Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Studio 60 Drinking Game

It’s well established that any show I decide to take an interest in is doomed to cancellation. This does not bode well for the new Aaron Sorkin show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip since I have programmed my VCR for Monday nights at 10. Things already look a little grim rating-wise as Tom Shales mentions in the Washington Post today. It seems the numbers for the premiere were good, not great. And worse, after about a half hour, people started turning off in droves. Tom Shales's theory is that the most brain dead show on television is not the best lead-in for the smartest.

Sorkin shows require thinking and he adds a degree of difficulty by throwing in as much visual and aural clutter as possible. For example, during one "walk-and-talk" the rap group with more Oscars than Scorsese is strangling cats in the background just to make sure you miss at least one witty line. Since so little on the show is ever summarized by Dr. Exposition, I had to piece together what actually happened. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it streaming here or catch it on Bravo tonight.


The hard-ass network censor demanded a skit be pulled because it made fun of Christians. This made Judd Hirsch channel Peter Finch. The suit demanded that he be cut-off, but Elliott from thirtysomething (doing a Willie Tanner impersonation) kept the camera rolling.

The eversexy Amanda Peet decided the best people to save the show would be Chandler (since that would reunite two-thirds of the Whole Nine Yards dream team), who was flying on 'shrooms his chiropractor gave him, and Josh Lyman, who does all the stuff Hamilton Jordan always denied doing in office.

Chandler used to bang Galinda The Goody-Goody Comedian until she sang gospel songs on a show her target market actually watches. Ironic twist: She was supposed to be in the Christian-mocking skit that Chandler and Josh had written years ago but which had been plagiarized by the current head writers. The religion mocking skit itself was never seen and probably never will be. It's one of those rules about shows-in-shows.

And least that is what I saw. According to this recap, I got at least a few details screwed up. Like Matthew Perry's character, I may have taken too many Motrin for my sprained wrist to make anything coherent out of it.

In the interest of Internet traditions, even though the show has only aired one episode, I propose a drinking game guaranteed to get you more sloshed that Mel Gibson at a bar mitzvah.

Studio 60 Drinking Game Rules

Take a sip when:
  • Someone makes a thinly veiled reference to an actual NBC show.
  • A cast member of either West Wing or SportsNight guest stars or cameos. (Bradley Whitford does NOT count.)
  • The camera completely circles any characters talking to each other.
  • Amanda Peet calls someone by the wrong name.
  • Anyone carrying a clipboard gives exposition.
  • The “director” yells some technical jargon to a flunkie.
  • Any character starts to drink an alcoholic beverage but puts it back down.
  • There is a TV on in the background showing something else happening.
  • Anyone makes snide cracks about bloggers or the internet.
Drink the whole bottle if:
  • A real cast member, past or present, of Saturday Night Live is name-checked.
  • Anyone says “bing” in any context.
  • A major religion or a political figure is ridiculed.
And check into rehab whenever:
  • A character struggling with a substance abuse problem falls off the wagon.
Have fun, because I guarantee you won't stay sober through the first commercial break.

Blatant Comment Whoring™:
Feel free to add your own rules if you don't think these will get your blood alcohol level high enough.

Update (10/8/06): For a meta-update on this post see my reaction to going viral.

Update (11/13/06): Check out my head to head comparison of Studio 60 and 30 Rock. The results may surprise you.


Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Thanks for the second chance. I missed it when it aired so now I'll watch it online.

I hope it gets a second chance as well. Networks are so quick to pull the plug these days at the faintest smell of rating-rot.

Chez said...

Reach into your suitcase at McCarran Airport, pull out and immediately down your entire bag of mushrooms if the show lasts longer than a season.

It's an excellent show, but as a friend of mine who watched it with me noted -- it's too inside baseball. I've worked in TV for 15 years; I get most of the jokes and know all of the characters (unfortunately). But I get the idea that most people are going to find it too complex, and far too smug for its own good. To turn a phrase -- hopefully without sounding too smug myself -- it'll never fly in the flyovers.

That said, I have to give credit to the fact that within the first two minutes of his character's introduction, Matthew Perry did the seemingly impossible: he made me forget that he played one of the most popular characters on TV for ten years -- a truly astonishing feat when you consider the track-record of stars trying to shake the specter of their past sitcom roles.

I hope the show succeeds.

Anonymous said...

The good news is that NBC has committed to thirteen episodes, so they won't be pulling it before it gets a chance to succeed. But yeah, the scheduling is a little weird.

A possible amendment to the rules:
Clipboard people are less experienced types, so they may become the Exposition Fairy, i.e. they're the ones to whom stuff gets explained, probably not the other way around. Having said that, there may have to be a related rule whenever Suzanne introduces herself (worth two sips in the pilot).

One of the cool things about the background monitors is the way they can offer counterpoint. In the scene where Jack meets with and Danny storms out of the room, as Matt talks to Jack about the wind shifting, there's a picture of a sailboat next to his head. In the reverse angle, there's a monitor behind Jack with a weather report.

In episodes directed by Tommy Schlamme, you can practically count on at least one 360-degree shot in the show. He practically invented it.

yellojkt said...

For the pilot, the spinning camera didn't occur until about 50 minutes into the show. My wife nearly clapped. It's formula when you know its going to happen and just wait for it.

yellojkt said...

For "The Cold Open" episode we had:

1. Danny and Matt yacking away with the press conference on closed circuit.

2. Amand Peet bungled three people's names in just one scene.

3. One clipboard girl.

4. And for the whole bottle chug, Matt said, "I want Lorne Michael's office."

I didn't see any camera swirls or near-drinks, but I was a little groggy. Let me know if I missed some.

Anonymous said...

How about a sip any time someone is praised for their comedic genius?

Anonymous said...

There was a camera swirl during the pre-show pep talk and prayer.

yellojkt said...

I'm going to have to watch episode 2 one more time to see what I missed since the drinking game in the words of one person "would put Hunter Thompson in a coma."

In the meantime, my summary of Episode 2 is an Achenboodle exclusive available here.

Anonymous said...

I want to agree with Harmonica Man. And I want to thank the brilliant (dripping with sarcasm) TV execs who have pulled, over the past few years, "Ed" and "Love Monkey" and "Sports Night" and "That's Life" and a number of other shows I enjoyed.

Don't they teach "TV History" in TV Exec school? Anyone recall that "Cheers" was among the lowest rated shows in its first season?

Anonymous said...

I thought Harriett said she was offended that she *hadn't* been asked to be in the skit for crazy christians?

Anonymous said...

Forget Hunter Thompson, this game would even turn David Boon paralytic.

yellojkt said...

The Exclusive Achenboodle Week 3 Recap is up. I apologize for anyone's liver that was destroyed by the "Science Schmience" sketch.

yellojkt said...

Episode 4 "The West Coast Feed" recap is available on the Achenblog.

yellojkt said...

A short recap for Episode 5 "The Long Lead Article" and a Sting addendum are in the Achenboodle.

This_Years_Girl said...

Oh I was so happy to find this--S60 is now not only my favorite show but my favorite new drinking game!

Your blog title made me extremely happy, as well!

Anonymous said...

So ... I take it Tim Busfield doesn't count in the cameo rule either?

-M Dubya.

Anonymous said...

New Rule:

Sip when Jack Rudolph sucks his teeth in disgust.

Peter J. Spadafore said...

To agree with won't fly in the flyovers (Nice West Wing reference as well)

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