Why is Studio 60 Better?Complications Ensue
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Monday, November 27, 2006

[No real spoilers, I don't think.] I think it might be because the early episodes were about global stakes -- how better sketch comedy could save the world -- and these episodes are about personal stakes. Instead of being about whether Matt Albie will save the show -- it wouldn't be much of a series if he lost his show, would it? so a bit of schmuck bait there -- it becomes about whether the various characters will save their part of the show. Can Darius and the English Chick get a sketch on the air? Can Amanda Peet overcome her pride to save her job? Can Harriet tell a joke? (OK, that was more of a runner.)

One of the strange things about TV is it has no perspective. You see it on TV news all the time. We see a story about horrific bombings in Baghdad followed by long lines for holiday shopping. Darfur gets two minutes (or no minutes), OJ gets four, that weirdo claiming to have killed Jon Benet gets 25. TV wants stories it can put a face on -- which is why I get my news from The Economist.

TV wants personal stories. They can be small or big in ramifications. Jack Bauer's story has huge ramifications. But we're really watching to see Jack Bauer deal with his enemies. And it is, apparently, more important whether Meredith gets McDreamy than whether her latest patient dies -- except in so far as Meredith losing her patient might make McDreamy more or less interested in her. Friends got ten years out of whether Ross would get Rachel to think he's cool or Rachel would get Ross to respect her.

No perspective. Or rather, any perspective you want to give it.

'Cause people are like that. There's always the horror story of someone shooting someone over burned eggs. We're not good with perspective either, unless someone has put us in a position where it's our job to have perspective.

The stakes are part of the fun. But the stakes are only important to the extent that they're important to the hero. Make sure you firmly establish exactly how the hero would feel to win the stakes.

(Which is why, incidentally, we'll never care about the aimless/apathetic hero I'm always seeing in failed spec feature scripts. If he doesn't care, why should we?)



Do you thnk Sorkin may have come to similar conclusions? It's a good explanation of the Grosse Point subplot.

P.S. I feel a little thrill discussing this before the Americans see it. Does that make me a bad person?

By Blogger Webs, at 2:12 PM  

"Why is Studio 60 Better?"

Harriet: I got a laugh at the table read when I asked for the butter in the dinner sketch, I didn't get it at the dress, what did I do wrong?


Matt: You asked for the laugh.
Marriet: What did I do at the table read?
Matt: You asked for the butter.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:29 PM  

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