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Curtain Call for 'Studio 60'

16 Sep, 2007 By: John Latchem

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The Complete Series

A drama with a healthy blend of comedy, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” took viewers backstage at a late-night sketch-comedy show not unlike “Saturday Night Live.” Creator Aaron Sorkin has made a career of such behind-the-scenes settings, with shows such as “Sports Night” and “The West Wing.”

Viewers can judge for themselves where the show fits within Sorkin's pantheon when Warner Home Video releases Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The Complete Series Oct. 16. The $59.98 set includes all 22 episodes on six DVDs, plus a commentary on the pilot by Sorkin and director Thomas Schlamme and the featurette “The Evolution of ‘Studio 60.’

Because it came from the creative team behind “The West Wing,” “Studio 60” was the subject of an intense bidding war before it ever aired. It became one of the most-hyped shows last season after NBC paid a near-record license fee for the right to air it.

The series starred Matthew Perry from “Friends” and Bradley Whitford, who had just finished a seven-year stint on “The West Wing,” as two writers who take over a faltering late-night comedy show.

The ensemble cast included Amanda Peet, Steven Webber, Timothy Busfield, Sarah Paulson, Nate Corddry and D.L. Hughley.

The first episode featured guest appearances by Judd Hirsch, Ed Asner and Donna Murphy, plus a musical performance by Three 6 Mafia. Because the show-within-a-show was based on “SNL,” musical performances and celebrity cameos became a staple of the series.

In the featurette, Sorkin discussed how he is a fan of “Saturday Night Live,” and wondered what took place behind the scenes. He also admitted to some trepidation about comparisons to the “West Wing,” which successfully examined political leaders as real people.

“I thought, ‘Is it possible that we can show people who work in Hollywood also as good people who are good at their jobs trying to do something good?’ Sorkin said in his interview. “It may be a slightly harder mountain to conquer.”

Ultimately, the old formula didn't mesh as well with the new setting. Ratings began to slide when the show couldn't maintain its early momentum and romantic subplots began to dominate the storylines. As a result, “Studio 60” was unceremoniously canceled, but not before Sorkin had a chance to provide some closure.

“The DVDs should play out like a long miniseries, rather than a one-season show without an end, like so many other one-season wonders,” said Gord Lacey of TVShowsOnDVD.com. “Viewers may be willing to take a chance knowing there's an end in sight.”

“Studio 60” earned Emmy nominations for casting, guest actor for John Goodman (in the two-part episode “Nevada Day”) and guest actor for Eli Wallach (for the episode “The Wrap Party”). Additionally, Paulson was nominated for a Golden Globe for best supporting actress last January.

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