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Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip Review

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The West Wing goes Hollywood

★★★★★

It was always doomed. That’s an odd thing to say about a show from Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, but a depressing reality nonetheless.

A semi-autobiographical saga revolving around TV writer Matt Alby (Matthew Perry) and his directing partner Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford), Studio 60 is a look behind the scenes at the eponymous, fictitious live entertainment show.

Scripts were tight, the characters supremely likeable and the storylines as intricately constructed as they were biting in their satire. But that was also the problem. While most viewers have a passing knowledge of the political system, few can say the same of the intricacies of network TV, and so Studio 60 oft times seems more aimed at Sorkin’s peers than viewers.

That there’s no shortage of real politics was a compounding problem (old habits clearly die hard) as the show set about baiting the Christian right with an almost suicidal zeal. In a country where almost 90% of people believe in God but only about half that ascribe to the theory of evolution, such a tack is not a crowd pleaser.

But if Studio 60’s cancellation after a single season was all but inevitable, the fact in no way detracts from its accomplishments. Sorkin’s pen is as fluid as ever and, while a touch mawkish at times, his characters are a compelling line-up, including stand-out performances from Sarah Paulson as a fundamentalist Christian and Amanda Peet as a maverick network president.

For fans of The West Wing, this is as close as you’ll get to reliving the early years. For everyone else, this is a supreme example of what all quality serialised television should aspire to; an expertly scripted and executed slice of entertainment bliss that never stood a chance.

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