How Aaron Sorkin Lost The Plot — Or How ‘Studio 60’ Failed

So apparently tonight is the last time Studio 60 is likely to air. It’s been replaced in the schedule next week and there’s no set date to bring it back. The theory is that it’s pretty much gone for good, and, if anything NBC will either put the remaining episodes online or possibly air them randomly over the summer to keep the 3 or so die-hard fans happy. For a show that was probably the most anticipated show of the new season just a few months ago, by a can’t miss creator in Aaron Sorkin, it’s nothing short of upsetting.

However, as many people have pointed out, the show just wasn’t up to par. Most people wanted to compare it to Sorkin’s more famous The West Wing, but to me, Sorkin peaked early with Sports Night. While I never stopped watching The West Wing (even after Sorkin left), I always kept wishing it would move more towards Sports Night at its peak. I was actually really excited when I heard about Studio 60, believing that it was the perfect vehicle for Sorkin to go more towards what he had with Sports Night, which was more comedy than drama. Sorkin obviously does the whole “behind-the-scenes-in-a-fast-paced-environment” thing like no one else — but he seemed to get things mixed up here. Studio 60 was a lot more like The West Wing than Sports Night. Sports Night worked because it was funny. The rhythmic pacing and the humor was what made the show shine. The drama on The West Wing worked because it’s an inherently dramatic situation. But, backstage at a lighthearted TV show, whether a sports newscast or a sketch comedy show, should be funny. When watching Studio 60 you never got the feeling that anyone was very funny — which is hard to believe considering they were supposed to be a bunch of comedians.

The direction Sorkin should have gone with the show was to ditch the drama and focus on the comedy — making it a lot more like Sports Night. For comparison’s sake, here’s a clip from Sports Night where there’s still plenty of drama, and the characters still connect well with each other, but the humor shines through:

Compare that with a similar clip from Studio 60, where the pacing and the lighting and the camera work and, well, everything, turn what’s supposed to be a comic moment into a complete downer:

Sorkin had a real opportunity with Studio 60 to create something great, but he dragged it way too far towards another West Wing when it always should have been another Sports Night. Oh well. Hopefully whatever he’s got up his sleeve next will work out better.

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