Wednesday, September 6, 2006

I have seen the Studio 60 Pilot...

And it is BRILLIANT. Aaron Sorkin, creator of the landmark television series The West Wing, and the acclaimed Sports Night, as well as A Few Good Men and The American President, has struck gold again with his new behind-the-scenes drama to be aired Monday nights at 10PM on NBC.

SPOILER ALERT - If you don't want to know what happens, stop reading now.

The show is set behind the scenes at the mythical Saturday Night Live-esque show called, oddly enough, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip". It stars Bradley Whitford (a West Wing alum) as Danny Tripp, and former Friends star Matthew Perry as Matt Albie. Both were senior writers on the show, until an executive canned Albie, and Tripp followed him out in protest. In the intervening two years, the show has steadily tanked, and when Executive Producer Wes Mendell (in an Emmy®-caliber cameo by Judd Hirsch) melts down on the air, ala Howard Beale in Network, the brass need to do something to save he show and themselves. Newly hired network president Jordan McDeere (the surprisingly lovely and spark-filled Amanda Peet) demands that Tripp and Albie be rehired to run the show, by the very slimeball exec that fired them, Jack Rudolph (Steven Weber).

Some of the back stories include that Albie just broke up with one of the "Big Three" stars of the "show-within-the-show"; Tripp is a recovering cocaine addict, McDeere is on her first day on the job, and there is a lot of sexual tension between McDeere, Albie, and Tripp.

The writing is prototypical Sorkin, with Gatling gun speed, Ginsu-sharp wit, and Gucci style. Critics of Sorkin oppose the high intelligence with which he writes, claiming he makes all the characters too smart for regular people. Well, I'd rather be challenged, thanks.

Anyway, a great big huge Dating Game kiss to NBC and Netflix, who partnered to make the pilot available on DVD to Netflix subscribers a full six weeks before the premiere. I'm salivating waiting for this show, DVR at the ready. You West Wing fans will not be disappointed, don't worry. Danny Tripp is not Josh Lyman. He has the Josh swagger, but is far more grounded a human. You'll like him, you'll love Matt Albie, and you'll rejoice in hearing Sorkin's magic once again on the airwaves.

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