Review: The Newsroom

imageFinally, Aaron Sorkin has found the right premise.

In 2006, Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip lasted one inglorious season before the overly expensive and lightly watched “inside the writer’s room” dramedy was cancelled by NBC. Why was the show such a failure? The premise, I wrote.

At the heart of every Hollywood production, there must be some kind of believability. This is a sliding scale, of course. (We accept that James Bond will never be seriously injured because he’s a summer action star.) But with Studio 60, the show was built around a comedy show, and Sorkin was completely out of his element. The jokes and skits simply weren’t funny and the political dialogue seemed completely out of place. Had Sorkin changed the show to an inside look at The Daily Show or the Colbert Report, the premise would’ve been more palatable.

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Review: Community — Advanced Gay

After a few episodes of the study group at Greendale Community being at each other’s throats, “Advanced Gay” brings some harmony back to the group. And, while I enjoyed some of the gimmick episodes recently, Advanced Gay also moved back toward a more traditional story line, which was also nice to see, as well.

The episode centers around Pierce, whose Hawthorne wipes have become a sensation among the gay community. A Youtube video has gone viral, and has given the wipe mogul a 7 percent bump in overall sales. Pierce, obviously not the most tolerant of people, nevertheless decides to capitalize on his new-found market, and throws a huge “gay bash.”

It seems like a great idea until his father, Cornelius (Larry Cedar), shows up. We all figure out why Pierce is so racist. It’s almost as if his father is racist against people who aren’t racist enough. Jeff demands that Pierce stand up to his father in the same way that Jeff couldn’t stand up to his. Britta, the psychologist in training, describes this hilariously as the “edible” complex.

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Review: Community — Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps

In some ways, when I watched Horror Fiction In Seven Spooky Steps, it reminded me of last week’s Remedial Chaos Theory. Once again, we see seven different mini stories, each Halloween-ish fantasy told through the eyes of the narrator.

This week, the group gathers for a pre-party before the Greendale Halloween dance organized by Britta. She’s gotten the results back of a psychology test she had the group take and as it turns out, one of the seven is a borderline homicidal maniac.

Britta acts quickly, by trying to expose the soon-to-be killer by getting everyone to tell a Halloween story. Enter the seven stories.

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Review: Community — Remedial Chaos Theory

Thursday’s Remedial Chaos Theory episode of Community challenges Modern Warfare for the best episode of Community — ever. I know that’s a high standard to compare to, but there were so many good things about Chaos Theory that it’s a fair comparison.

The episode revolves around Troy and Abed welcoming the study group into their apartment for a housewarming party. (“I demand to be housewarmed!” Troy exclaims to Pierce later on.) The group sits down, and when they start to play Yahtzee, the pizza arrives. No one wants to go pick up the pizza from the front, so Jeff flips a die to decide who will go. “You know by doing this you’re creating six different timelines,” Abed says. Actually, seven different timelines are explored in this episode, ranging from scary to thoughtful to downright hilarious.

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Pushing Daisies: Feel-good Fantasy-noir

Ned sees dead people. Well, that’s only half the story of Pushing Daisies, ABC’s rookie fall drama that airs on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m., that has garnered more than its share of praise and viewers. The other half of the story is that Ned sees dead people, because he can bring them back to life.

The basic storyline is as follows: Ned (Lee Pace) is a pie maker who can revive the dead simply by touching them, but if he touches them a second time, they go back to being dead. If he doesn’t touch the dead within a minute of reviving them, then someone else will die. Ned’s unique gift makes him a perfect partner for private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride). The two have developed a partnership, where they ask the dead for clues in solving murders, and Ned has had no problem with putting the dead back into place until he comes across the case of his childhood sweetheart (and first kiss) Charlotte “Chuck” Charles (Anna Friel). All of this is explained by an omniscient and ever-present narrator in the opening moments of the pilot, in which Chuck’s murder is solved.

The dialogue and setting is typical of series creator Bryan Fuller’s (creator of Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls) work. His characters inhabit a world that is saturated in bright hues and lights reminiscent of Big Fish or Lemony Snicket, while they speak in an iambic pentameter-like rhythm: “You haven’t been hugged properly,” Chuck says to Ned, who naturally avoids physical contact with her. “It’s an emotional Heimlich. Someone puts their arms around you, gives a squeeze. All your fear and anxiety comes shooting out of your mouth in a big, wet wad and you can breath again.”

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Studio 60, while flawed, will be missed

Try playing this game when Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is released on October 16, 2007.

Close your eyes and have someone insert a randomly selected West Wing, or Studio 60 DVD into the player, and, with your eyes still closed, see if you can distinguish between the two. Odds are, in scenes with Brad Whitford and Tim Busfield, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

In part, that was the reason why Studio 60, perhaps one of the most highly anticipated shows in recent memory became the single-biggest flop in recent memory. After a promising opening, Studio 60 was pulled from sweeps before limping through May, a time period reserved only for burning off shows before they ascend to television heaven.

There are many things that went wrong with Studio 60 that could’ve been changed by a slight tweak to the foundation of the show. As junior writer Lucy said in B-12 following her sketch bombing at dress, “Buy the premise, buy the bit.”

Series creator Aaron Sorkin should’ve taken some of his own advice, because absolutely no one bought the premise of a late-night sketch comedy show that focused more on the war on terror than struggling and desparate comedy writers trying to get a sketch on the air.

It was also difficult to empathize with Studio 60 head writer Matt Albie running the show while high on pain killers, especially if you compare it to West Wing Chief of Staff Leo McGarey abusing drugs while running the United States of America.

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Postmodernism and Arrested Development

February 10, 2006 marked an unspectacular end to one of the best television shows you’ve never watched — Arrested Development, a character-driven comedy series about a largely dysfunctional, and formerly wealthy, family. From its inception, it was clear that Arrested Development would be a unique sitcom, employing intertextual and reflexive features, deeply embedded in postmodern thought. Intertextuality is simply one text that quotes or alludes to another. An example would be the Fox cartoon Family Guy, which constantly references other pop culture in cutaways, interweaving Star Wars, Justin Timberlake and United States President George W. Bush into its own comedy. Along the same lines, reflexivity is a concept of self-reference. For instance: “This blog entry deals with a postmodern critique of Arrested Development.”

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