Credit: Sting: Theo Wargo/

Before it’s too late (and, unless ratings lie, it may be too late already), let’s do another installment of “Pants-Off Rants-Off: Studio 60 vs. 30 Rock.”* Quite simply, this is where I inveigh against the delusional dramedy Studio 60 and laud the promising comedy 30 Rock, keeping in mind that both shows probably won’t see New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. (The “Pants-off” part refers to my not wearing any pants. What? I blog from home. I’m a 21st-Century man. I will not be contained, America! And stop looking at me funny, Canada, lest you get a slap upside the Maritimes.)

What the hell was I talking about? Ah, yes: NBC’s two struggling shows about the goings-on at a late-night comedy sketch show. One is set in a utopian bastion of center-left optimism where everyone speaks zippity-literate Sorkinese and networks turn down can’t-miss reality programming on the grounds that it degrades the human spirit. The other is set in NBC’s crappy, underlit New York offices. Am I defeatist moral ingrate for favoring the latter?

addCredit(“Sting: Theo Wargo/”)

An admission: While I find Studio 60 preposterous, I can’t stopwatching. Apparently, six other people feel the same way. Why do wewatch? Is it for the sententious, so-bad-they’re-fascinating sketches?(“Jenny Doesn’t Have a Baby”? Holy mother of Poehler!) Is it to see ifD.L. Hughley’s composite, black-of-all-trades side-character (whospeaks of his Yale education in one breath and his “gat” in the next)is a joke on the show’s well-heeled white viewers… or on D.L. Hughley?Or is it to see how many more 400-year-old rock stars Sorkin can lureinto guest spots with slobbery on-air plugs? (Was the lute supposed tomake Sting, pictured, look more 18-49 by comparison?) Actually, theSting performance was an apt metaphor for the show: It walks in Fieldsof Gold, accompanying itself on a 400-year-old lute. You have to watchit in a sort of Pottery Barn reverie. And when you do? It’s not halfbad.

Sadly, I can’t compare the sketchologies of Studio 60 and 30 Rockthis week — the latter shied away from the sketches this week. That wasprobably a wise move. A not-so-wise one: Replacing the show’s nifty Mary Tyler Moore Show-ish opening theme with an anonymous Must-seeinstrumental. Bad executives! Bad!

But then we saw Tracy Morgan do his Bill Cosby impression — “I’m BillCosby, Jello, sweaters!” all delivered flat, with no attempt to mimicCosby’s voice — and all was forgiven. Ah, comedy: Now I remember you!You’re the one with laughs, the real laughs. Not the secret-handshakechuckle of self-congratulation: “Why, yes! What you’ve depicted here inthis sketch really is a benighted attitude towards women and/or scienceand/or public education! For consciousness raised and heroic deportmentin the agora of television, I award you, sir… a Laugh! Display thislaugh at the Pearly Gates, and you will be admitted into Heaven, thenice part of heaven — all long hallways and cocktail-party culturalreferences.”**

Here endeth the rant. And beginneth a long afternoon of sullen, reluctant pants-wearing.

*For those who are interested, “Pants-Off Rants-Off” narrowly won mypunny-rubric-naming contest, barely edging out “Rantsing with theStars” and “So You Think You Can Rant(s)?”
**I’m not sure who’s giving this speech. Maybe God. Maybe Michael Gambon in his Dumbledore drag.