Sunday, January 28, 2007

To introduce the guest star

Popped round to see Nimbos last night and many shiny treats. As well as the long-awaited Heroes #12 (Eccles!), he showed off the first two episodes of Studio 60.

A long-running, live Friday day comedy TV show hits a bit of a snag. The well-respected front man turns to camera and declares it's all baloney. The network won't dare to be funny for fear of alienating sponsors or bigots, he says, and people should not bother watching.

The network panics, but the sassy new president has an outrageous idea. They admit maybe the old bloke is right, and confront this thing head on. She's offers running the programme to two writers (Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry) that they sacked years ago.

And these two coked-up, wild-eyed, fast-talking players are unable to resist.

The show is fast and funny, with the same dizzying chase around the sets and one-liners that styled The West Wing. Yet I can also see why Aaron Sorkin's new show has been seen as smug and self-indulgent.

The West Wing was about how the President struggled to see through policy, and issues that affect the whole world. Studio 60 treats with the same gravitas the politics of a comedy sketch show. It really doesn't matter as much.

They ladle on some of the issues, like a lead actress with unshakeable faith. But it's sparky and witty and richly written. It's of great interest to me as a professional writer, but surely it needs broader appeal?

Perhaps they should use their guest stars more interestingly. The woman from Desperate Housewives (and apparently, later Sting) should be seen to play against type. Like the stars in Extras, they'd be the hook for each episode, doing things we've never seen before.

Sting doesn't sing sappy songs about the environment, he insists on having fish and chips flown over from England. That kind of thing.

Though I realise what I've just pitched is a revival of Muppets Tonight. This is not a bad thing.

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