One of the ways I determine my reaction to a TV show is by the perceived passage of time. Watching a bad show, an hour can feel like two or more. Watching an average show, the conclusion seems to get there about the right time, an hour after it started. Watching a really good show, though, the end arrives about 25 minutes after the beginning, or so it appears.
Last night, watching the debut of NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I had the latter experience. At the show's finish I was ready to watch a couple more hours of it. Aaron Sorkin gets to continue wearing the crown of "best writer on network TV." For this series, he's put together an amazing cast, headed up by Bradley Whitford, Matthew Perry, and Amanda Peet, and including great supporting actors like Timothy Busfield and a surprisingly sinister Steven Weber in a reversal of his usual nice guy role.
What it has in common with Sorkin's The West Wing is that it's about bright, witty people talking about things that matter to them. Sorkin's gift is in making it matter to us. Bright, witty people are on short supply on TV these days, so it's refreshing to see some here, especially written by the genuinely witty and intelligent Sorkin.
I had to wonder how many viewers, like me, were surprised that the show began with a Network-style rant by Judd Hirsch about how corporate demands had watered down the quality of the late-night live comedy sketch series that Studio 60 is about, given that the same thing happened abut 4 or 5 years into the run of NBC's own Saturday Night Live.
Tina Fey also has an NBC series this season that purports to give us the behind-the-scenes scoop on an SNL-type show. Hers is more of a traditional sitcom, I guess. I don't know if there's room for two such shows on the schedule--but there are worse models than the classic Dick Van Dyke show, so maybe hers will be good as well. As compelling as Studio 60? I doubt it. I'll check it out, though--and I'm making a regular Monday night appointment with Studio 60.