Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Studio 60 Revisited

Thinking back on Monday's episode, I'm reminded of something else that bothered me about it. The show's A-plot is all about needing to come up with a cold open, the skit they do before the opening credits. Matthew Perry's character (conveniently named Matt) agonizes over this, because he knows that it will set the tone for the entire show, and for their entire run of the show. He needs something splashy, an attention-grabber that will both acknowledge and downplay the circumstances that led to the regime change, and he needs something hilariously funny that will signal the shows return to the kind of quality and cutting-edge social satire the show was once known for.

To accomplaish this, he pins all his hopes on... a Gilbert & Sullivan parody.

And not even a good Gilbert & Sullivan parody. The song he parodies, the Major-General's Song from The Pirates of Penzance, is perhaps the most famous song from their most famous operetta. The problem is, the original song is a rapid-fire catalog with tricky diction and rhyming. The Studio 60 parody is rather flat and wooden, nothing tricky or rapid-fire about it, killing even its couple of tepid punch lines by having a chorus repeat them ad nauseum and stomp them into the ground.

If you want to see rapid-fire musical parody done right, watch Animaniacs.

Why am I spending so much time writing about a show I don't seem to like that much? Because when he's good, Aaron Sorkin writes awesome TV. And like I said, I'm a sucker for backstage drama. And I like the cast. If Sorkin could just get off his soapbox, stop preaching at us about the evils of the Christian Right and bloggers and filming in Vancouver, and concentrate on the characters and the (fictional) show, this could be a home run.

But it's not there yet.

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