Karl Marx said capitalism will sell you the rope to hang itself with; he must have been at Monday’s NBC upfront presentation and seen this six-minute excerpt from Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The behind-the-cameras drama reminded me of Sorkin’s late, lamented SportsNight, but this appears to be a much darker show, unsparing in its mockery of NBC, the network’s hallowed Saturday Night Live, and Sorkin’s own well-publicized drug history. The clip opens with a blatant nod to Paddy Chayefsky’s prophetic Network, in which a show producer (Judd Hirsch) delivers a surprise on-air rant against his medium that’s worthy of Howard Beale. (Oh, to have seen the faces on the TV and advertising honchos at Monday’s presentation as Hirsch read them the riot act!)
Indeed, it’s hard to imagine why NBC would greenlight a show built around such bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you moments, but then, networks do desperate things when they’re in fourth place. Besides, as the scenes in this clip suggest, it’s not that hard to co-opt dissent and turn it into slickly packaged entertainment. Or, at least, it usually isn’t, though we’ll know for sure if NBC reacts as it usually does and forces YouTube to pull this clip instead of letting it go viral and build anticipation for a show whose premiere is still months away.
Oh, I should also note that it’s great to see Matthew Perry again playing someone sharp and sarcastic, as well as Amanda Peet as a sharklike network programming chief. And it’s also great to see West Wing creator Sorkin writing walk-and-talk scenes again. Tina Fey’s going to have her work cut out for her in making her comedy 30 Rock as pointed and funny as Sorkin’s drama.