Censorship and the religious right will once again take center stage during primetime tonight on Aaron Sorkin’s “Saturday Night Live”-inspired backstage drama, “Studio 60.” At the end of last week’s debut, new network president Jordan McDeere gave writer/producers Matt Albie and Danny Tripp her promise that their “Crazy Christians” sketch–the same sketch that lost their predecessor his job–would be allowed to air the following week.
Picking up the story three days after McDeere’s promise, “Studio 60″ writer/producers Matt Albie and Danny Tripp are at a press conference where they must once again tackle questions about the infamous comedy sketch, because the sketch has now been leaked to the media. In fact, a conservative Christian publication called “Rapture Magazine” has found out about the sketch and asks McDeere at the news conference if “Studio 60″ really does plan to air it. When the magazine is told “yes,” the woman who runs the magazine does what all good conservative Christians are born to do–at least in TV land, anyway–she starts a boycott.
Immediately after the press conference, we are once again treated to some sharp dialogue that no doubt has been patterned after real-life conversations and plays up the cultural divide between Hollywood and the heartland. When McDeere snippily asks the press conference coordinator, “How many whack jobs subscribe to Rapture magazine anyway?” she is calmly told by the media coordinator that Rapture magazine has a “circulation four times the size of Vanity Fair.” McDeere and everyone else in the room is taken aback. They had no idea there were so many people out there who aren’t like them.
But while I enjoyed that little bit of sparring, the rest of the storyline illustrates one of several storytelling pitfalls Sorkin is going to face while trying to create an intelligent show-within-a-show about Hollywood. Boycotts by conservative Christian groups are really old news. Those types of stories have already been done to death, and, quite frankly, it would have been more interesting, less cliché, if a different group would have been the ones doing the boycotting–groups like the NAACP and their recent attempt at a boycott, for example.
The other pitfall Sorkin stumbles into tonight is that if you are going to write a series about a sketch-comedy show, at some point your cast will have to perform a funny sketch. However, the sketch Albie finally comes up with isn’t as funny as even a mediocre “Saturday Night Live” skit. What’s worse is that we never see the infamous “Crazy Christians” sketch at all. If you are going to spend two episodes discussing something supposedly so controversial that most of middle America would be offended, there needs to be a much better pay-off to the conflict
Don’t get me wrong, I still hold out some hope for this show to possibly resurrect intelligent, non-crime related storylines on TV this season, but tonight’s episode is not a move in the right direction. (Oh, and I’ll save my thoughts on the problem with trying to make the Harriet/Matt relationship work on the show for another time!)