...

Studio 60, great cast, lousy show, nobody cares about the behind the scenes workings of a TV studio...vastly different from the behind the scenes of the White House...

Grey's Anatomy, has descended into the depths of the final years of Ally McBeal...just sex and sexual all other shows on has lost its spark...

the best shows are still Law & Order (all 3 of them), Criminal Minds, and of course the best one...House...

2006-10-10 09:32:07
2.   njr
What happened to Aaron Sorkin? I was talking to someone about it last night. Sportsnight was a great show and was about sports broadcasting. It didn't have the grand feel of self-importance that Studio 60 has. On West Wing (which probably ranks in my top five favorite shows ever) that self-importance was completely earned. But not with Studio 60. It's also the first time that all of Sorkin's little writer tricks have bothered me. That said, the moment with the window was pretty good.

On a separate note, I hope you're watching/have watched The Wire. Even before it's recent fanfares I was in the camp that believed it's probably the best thing that's ever been on television (in my relatively short lifetime).

2006-10-10 10:23:50
3.   Rob M
Studio 60 really lost me too last night. The worst part was the plagiarized news bit - the "in my day we didn't have ADD, we just had stupid kids" or whatever. That was so unfunny. The first few episodes at least seemed to deliver interesting bits when they needed too, i.e., the Gilbert and Sullivan opening to the first show. That show last night was just boring.

Grey's anatomy is also unwatchable for me, even though both Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey used to be my neighbors and we's see each other in the dog park every day. I find I can't stand network dramas anymore. The only commercial programming I watch now besides sports and news is the Comedy Central shows - South Park, Daily Show, Colbert, and occasional Seinfeld or Law & Order reruns.

2006-10-10 10:25:54
4.   Jon Weisman
2 - The moment with the window was a laugh-out-loud moment - something that was all too rare.
2006-10-10 11:37:21
5.   caseybarker
Is the OC a guilty pleasure show?
2006-10-10 11:40:15
6.   underdog
Well last night I watched THE WIRE (which I'd Tivo'd from the night before) and then STUDIO 60 (after I enjoyed watching my Broncos on MNF) - with the former making the latter look even worse. Not a fair comparison, really. There were a few laugh out loud moments, and I actually kind of liked the black comedy behind the plagiarized joke - and the subsequent apologies and west coast feed and all that (bringing in an audience from the streets of Hollywood was pretty inspired I thought). But there were indeed plenty of frustrating moments, with the love/jealousy story particularly enervating. As I said before, and you all seem to agree, the biggest problem is just that the tension/heightened drama of the show doesn't match what it's about. There's a big difference between White House tension and behind the scenes of a TV show tension. It would have benefited from just going for it as a comedy (even a half hour one, like SportsNight) with less pretension. There's some patches of greatness here and there but I'm about ready to bail, too.

Meanwhile, The Wire continues to be as brilliant as ever.

2006-10-10 12:42:51
7.   the OZ
I still trust Studio 60 to find its stride by the midpoint of the season. When any product is launched, there is some guesswork as to what will responate with the consumer and what needs to be tweaked. Depending on how many episodes were in the can before the premiere, the producers and writers can identify the parts of the show that work and jettison the detritus before the New Year. I believe there are enough good ingredients in the kitchen.

I'll keep watching and hope it turns the corner in the hope that Studio 60 becomes a cool, must-watch show.

2006-10-10 13:04:29
8.   underdog
I was thinking about that, too - there are a lot of examples of great show that started off awkwardly. Even M*A*S*H was a little clumsy it's first season, same with a lot of great shows. I just wonder if they really need to rethink the pacing of the show, and then with the amped-up Sorkin behind it, wonder if that's possible.

I also wonder how, even if a few of us stick with it - how many TV watchers in the "heartland" will be interested in a behind the scenes of Hollywood show.

2006-10-10 13:30:11
9.   Jon Weisman
7 - Tweaking happens, but I disagree about the ingredients. I don't get the sense that Sorkin would agree with me about what's right and wrong with the show.

