If someone had told me to watch Studio 60 instead of spending Rs 1,00,000 on a Post graduate diploma in Journalism and Mass communication, it would be good advice. Off the top of my head, these are some of the issues the show throws out there. Stand up comedy, writing for television, Television’s responsibility to different communities and to society at large, sensitivity in a mass medium, journalism, TRP ratings and what drives them, comedy at a time when your audience is threatened with war, violence and uncertainty. Question: Why would you watch something that…heavy? Answer: It’s unbelievably HILARIOUS. I probably should have lead with that.
First some background for the uninitiated. Studio 60 on the sunset strip was created by Aaron Sorkin of The West Wing fame. The show within a show format story is woven around the creators of a SNL type comedy sketch show called Studio 60. The series aired on NBC in 2006 and was promptly cancelled a year later because it lost its time slot to The Black Donnelly’s and later to The Real Wedding Crashers. I know. I’m speechless with rage too.
Here’s why you should watch, re-watch or Sunday-marathon-with-beer-watch Studio 60 on the sunset strip if you’re a/an
Amateur stand up comedian: If you want to get people to laugh at your material and at your jokes, here’s some free Studio 60 advice.
Harriet: I got a laugh at the table read when I asked for the butter in the dinner sketch, I didn’t get one at the dress. What did I do wrong?
Matt: You asked for the laugh.
Harriet: What did I do at the table read?
Matt: You asked for the butter.
And there’s plenty more where that came from.
Small fry Journalist (ahem): Yes, for a couple of episodes, a swinging, fast-talking Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Martha O’Dell, from Vanity Fair lands up to do a full-length feature on a behind the scenes at Studio 60. If you watch carefully, her character has a lesson or two for you. I can’t say too much without it being a spoiler, but I will say this. She doesn’t take notes during interviews (don’t try this at home. At least, not yet), she knows the answers before she asks the question but she asks the question anyway and she draws information and confessions out of the people she interviews, the way you draw doodles in your notebook fifteen minutes before filing your story.
Are working in Television: What’s important? Bowing and scraping to the network that airs your show or putting up content you feel the show demands? Every tussle you’ll ever have in the world of TV, every word you need to change in a script. Every bit of last minute writing you’ll have to do to make a deadline: It’s all here.
Are from the Entertainment industry: When is entertainment harmless and silly and when can it get dangerous? Do you have a responsibility to viewers and readership that do not come from the urban background that you do? Is taking a pot-shot at someone who can’t fight back okay as long as it gets you ratings?
Are a fan of Sting, Corrine Bailey Rae, Gran Bel Fisher, Three 6 mafia, and Natalie Cole: They all appear on the show once, as themselves, and they perform. Also, Sting accompanies himself on a lute.
Get a kick out of celebrity impressions: Tom Cruise, Nicholas Cage, Holly Hunter and Ben Stiller. For real.
Tend to beat yourself up after a bad job: There’s an episode on the show called The disaster show, where everything that can possibly go wrong goes twice as wrong and then some. The characters still weather on. Remember that sense of entitlement you felt when you started working? Remember how it all came crashing down your ears when you actually got down to work? What’s that? It still happens? Yeah, it happens to everyone. Wrote a bad story? Had a bad show? Missed a deadline? Shake it off. Move on and do a better job next time.
Want to find out why I chose the headline I did: You’ll get it at the end of the season.
Believe that true genius never really gets its due anymore: You know I’m right. Look at the ratio of shows that do phenomenally well and look at the ones that flounder before bravely dying out.
Don’t care about any of this but like good television: Aaron Sorkin keeps the action fast, the plot and writing tight, the characters believable and the backstory bulletproof. If you’re a fan of the walk-and-talk technique and snappy dialogue, then this is the show you watch and then watch again and then talk about till people stand up and leave the table.