Sunday, November 12, 2006

60-30 Vision

Much has been made of the fact that NBC is airing two different shows this fall based on the ever declining Saturday Night Live. Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, Aaron Sorkin’s bid got most of the pre-season publicity, but Tina Fey’s entry, 30 Rock (which since it’s half as long, got half the title), is a contender as well.

I figured the best way to compare these apples and oranges was to put the common elements up against each other.

Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip
Two new producers try to re-energize a stale sketch comedy show.
30 Rock
A new network executive reeks havoc on a sketch comedy show.

Neurotic Head Writer
Chandler Bing Matthew Perry plays Matt Albie, a fired writer brought back to his old show to give it fresh blood. Matt is the most maniacal brow furrowing serious writer since Jack Nicholson in The Shining. And he still joneses for a fellow cast member.Tina Fey, the former head writer of SNL, is cast as Liz Lemon producer of The Girlie Show, a lame sketch comedy show that needs some fresh blood. Tina is in over her head from the word go, and gets stuck in odd situations that would make Lucy Ricardo look ridiculous.
Matthew Perry carries more authority and Tina rarely looks like she is charge.
Advantage: 60

Network Suit
Amanda Peet just is not convincing as a network head or anything else for that matter.Alex Baldwin attacks the psycho net-exec with a gusto that makes you wonder if he is Ted Baxter or Dr. Evil.
Peet is completely implausible as a tough net-exec. Baldwin is so crazy, he may be underplaying it.
Advantage: 30

Ditzy Blond Chick
Sarah Paulson does great impressions of celebrities but nobody is buying her as the love interest for Matt. She's also the token Christian.Jane Krakowski puts the dumb in blonde, but fails to add any dimension to a poorly written character. Rachel Dratsch should be grateful she got spared this indignity.
JesusGirl is a real character. Krakowski is just a punchline.
Advantage: Studio 60 by a thread.

Funny Black Guy
D. L. Hughley plays a Yale trained thespian that can’t do a Bill Cosby impression. He's been known to hit the whacky weed as well.Tracey Morgan goes completely over the top as a nutjob that makes Martin Lawrence look like Sydney Portier. And he does a pretty good Bill Cosby impression.
Hughley is written too noble. Morgan gets to chew the scenery with gusto.
Advantage: 30 Rock

Show In A Show

Bad sketches taken way too seriously. And they tend to ridicule religion.At least they have the excuse that they’re supposed to be bad.
Both shows are astoundingly bad and probably would be as rating-impaired as the shows about them. We never saw the actual Alan Brady Show for a reason. Some things are better left to the imagination.
Advantage: Neither

Ratings Disaster.
Opened weak and started sinking like a rock. They lose about half their Heroes lead-in. It has gotten picked up for a full season, but it was a close call.Lowered expectations probably help, but still not good. It is being moved to the Thursday Night Must See TV Lite block to catch some My Name Is Earl and The Office synergy.
Studio 60 relies on it's upscale demographics to justify ratings that would get most shows shown the door. 30 Rock is a funny over-the-top comedy that could get good buzz with the right time slot.
Advantage: 30

Winner: 30 Rock
Sorkin's sudser got all the buzz, but if you pay attention, 30 Rock actually sneaks in more inside jokes and takes the edgier look. 30 Rock had a "walk and talk" where they go in a complete circle around the studio and realize they haven't gotten anywhere. What a great in-joke and subtle dig at its competition. Matthew Perry successfully breaks the Friends typecasting, but Alec Baldwin has created a character that you love to hate. There's room for both on the rapidly shrinking NBC line-up, but definitely catch 30 Rock if you can.

Blatant Old Post Plugging(trademark pending):
Check out my Studio 60 Drinking Game as well.

Update (11/17/06):
Tom Shales of the Washington Post agrees with me for the most part.


Anonymous said...

On the bright side, Aaron Sorkin appears to have exorcised some of the demons and appears to have actually let some of the storyline through this week without too much of the autobiographical whining. That may have been an accident, though.

Another great show on NBC where the ratings are suffering is Friday Night Lights. It's not so much about the football as it is about the way the football has infused the entire town's culture. This is a "something for almost everyone" kind of show. It's also been picked up for the season but if the numbers don't go up, it won't be pretty.

yellojkt said...

The current two-parter on S60 with John Goodman guest starring is autobiographical since Sorkin got busted for 'shroom posession several years back.

NBC gave Friday Night Lights a tryout on Monday night only to learn the hard way that Heroes fans don't like shows set behind the scenes of small town football programs any more than they like shows set behind the scenes of lame sketch comedy shows.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Nice job. You're side-by-side comparisons are always a good read!

utenzi said...

Oh, man. Studio 60 is so much better than 30 Rock. I agree with many of your criticisms of both shows but I just can't go with your conclusion. The writing on Studio 60 is so good--and I think the writing on 30 Rock is done by some high school class for extra credit. By detention students, I suspect.