Thursday, October 19, 2006

Studio 60 and Allusion 2

The pilot of Studio 60 also alludes to real life in order to ingratiate us to one of the main actors -- when we are introduced to Matthew Perry his character is high on pain killers from his recent back surgery, an allusion to actor Matthew Perry's long time and public addiction to pain killers. Sorkin alludes to the actor's troubled past in order to transmute his bad reputation into comedy. Matthew Perry is instantly likeable for this reason; we feel he has admitted something to us, and so we feel closer to him (as we would to a friend who had confided in us). This tactic is not new for Sorkin -- the pilot of West Wing involved Rob Lowe's character getting dangerously close to a sex scandal, something the actor was very familiar with.

My fourth, and for now final, allusion in Studio 60 is in the fourth episode, which involves everyone realizing that, in the show within the show, they just aired someone else's jokes as their own; they scramble to revise the West Coast feed by inserting live material into the copy of the show that aired live on the East Coast. In the end it turns out that the "stolen" material was itself stolen -- stolen from a writer who wrote it under contract for Studio 60. It turns out there was no plagiarism, because the network owned the original material. They were "stealing" from themselves. What is funny about this is that Sorkin has an almost shameless ability to reuse his own material. The most dramatic example is the West Wing episode "Someone's Going to Emergency, Someone's Going to Jail" in which Rob Lowe, having discovered his parents are divorcing because his father has been having an affair with a woman for more that twenty years, gets crazy over a work related thing that, unconsciously, is a metaphor for his current situation. The exact same plot is the subject of the Sports Night episode "The Sword of Orion". Dozens and dozens of situations, lines of dialogue, kinds of jokes appear in all three shows (and in Sorkin's A Few Good Men); here is a whole list of them. The point is that just as Sorkin alludes to Perry and Lowe's personal history in the shows, he alludes to his own history as well, in order to charm viewers with self-knowledge.


Anonymous said...

I find the "sly" self-important naval gazing to be the most distasteful thing about S60.

Anyone watch Venture Brothers? it probably tosses off as many random references as S60 but without any of the back-patting (I know, unfair to compare a cartoon adventure to a prime-time drama... I don't do fair though.) on the season finale you get a totally random Klaus Nomi shout-out for NO reason whatsoever but they don't feel the need to name-check (let alone do it repeatedly 'Commedia Dull'Arte' style.) I think what Geoff said in the comments of the other s60 post about West Wing and Sports Night being TEAM shows is critical here... the team is what makes it work, I am fast losing my desire to watch: Aaron Sorken's Studio 60: the Adventures of Aaron Sorken... he's just not THAT interesting.

Go through the looking-glass with this week's Onion:

Geoff Klock said...

I shound point out that it was Katie (K-diddy)'s boyfriend who pointed out that the "team" aspect was what was missing. What got to me though, was that it seems to be a show not only where there is no team, but where Matt is the main character.