Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Peacock Blues

Well, the networks are really kinking up my game now. NBC seems loathe to relinquish Thursday nights to Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy and it's pissing me off. I could care less about the thetan-infested comedy Earl, but I really do love The Office, and, given my silly affection for a jackassy Baldwin and an appropriate girl-crush on Tina Fey, I really dig 30 Rock, too. But, like Dwight Schrute trying to match wits with Jim Halpert, NBC seems intent on failure again, so instead of opening up a whole new night, like Wednesday -- when there's nothing else on -- they're going to stick their best shows up against the water-cooler shows of the year.


I could see how they wouldn't want to put 30 Rock on Monday night, just before Studio 60, because it'd reinforce the meta nature of the shows to an off-putting degree. I mean, they basically have an entire network revolving around shows about Saturday Night Live, and even SNL just isn't good enough to really fan that interest. Also, it'd draw comparisons to the titles. The 60 minute show about SNL is called Studio 60, and the 30 minute show is called 30 Rock. Was that intentional or just really poor coincidence?

But still. Why doom themselves and let these perfectly good shows flail around with a smaller audience than the Green Grove Retirement Community's annual production of "A Christmas Carol." They're insisting on the formerly flagship Thursday night lineup? It's dead, NBC. It's more dead than Robert DeNiro's real emotions.

If Jordan McDeere really was running the network, I doubt she'd allow this to happen. Someone needs to remind them that Seinfeld wasn't always a hit. It was a little show with a little audience. And when NBC first shuffled it around, they plopped it up against the then hugely popular Tim Allen comedy Home Improvement. What happened? Seinfeld got slaughtered in the ratings. But it finally found a home on Thursday night and became, well...Seinfeld.

And speaking of Studio 60, I like the show. I really do. But I could like it a whole lot more. Sorkin's proven that he's the technical master of jazzy dialogue, and I mostly enjoy it and appreciate it. Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, and even Amanda Peet have risen to the challenge of being able to snap and pop with each other and give their exchanges crackle. But the heightened, rapid-fire pace sometimes bears a striking resemblance to John Coltrane's "Blue Train," for which one critic adroitly coined the term "sheets of sound." It's an amazing album, and really showcased Coltrane's genius. Technically, it's a masterpiece. And yet, artistically, it can be almost defeating for the listener. Once in a while, you just think, "Take a goddamn breath, dude!"

And that's what Studio 60 is lacking. There needs to be a pause once in a while. A moment to let things settle, or congeal. And that's what the romance between Matt and Harriett should be. They've got their clever banter, but once in a while they need to stop and like each other. Sorkin tries to position those moments in there, such as when they stand and listen to Sting perform "Fields of Gold" on his mandolin. But it's just not working for me.

I've been reluctant to give myself over to the reason why, because I really don't like to rampantly bash women. But Sarah Paulson? She's not up to the task. She's been grossly miscast in that role and it's never going to mesh. I was doubtfu of Amanda Peet in her role. Peet, some people don't like her, but I think she's a fine rom-com actress with a goofy appeal. And she didn't really work well in the first episode when she had to be the superwoman producer with the superhero ethics. But since then? Well. She's a bit of a drunk with a supposedly sordid sexual past who makes wisecracks that no one else gets. In other words, she's just aces.

But Paulson sucks like a virgin on prom night. First, she's supposed to be a brilliant comedienne, and yet she's just not fucking funny. Supposedly Matt fell in love with her because she's so charming and funny. But all I can see of her is a bitchy, uptight, hatchet-face who thinks she's really marvelous. And her lisp? Not sexy. It really screws up the delivery of Sorkin's snazzy lines.

I realize that the relationship is a construct. It's a microcosmic representation of our country's divided political beliefs, and it should be illustrating how we can find common ground and love for each other while letting them build plots around hot-button issues. I like the idea of that. But, unlike the Alan Shore/Denny Crane relationship on Boston Legal which has the same construct, the problem is that this relationship doesn't make the leap from intellectual construct to entertaining characters. It's forced, and Paulson is phony. Also? I already get my fill of a sunny, skinny, lispy blonde with a struggling workplace romance on Grey's Anatomy.

Which brings us back to where we started. NBC is piling it all onto Thursday in what seems like a frantic, desperate shot to reclaim the evening. I think the highly underrated Scrubs is set to join the lineup, too. But someone who is in charge at that network needs to stop thinking like a proud peacock, take a goddamn breath, look around, and come up with a different game plan.


dennis mahagin said...

Wow Susan,

Cogent, topical and heavily insightful T.V Treatise!

Only thing is:

By spilling the beans about Taxi Driver's Moribund Emotions, it sorta wrecks my plans for these Robert Deniro Mood Rings I was gonna bring to market. :(

Well, maybe since Xmas is coming, people would buy the dun-colored rings to hang with the tinsel on their trees?

Always a silver lining...always; I just gotta believe that!

ps... can't wait for Idol to get cookin', cuz I know you're just warming up. ;)


Don Capone said...

I haven't seen Studio 60 30 Rock whatever. I thought they were the same show. 30 Rock is with Alec Baldwin right? I've been meaning to check it out.

I stand by "Earl." Thetans or not, it's one of the best sitcoms on TV. I had the misfortune of seeing my first Greys Anatomy last week. Ugh. Sex in the City in a hospital. Straight men, DO NOT watch this show! I'm still recovering.

Don Capone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SusanD said...

I'd buy one of those, Dennis. It would suit my honest emotions, too ;)

Don! Oh shit. I'm sorry I never put the proper warning. "Grey's" is most definitely a chick show. Most definitely. If you don't dig Alec, I don't know if you'll dig 30 Rock, either. It's silly. But I like silly. "Earl"? I just can't.

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