"Studio 60": Who Said Comedy Needs To Be Funny?

This was, perhaps, inevitable. I had quite a bit of emotional investment in this season's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," having fallen violently in love with "Sports Night" when it aired and having been a similar fan of "The West Wing." I even stuck with "West Wing" through seasons 5-7, or what is better known as The Years That Didn't Happen. Sorkin's latest behind-the-scenes venture, this time at a late-night sketch-comedy show, was supposed to be a return to greatness, a chance for phenomenal programming to once again take to the airwaves, and another show for me to take to my heart. (This season there are only two other shows like that, so it would have been nice to have a third.)And, well, despite the many issues with the show that I will no doubt address in the future, the show has a major problem: Sorkin can write good, humorous dialogue between characters, but he can't write a funny sketch to sace his life. Apparently, the fact that Mark McKinney ("The Kids in the Hall") is working on the sketches isn't helping at all. Last week's episode revolved around a purportedly stolen monologue that turned out to be NBS property after all, but no one stopped to think that the speech, which included a bit about dropping Hot Pockets along with bombs, wasn't funny in the first place. Last night's episode featured a cruelly, blatantly, powerfully unfunny Nancy Grace sketch, which (a) you have to really suck to miss the natural humor of an idiot like Grace, and (b) it made the recent Nancy Grace sketch on "SNL" look funny by comparison, which is a startling accomplishment. Still, the worst offense came in the second episode of "Studio 60," when the show-within-a-show's cold open was an abysmal rip-off of Gilbert and Sullivan. More than just typical Sorkinian recycling (cf. "And It's Surely to Their Credit" for a much better use of the music), the sketch was just stupid. Hearing the fictional studio audience laugh and applaud the lame song was almost painful. I sat and watched, unmoved, realizing that Sorkin is still a talented writer-producer, but his best work may well be behind him.