Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (official | wikipedia | TWP episode summaries), which started its Irish run this week (it’s been on the air in the US and Canada for a few months), looks like it’s going to be a great source for clever lines and setpieces about the American media (in the same way that producer Aaron Sorkin’s previous show, The West Wing, became a starting point for many interesting conversations about American politics). Indeed, just as the West Wing was suggested as a pedagogical tool for political science, will we see Studio 60 in media studies classes?
I’ve always had a thing for the movie Network, and was therefore delighted to see the gloriously derivative opening sequence where Judd Hirsch (him from Taxi) as the producer of the Studio 60 show (that’s the show-within-a-show, keep up at the back) goes crazy in front of the camera (or as it’s described in the news clips, ”does a Peter Finch”). So we have a TV show about the TV business (told through a show-within-a-show) featuring fictional news bulletins running a story about the show-within-the-show, talking about a movie about a news show. If this sounds all too Baudrillard for you, you’re not the only one.
Anyway, Hirsch doesn’t reappear after he is summarily fired (the main hook for the series is the double-headed production team of Bradley Whitford (aka Josh*) and Matthew Perry), but it’s one hell of a way to go. From the transcript, I’ve reconstructed the speech/rant as best I can – it’s great! (The speech isn’t seen in full, and is broken up by other dialogue) Click to read
This show used to be cutting edge political and social satire, but it’s gotten lobotomized by a candy-ass broadcast network hell-bent on doing nothing that might challenge their audience. We’re about to do a sketch that you’ve seen already about 500 times. Yeah, no one’s gonna confuse George Bush with George Plimpton. Yeah, we get it. We’re all being lobotomized by this country’s most influential industry that’s just throwing in the towel on any endeavor to do anything that doesn’t include the courting of 12 year old boys. And not even the smart 12 year olds. The stupid ones. The idiots. Which there are plenty, thanks in no small measure to this network, so why don’t you just change the channel? Turn off your TVs, do it right now, go ahead. A struggle between art and commerce. Well, there’s always been a struggle between art and commerce. And now I’m telling you art is getting its ass kicked. And it’s making us mean, and it’s making us bitchy. It’s making us cheap punks. That’s not who we are! People are having contests to see how much they can be like Donald Trump? We’re eating worms for money. “Who wants to screw my sister?” Guys are getting killed in a war that’s got theme music and a logo? That remote in your hand is a crack pipe. Oh yeah, every once in a while we pretend to be appalled. Pornographers! It’s not even good pornography. They’re just this side of snuff films. And friends, that’s what’s next because that’s all that’s left. And the two things that make them scared gutless are the FCC and every psycho religious cult that gets positively horny at the very mention of a boycott. These are the people they’re afraid of – This prissy, feckless, off-the-charts, greed-filled whorehouse of a network. And you’re watching this thoroughly unpatriotic Mother-
* Also, Whitford’s character’s name is “Danny”. But the head techie, “Cal” is played by Timothy Busfield (who was Danny Cancannon in the West Wing). This confuses little old me.