"Studio 60": Man Love

I think I should point out that I don't hate "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," despite my previous observations of its flaws. It's still one of the better shows on TV, despite the fact that the old Sorkin spark seems to have gone missing. These periodic posts about the show aren't meant to disparage it, but to take a closer look at just where things started to go wrong, to pull it apart in the hopes of putting it back together."Studio 60" does have its strengths, chief among them the interplay between Matt and Danny. Sorkin writes good dialogue because he understands how friends relate to each other and is gifted at creating a quicker, wittier, more coversationally nimble way of communicating than the fumbling half-sentences and vocalized pauses that most people use. Like the post-grads of Kicking and Screaming, Sorkin captures the way we wish we talked. This is nowhere clearer than in the endless banter between the men on Sorkin's shows. On "The West Wing," Sorkin relied heavily on the interplay between Josh, Sam, and Toby, whose rapidly paced conversations lent the show a boys' club air, as if these guys got really carried away at pretending one day and wound up running the country. (Even C.J., for all her intellect and skill, was forever the outsider, and not because she wasn't smart, but because men on their own revel in the strong clique-ish vibe they naturally produce. It's a long story.) But it was Sorkin's first show, "Sports Night," where he had the most success exploring the ups and downs of modern male friendship. In the truest sense, Casey McCall and Dan Rydell were that show's anchors, giving the stories an emotional center and resonance. Their relationship was the driving force for the show, whether it was dealing with interference from the corporate level, counseling each other about women, or acting as the protective older brothers for everyone else at the show. I could go on about the amazing ways these guys played off each other and dealt with their own faults and strengths with love and humor — the "hip-deep in pie" exchange at the end of "Dana and the Deep Blue Sea" is never less than moving — but the best example was the story arc in Season 2 where Dan struggled with depression and a personal breakdown. Dan and Casey's strained relationship was the most powerful way to upset the balance of the show, to underscore just how high the stakes had gotten. When Dan begins his atonement by leading a seder and apologizing to Casey in "April Is the Cruelest Month," the sense of healing is palpable. So why bring all that up? Because "Studio 60" is missing some serious man love. Matt's position as head writer and Danny's role as executive producer means they will inherently spend more time apart than any other male pairing in Sorkin's history, and that's bad news. They work at the same place, but they rarely work together. There are precious few opportunities for Matt and Danny to be around each other and riff back and forth on the palpable fun of just being themselves, and that's going to take a toll on the show's chemistry. Casey and Dan wrote together, and the Josh-Sam-Toby team were constantly in each other's offices and feeding off the energy of the group, but Matt and Danny are by their nature separated for most of each episode of "Studio 60," and that will only have negative effects for the show in the long run. Sorkin's men need to be around each other, or else it just won't work.