This morning brings ominous news for Studio 60's legion of upscale, affluent, and Nielsen-confounding, TiVo-time-shifting fans: Variety reports that NBC is moving up by a week its previously announced indefinite yanking of the series following the show's worst ratings to date, handing over its juicy, post-Heroes Monday night timeslot to [pause for reflexive tightening of the sphincter] Paul Haggis' The Black Donnellys on February 26th. Says Var:
· NBC will hand over Aaron Sorkin's 10 p.m. Monday night Studio 60 timeslot to Paul Haggis' drama The Black Donnellys starting on March 5, hoping that the heavy-handed, fender-bender-loving double Oscar winner's new series will hang on to some of hit lead-in Heroes' viewers, but promises that S60 will return to their airwaves at an unspecified date. Also: 30 Rock's slot is being temporarily donated to the Conan O'Brien/Andy Richter midseason comedy Andy Barker, PI, but will be back on April 19th. [Variety]
· In case you haven't heard: Jeff Zucker's getting a nice little promotion over at NBCU 2.0. [Variety, THR]
· And in other NBC front-office news, NBC Entertainment president/scene-stealing The Office dayplayer Kevin Reilly is looking like a good bet to have his expiring contract renewed. (Actually, a very good bet, as the WSJ just reported [sub. req'd.] he's been given a new contract.) [Variety]
· Super Bowl XLI's ratings are "great but not spectacular." We suspect that the event's failure to reach "spectacular" levels was due to intense competition from the far more compelling Puppy Bowl III on Animal Planet. [THR]
· Apple (computers) and Apple Corps. (The Beatles) settle the legal dispute over their shared name, allowing for the possibility that Beatles songs might one day be hawked on iTunes. [Variety]
· This is what it looks like when Kiefer Sutherland watches Valencia get nuked.
· Unsurprisingly, the paparazzi aren't respecting Lindsay Lohan's privacy during her stint in rehab.
· Ken Levine, one of the "unemployed" writers Aaron Sorkin pilloried following that now-infamous LAT piece, offers what he really thinks of Sorkin.
· These Worth1000 Photoshop contest images of a variety of male stars remade into women are the stuff of nightmares. Bad, bed-wetting ones.
Showing a renewed commitment to journalistic fairness in the aftermath of Aaron Sorkin's shocking exposure of their anti-Sorkin agenda last week, in which the Studio 60 showrunner decried the paper's unacceptable reliance on negative quotes from "disgruntled" individuals whose level of entertainment industry success falls far short of his criteria for having a valid opinion, the LAT today offers equal time to those who have self-published positive words about Studio 60 on the internets:
As part of yesterday's TCA press tour event, TV critics were bussed over to the set of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, where they were granted some face time with series creator Aaron Sorkin in his behind-the-scenes-at-a-distressingly- serious-minded-sketch-comedy-show environment. When asked to comment on a recent LAT piece claiming that comedy writers don't seem to be fans of the show, the beleaguered showrunner took the opportunity to decry the paper's transparent anti-Sorkin agenda, revealing that his research uncovered the shocking fact that some of his critics might be—audible gasp!—unemployed. Recounts The Oregonian's TV critic on his TCA blog:
We hate to return so quickly to the Golden Globes nominations, but since we made a point of spotlighting Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip creator Aaron Sorkin's hope that a Globe nod would elevate his Little Serious-Minded Sketch Comedy Drama That Could from a "critical hit" into the type of hit that people actually watch, we thought it relevant to note that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association decided not to sprinkle its magic Nielsen dust on the series, granting a single nomination recognizing Sarah Paulson's performance as the proud Krazee Khristian who so glows with talent that her cast members can only gaze upon her through welding masks. We trust that Sorkin will handle this disappointment maturely, refraining from the petty impulse to have Matthew Perry and Brad Whitford hold forth at length about the meaninglessness of awards shows on a future episode, lambasting the "back-slapping, junket-whore buffet monkeys who wouldn't know quality programming if a DVD screener lodged itself next to the empty heads lodged in their asses" for abandoning his show in its hour of need.
With all the bongo-beating build-up to tomorrow morning's announcement of the Golden Globe movie nominations, it's easy to forget that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's annual awards ceremony also celebrates excellence in the Dramatic Televised Arts. And where Emmy voters are seemingly bound by conservative voting practices (or just can't be bothered to watch the screeners in the first place), the HFPA members are free to reward on merit alone, often taking it upon themselves to champion groundbreaking programming in its nascency. THR looks at the chances for some of this TV season's boldest new voices, including Aaron Sorkin's drama about the serious-minded people who make sketch comedy, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip:
This (admittedly grainy) still comes from the most recent episode of Aaron Sorkin's No-Fun-Time Heavy-Handed Liberal Moralizing Hour — er, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Not content with merely spouting his self-righteous decaffeinated Mametisms in ludicrous dialogue, he's also decided to provide "characterization" through a cast member's choice of reading material. Look closely and you'll see that D.L. Hughley, the name of whose character we would know if we watched the show, which we don't, because, you know, fuck Aaron Sorkin, is reading Harper's, that bible of liberal certainty favored by those who find the fast-paced delivery of NPR reporters to be too agitating. While we're sorry for Mother Jones that they failed to make the cut, we want to give props for Hughley, who somewho manages to actually look at a page of Harper's without immediately drifting into a deep slumber. That, friends, is acting!