8 - How many people had reason to be interested in the lives of a standup comic, his wacky neighbor, ex-girlfriend and short, balding best friend? Any setting can work if you execute it right.

2006-10-10 13:39:45
10.   Voxter
I quit on "Studio 60" right in the middle of last night's show. I don't remember what exactly happened, but at one point I just found myself wishing Sarah Paulson's character would die. So I turned it off. I don't have time for that. If a show has one character I hate and nobody I find particularly endearing, I have to quit watching it. This is a lesson I learned long and hard from "Smallville"'s crash-and-burn routine over the last few seasons.

"Grey's Anatomy" makes my teeth hurt. I heard good things about it, and have tried to watch it a couple of times, but I seem to have an almost visceral negative response to it. I think I'll start reading (shock!) on Monday nights.

Ah, but tonight is "Veronica Mars". I'm getting excited already.

2006-10-10 13:42:08
11.   k j
I'm with underdog. Too many shows start out slow and gain momentum after they figure out what works. I still think Studio 60 has potential but I still haven't watched last night's show so maybe I'll change my mind when I fire up the Tivo later this week.

The biggest problem I see with it so far is that it takes itself way to seriously. Perry's acting is overdone right now and they need to actually hire some comedy writers to mix with their regular writers. The comedy of the show within the show is weak. Prime example was last week when the three main comedy actors were discussing the joke about the small town that banned a high school play. The jokes they came up with were completely unfunny (not to mention pretentious) and we were supposed to believe it was a tough call to cut them from the show. I know the show isn't about comedy per se, but a truer sense of humor would do the show a lot of good.

2006-10-10 13:49:51
12.   k j
So I watched Veronica Mars for the first time last night (Tivo'd from last week) and I'm trying to figure out why people like it so much. My current theory is that it must be all Kristen Bell who is as cute as it gets. And this fits with the fact that everyone who's told me to watch the show in print or in person has been male. Also, my wife was not impressed.

But there must be more than Kristen Bell to the show. All I'm seeing now is a sort of slightly sophisticated 90210. Give me a reason to keep watching beyond Bell.

2006-10-10 14:18:36
13.   Jon Weisman
12 - I think VM's strengths run deeper than Bell. In fact, I don't even have any kind of crush on her. I think the show gives you three-dimensional characters and nuanced stories, although an individual scene now and then (such as the season-opening scene in the criminology class) can be a clunker.
2006-10-10 14:45:12
14.   k j
Thanks Jon,

Yes that opening scene was a huge clunker. I should have cited it in my comment. My wife thought Veronica cheated and I had to defend the show right away as it was my idea to give it a shot. I'll make us watch it again. Too many good things have been said and I trust the Conventional wisdom of us internet geeks.

By the way, I'm assuming people are watching Battlestar Galactica. There is no show on TV I look forward to more. Rent the DVDs of the first two seasons if they are available.

2006-10-10 15:48:03
15.   dzzrtRatt
There are some very specific problems with the show that could only be tweaked if Aaron Sorkin were a different kind of writer.

The characters all have "backstories" and tics instead of personalities. Perry, Whitford, Peet, Paulson, Hughley, Busfeld, even Weber and now Lahti: They are all the same person.

They care. They are verbal and occasionally witty. They are beset by their past mistakes. Sometimes they lose their temper. But deep down, the most important thing about them is...they care. The only thing that separates them is their place in the org chart. Weber has to be a little meaner. Hughley can afford to be a little funnier. But there is nothing that distinguishes Perry from Whitfeld's characters. The dialogue spoken by one could just as easily be spoken by the other. That's deadly for drama, which relies on conflict, and for comedy, which relies on character.

Another writer could have taken these ingredients and possibly made an interesting series out of it. But Sorkin isn't up to it. I think "The West Wing" had the same flaws, but the show's wish-fulfillment engagement with our culture's disappointment with politics masked its flaws for a lot of viewers.

2006-10-10 16:12:26
16.   Mark Peterson
Ditto on kj's praise for Battlestar Galactica. It might be the best show on TV right now. It's the best scifi show for sure, but you need to watch seasons 1&2 before picking it up now. I hope people around here are watching it, since this blog is Toaster TV, after all...
2006-10-10 16:50:48
17.   Vaudeville Villain
I agree with everyone who said that The Wire is the best show on television. It's the best television show I've seen in my lifetime.
2006-10-10 16:56:27
18.   Jon Weisman
15 - Spot-on critique.
2006-10-10 18:09:38
19.   Marty
Ratt has described every Sorkin show in my mind. He nails it when he says all the character s are the same. That's what has nagged me (without me being able to verbalize it apparently) about every show he has done.
2006-10-10 19:05:28
20.   Underbruin
15 - I agree w/the critique, but I don't entirely follow that the concept of being 'caring, witty, etc' makes them the same on its own.

That's one of the reasons I loved Sports Night so much. Much like his other shows, Sorkin's characters are largely the same - they all have this deep affection for each other and their little cable sports show that could. "Beset by past mistakes"? Absolutely. Seperated by the show's heirarchy? Yup.

But a lot of times, that's the truth of the world - that overarching character traits can be common throughout an organization, especially relatively small, niche groups (sketch comedy, sports journalism).

It seems to me, though, at least upon these early viewings, that the Sports Night cast was able to make the differences feel real, and effectively separate each character through more nuanced, less cliched writing:

"Hi, I'm liberal and you're conservative, let's have a relationship because that's never been done before. And to add in even more clever new twists, let's make it so we work in the same place... And I'm your BOSS! Oooh, nobody's ever thought of any of these ideas."

Studio 60 hasn't been able to make me feel like the characters in the show are anything but caricatures... Yet. I'm willing to give the show a couple of shots more to get it right, but I think I'm heavily leaning towards letting it go.

2006-10-10 19:12:46
21.   Underbruin
Upon reading that comment, it was near-impossible to decipher. I'm kind of doped upon pain meds right now. My apologies for being incomprehensible. :)

Oh, and before I forget, if you enjoy Battlestar, I certainly hope you've at least considered checking out its descendant/predecessor Firefly (Battlestar's original incarnation came out in the 70s, but the modern version began in '04, 2 years after Firefly was canned).

That show was fun. Too bad it's gone and the movie didn't do so hot. Oh well.

2006-10-10 20:22:32
22.   jpeace
Last week's episode was enough for me. Just wasn't very engaging. Uninteresting characters, and really unfunny dialouge especially for a cast of what are supposed to be comedians and comic writers.

Friday night lights seems promising though.

2006-10-10 20:37:04
23.   Suffering Bruin
15 Nailed it. I'll still watch because I'm a Sorkin fan but, jeebus, last night was rough.
2006-10-11 08:08:02
24.   Benaiah
FNL might be the worst filmed show on television (with the possible exception of Battlestar which seems to be filmed with blown out digital cameras). Why would anyone think that shaky, roaming handheld cameras are the proper way to film a show like this is beyond me. I love that the office is filmed like that, but FNL clearly isn't a documentary style movie since the cameras are often in places they couldn't be. The editing too is choppy with second long cuts of nothing interesting interspersed with parts of faces and shoulders as the camera bounced around.
2006-10-11 12:29:37
25.   4444
You guys have put into words (especially #15 and jon) the problems I have started to develop with studio 60. The topic (of the show) itself is probably the only thing that has me thinking maybe I'll give it another few whirls, so we'll see. I echo the lack of humor involved in the show-within-the-show as becoming more and more of an achilles heel. I've yet to see ep4, though...

I've heard enough good things about veronica mars (even watched something like the first half of the first season - was good, but I didn't have the time for it yet) and battlestar that i've put them on my "check out on dvd when you eventually netflix because you know you will, you punk, you're just delaying the inevitable" list.

It made me happy to see some brief mentions of "The Wire" on here as well, as I had noticed there wasn't too much discussion of what I perceive to be the most involving show of my lifetime, at least. It has done wonders for how interesting I think television can be, on many many levels. I am pleased that there are people that feel similarly excited about some of the other shows out there that I've yet to really check out.

Love the site/blogs here...thanks to all involved.

2006-10-11 17:40:46
26.   CanuckDodger
24 -- Wow, I'd say that Battlestar Galactica and Friday Night Lights are two of the BEST filmed shows on TV right now. The substance of BSG is very dark and the film style reflects that. FNL is definitely going for a documentarty "feel," but not 100%, as it is true that the camera is sometimes placed where it would not be a true documentary. In both cases, with both shows, you are getting a TV experience very different that the conventional, by-the-numbers TV experience American audiences are accustomed to. And that is a GOOD thing.
2006-10-11 21:54:07
27.   underdog
9 very belated reaction - but, absolutely Seinfeld is a good counterexample. I also recall it wasn't exactly ratings gangbusters for its first season at all, but word of mouth caught fire and then the show did. But it was pretty hilarious and inspired right from the get go.

Agree that a problem with Studio 60 is the way Sorkin writes all the characters as fast-talking versions of the same person - Sorkin. More diversity of characterization would go a long way to making the show more consistently compelling.

I was late to Battlestar Galactica, partially because i did watch the first couple of episodes, which didn't grab me that much, but I'm glad I returned. It's really strong.

But The Wire continues to set the bar too high for anyone else to reach. This season's started out as amazing as any of them. The stuff with teaching/public schools is startling (personal connection to it too as two people in my family are teachers). Inspiring writing there.

2006-10-11 22:01:02
28.   Midwest Blue
Personally, I'm in love with The Shield. Iknow it's had a couple of dull moments and one season taht didn't measure up with all the rest, but for me it's the best.

I've heard The Wire is a cop show (sorry, despite the overabundance of great programming, I refuse to subscribe to HBO -- expanded cable's too expensive already). Can someone who is familiar with Shield and Wire compare them for me (in a non-condescending way)?

2006-10-12 11:24:59
29.   4444
Midwest Blue,

I started watching the shield in season 2, it grabbed me right away, and I've been hooked ever since (watched season 1 in repeats before season 3 - thank you, fx!). It is definitely one of my favorite shows, but for very different reasons than The Wire being at the top of it all (all of these statement should include "for me" - it comes off a little funny when someone says "this is the best").

I think I was late to the game (season 3) on The Wire because of that description as a "cop show" - it simply doesn't do it justice. I found my bearings on it after about 4 episodes, finished out the season, then tracked down the first two seasons and absolutely plowed through them. I couldn't believe such a unique and intriguing show had completely flown under my radar.

Comparing the two shows isn't really fair to either of them (as they are aiming for different things, and hitting them in interesting and unique ways), but here are some differences:

The Wire is more "novelistic" (I'm not the first one to use such a term, or a bastardization of it in describing this show) in that it almost decentralizes all of the stories. It can be difficult to tell what the "main" story might be, especially within just a few episodes. This would be problematic if there were some weaker stories, characters, or actors playing them. I've yet to be disappointed with any of the above. This is the most sprawling and impressive cast I've seen in a tv show. This approach to storytelling is quite a bit different than that in the shield; The plot points are slower to develop and the tension isn't anywhere near as thick as it can be in the shield (one of that show's great marks), but somehow the payoffs come in spades. Stories and themes tie in together in ways you don't see coming (almost seinfeld-ian), but still stand up as their own little sub-stories. The show is very dense,...I can't remember a single scene that has been wasted - this is obviously a hallmark of outstanding writing.

The shield also does a very good job of showing some of the "other side," but it is clear that the crux of the show is the unit in the barn. The Wire is less about "good guys" vs. "bad guys" (with more focus on the good guys), and more about the entire story - all sides. Stories and characters will take focus for bits here and there, and then gravitate toward the background, as others have their turn to shine.

I'm rambling.

There is one show that makes me want to buy the (incredibly expensive, hbo is bad that way) dvd sets and just loan them out to friends that are willing to give it a try. That show is The Wire. I've come to the point where I've told friends I would refund their rental money if they can find it at their local rental places and they don't like it. It has made me curious and interested to learn more about the obvious centerpieces (Baltimore, the ports, the drug trade, the games of politics and the reality of policies, and now the schools...everything).

All that, and entertainment, too.

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