Friday, August 21, 2009

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

For those of you that don't know, Aaron Sorkin is a genius when it comes to TV Shows. I like to watch TV, and there are a lot of shows I enjoy, but one of the things I love about his shows is their rewatchability. No matter how many times I sit down to watch Sports Night or The West Wing, I find myself laughing and crying along with the characters.

I recently decided to sit down and watch Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - his most recent show which NBC sadly canceled after one season. I hadn't seen it since it aired 2006-2007, but I was yet again reminded of how much I love Sorkin's writing. He has this great way of using music and visuals to create a moment that is just...perfect. Watch the Christmas episode of Studio 60 if you want to see what I mean. He does it in his other shows, too, although more often in the West Wing than Sports Night.

I also love the way Sorkin uses dialogue to drive the show. Thinking back to the West Wing, there are a lot of conversations that could easy drag, but he writes the script in a way that keeps the audience interested. I'm not a TV writer or expert by any means, but I can tell you that the words he chooses along with the timing of delivery are what make his shows stand out.

The other thing Sorkin does that I absolutely love is make characters that completely disagree with each other, and yet respect and care about each other -- an example of this is Ainsley Hayes (a very smart, savvy Republican) in the West Wing. The main way he does this in Studio 60 is through Harriet Hayes (I just noticed they have the same last name), a fairly conservative Christian that holds true to her faith, despite her life and work on a late night comedy show in Hollywood. I really like that all of the other characters on the show respect her faith and even stand up for her when smaller characters say cruel, hurtful things to her, even though they don't believe in God at all. I also really like that Studio 60 brings up a lot of questions about God, and Harriet doesn't always have an easy answer. We don't know why God chooses to do things a certain way, and why he doesn't just swoop and fix everything when things get really hard. When Harriet gets stuck and doesn't know why, I love that she says she doesn't know. From my experience, faith isn't about knowing all the answers - it's the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see (see Hebrews 11:1).

I wouldn't say that Studio 60 is a very religious show, but it does bring up a lot of questions that people have about God, and I think that's good. Asking questions is good, but it's also important to look for the answers in appropriate places. If I had specific questions about fish, I wouldn't go to Blockbuster to try to find out more. All they'd be able to do is give me the Little Mermaid or Finding Nemo - great movies, but unlikely to answer my questions.


  1. Good parallel with the fish. Movies and TV shows are rarely a good place to find answers, and one might even argue that good media content forces the consumer to deal with questions far more than answers them.

    On the subject of Sorkin's writing keeping the audience engaged when they might otherwise lose interest, I think that was the biggest thing West Wing lost when they lost him in season 5. Whoever was writing the episodes after that were clearly trying to continue to discuss complex subjects in a way that the audience could understand and care about (the way Sorkin did on a regular basis), but (in my estimation) they were only about 3% as effective at it. It's hard to describe why season 5 was just "not very good", but I think this has a lot to do with it.

  2. I agree with why season 5 of the West Wing was so far from seasons 1-4. It wasn't until they found their own rhythm that the show became pretty good again (although, in my opinion, it was never as amazing as it was orginally).