Here we go: despite receiving an order for three more episodes on Friday, the Aaron Sorkin NBC drama “Studio 60 on Sunset Strip” is about to be put out of its misery.
Cast members are already confiding in friends that the end is near. It’s likely NBC will pull the plug shortly I am told by insiders.
Last week, Studio 60 had 7.7 million viewers. Compare that with competing "CSI: Miami," with 17.5 million. That gap cannot be closed.
But ‘Studio 60’ has trouble internally at NBC, forget its intramural rivals. According to ratings stats, the “Saturday Night Live” behind the scenes soap opera loses almost half the viewers delivered to it a few minutes earlier by another new show, “Heroes,” which has become a surprise cult hit.
On Monday, ‘Heroes’ had 14.3 million viewers. The substantial drop off with 'Studio 60' is probably the last nail in its coffin. The order of the three extra episodes is considered by insiders to be a contractual move, and not one based on faith that they will ever be made or aired. The all important demo situation didn’t help: 'Heroes' had 15 percent of viewers aged 18-49. Studio 60 had 8 percent. The notion that 'Studio 60' is a big draw for NBC among desirables is, sadly, blown on those stats.
Sorkin and friends will argue that NBC has done something wrong, or that the audience isn’t smart enough. Alas, in this case, neither is true. 'Studio 60'—as I wrote on August 7th after viewing the pilot—is just a bad show. There’s nothing wrong with the acting, directing, or dialogue writing. But the premise is faulty. No one cares whether a bunch of over caffeinated, well off yuppies, some with expensive drug habits, put on a weekly comedy sketch show from Los Angeles.
Even worse: no one cares whether or not the people from the Bartlett White House puts on a comedy show. That’s what 'Studio 60' is, essentially: the "West Wing" annual talent show. There’s so much earnestness involved in this endeavour, you start to think that nuclear war will be declared if the 'Studio 60' staff doesn’t air some joke—usually one we don’t hear anyway. The whole thing just feels weighted down and frankly, not entertaining.
There is one winner to come out of 'Studio 60,' however: Matthew Perry. In this show he’s proven himself to be a star on his own separate from "Friends." His comedic timing and ability to ad lib, toss off lines, and give restrained physical reactions is what keeps 'Studio 60' even remotely interesting. We can only be hopeful that someone comes up with a great new show for him quickly—but a comedy that’s funny, not a drama that isn’t.
NBC will probably fill the lost 'Studio 60' timeslot with 'Deal-No Deal: The Next Generation,' or some such thing. So the losers here will be the audience, which is about to be pummelled by more reality and game shows. It’s too bad because around the dial there are good new dramas. Despite its heavy “thirtysomething” feel, “Brothers and Sisters” is worth keeping if only for Sally Field, Ron Rifkin and Rachel Griffiths. (But there a mistake was made, too: killing off patriarch Tom Skerritt in the first episode.)
Oh well: I hope Regis is warming up the holiday edition of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." We’re ready!