Those affluent and upscale enough to still be watching Studio 60 will undoubtedly recognize the name of Pahrump, Nevada as that of the sleepy desert town where the series' most recent pair of episodes was memorably set, a multi-part farce about the ostensibly hilarious collision of snobbish Hollywood folk and the locals who take glee in using their their quirky, autocratic justice system to torture the fancy-panted interlopers. Reuters reports that the real-life community is up to the same kind of liberal-upsetting activities that one might have expected from John Goodman's seemingly good ol' boy judge:
Comcast pulls the plug on its talks with Al Jazeera International, effectively putting an end to the network's hopes of getting U.S. distribution in time for the worldwide launch of their English-language channel on Wednesday. [Variety]
· Studio 60 ticks up slightly in the ratings, improving to 7.8 million upscale, affluent viewers from last week's count of 7.7 million, a gain that will have NBC considering whether or not to order another five seasons to reward the public's obvious recognition of their faith in the show. Meanwhile, showrunner Aaron Sorkin hopes that now the series is off its deathwatch, people will stop obsessing over the numbers and the fact that he's the person behind the aggressively unfunny in-show sketches that are driving his critics crazy. [THR, THR]
Virgin Comics will adapt its "The Sadhu" for film, with Nick Cage starring and Deepak Chopra writing the script. He's a screenwriter now? We must be really out of touch with the Hollywood ambitions of spiritual gurus these days. [Variety]
Executive tag-teams are the hottest trend in studio management. Read the touching story of how months of trust-falls and a renewed commitment to honest communication led Sony's Matt Tolmach and Doug Belgrad to finally embrace their roles as studio life-partners. [THR]
Chinese TV censors make vague, menacing threats to "severely punish" vulgar and immoral content, announcing that they intend to make "secret inquiries" to discover the broadcast of prohibited programming, an oppressive pilot censorship program expected to eventually be adopted by the FCC. [Variety]
Good news both for genuine fans of Studio 60 and for those who derive their primary enjoyment from the series from their spirited Tuesday morning discussions about why Jesus running a network Standards & Practices department isn't actually funny: Despite our spies' forecast of an imminent mercy killing, NBC has officially picked up a full season's worth of episodes, giving Aaron Sorkin nine more episodes and many more millions of dollars to continue his bold exploration of the curiously serious side of sketch comedy. THR's Ray Richmond (who notes he called it two days ago) has the press release:
Yesterday, THR columnist Ray Richmond interviewed beleaguered showrunner Aaron Sorkin and gave Studio 60 fans hope that their favorite, serious-minded weekly examination of the culture-salvaging possibilities of late-night sketch comedy shows is on the verge of a season-completing back nine episode order, news contrary to earlier reports (like this one, we imagine) that the series is teetering on the precipice of primetime oblivion. Blogged Richmond:
Die-hard Aaron Sorkin junkies who find themselves unable to wait until Monday night's Studio 60 broadcast (NBC says they're standing behind it for now, despite nasty, nasty rumors) for their next fix of his signature rat-a-tat, call-and-response banter might find themselves temporarily sated by McSweeney's transcript of Sorkin's last trip to the dental hygenist:
We usually reserve our speculation about Studio 60's chances of being allowed to continue to trumpet the socially redeeming power of unrelentingly serious-minded sketch comedy shows until the disappointing Tuesday morning ratings numbers for NBC's little momentum-stopper come in, but Fox 411 gossip Roger Friedman's report that the network is ready to nail presumed Nielsen Messiah Aaron Sorkin to the crucifix of cancellation forces us to consider the sad possibility that we may have watched our last tortured interaction between Matt Albie and the woman he dumped for singing to Pat Robertson:
Believe it or not, we take no pleasure in Studio 60's consistently anemic ratings—should NBC eventually cut its losses and send to Cancellation Valhalla the show the network once believed would deliver it to a Nielsen Viking orgy, it will probably just push new hit Heroes back to 10 p.m. and offer it a two-hour lead-in of people shouting at briefcases, robbing us of our enjoyable Tuesday morning debates about how an episode we thought was going to be about Matthew Perry trying to get laid by bimbos who din't know what "writing" is could instead get clogged with stories about senile blacklist victims, resentful parents from Columbus who've been locked in an underground bunker with no access to the pop culture of the past half-century, and black comics getting plucked from obscurity and staffed on the show based on a poorly articulated joke about his barber's insufficient profit margins on high-quality marijuana sales. In any case, the overnight ratings for last night's installment don't look good, especially when framed as a "momentum stopper." THR runs the numbers:
We continue this afternoon's exhaustive coverage of disappointing, expensive television dramas with this brief report about an online survey regarding Studio 60 a reader was asked to take after self-identifying as a disgruntled viewer of NBC's programming, an interesting window into how the network tests a show that recently built an entire episode about the evils of focus group testing:
The media world is still awaiting NBC Universal executioner Jeff Zucker's "town hall" meeting with his employees, in which he will calmly bar the doors to the "hall," step up to the podium, and then announce that 700 or so (or 5%, for you percentage junkies) of his beloved underlings aren't getting out of their meeting alive. But once the blood is mopped from the floors and the guillotine baskets are cleared of severed heads, how does this affect you, the person who doesn't particularly care about corporate streamlining enabling a faceless multimedia conglomerate to take bold, more cost-efficient steps (cutely named NBCU 2.0) into the brave new digital world? The WSJ reports on the revised mandate given to NBC Uni's fourth-place TV division (sub. req'd.):
With a background in advertising and roughly sixty-eight versions of his Law & Order franchise currently on the air, cops-and-lawyers-procedural brandmaster Dick Wolf is uniquely qualified to declare that anyone who thinks they know how commerce, emerging platforms, and traditional programming will intersect in the future is quite obviously hitting the pipe. Reports the WSJ: