Remembering 'Studio 60'

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The Awl looks at why the Sorkin vehicle died, and Tina Fey's 30 Rock, heading into its sixth season, fights on:


On Studio 60, Matthew Perry plays Matt Albie, the head writer on the show, who spends hours and hours in his office writing entire 90-minute episodes by himself because he feels he's funnier than his entire writer's room combined, and the show leads us to believe him. In the second episode he runs into writer's block when he has to come up with the cold open. Suddenly he has a eureka! moment and jumps on his lap top. Eventually we see this "amazing" sketch: A parody of Gilbert and Sullivan's "A Modern Major-General" called "A Modern Network TV Show," with the actors performing a song and dance number promising, "Although our producer was caught doing blow... we'll be the very model of a modern network TV show." The piece feels underwhelming -- the actual actors' singing voices are weak, which undercuts the operatic context of the sketch. And the jokes -- buried by the song's mouth-full speed -- aren't as visceral as the studio audience's reactions make them sound. Yet Aaron Sorkin -- er, Matt Albie -- watches over the performance with a proud smile on his face: I did it! It's funny! You didn't, and it's not. 

30 Rock never makes the mistake of trying to legitimately impress us with TGS sketches. Instead, Tina Fey makes a mockery of the sketch production process, with charming, we-know-this-is-bad sketches about robots fighting bears and Star Jones spraying fake vomit everywhere. She also manages quite a few jabs at Studio 60, including: "This is worse than that time we did that Gilbert and Sullivan parody." Ouch. 

 The bottom line here is that 30 Rock is a show in which hilarious comedians play mediocre ones. Studio 60 was the exact opposite.

I haven't really watched this season. They hit their high for me in Season Three. I'm all about The League and Cougar Town.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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