The first 10 minutes of the pilot for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip represent the best opening sequence for any new show ever.
If Aaron Sorkin can keep up the writing, this show will be on for years. It's tight. The performances are excellent. And the camera work in engaging.
The West Wing may be my favorite show of all time; but I'm not sure. When it was on the air, I would always forget how good it was. But then I would sit down in front of TiVo and watch all the accumulated episodes in a single sitting. I couldn't get away.
Studio 60 has a similar pacing, but a more claustrophobic feel. It features a similar writing style and defective characters. But the characters here are aware they are not saving the world; they're just trying to make good TV.
Matthew Perry is not Chandler in this show. Bradley Whitford is not...well, okay, he's still Josh Lyman, but it's a less forlorn Josh Lyman. And that's not so much Bradley's fault as it is Aaron Sorkin's style.
The wild card in this show is how NBC feels about the attack on Saturday Night Live. The speech that Judd Hirsch's character gives at the opening of the show is not only an attack on TV in general, but is an open assault of the quality of NBC icon Saturday Night Live. The speech is available on IMDB.
SNL used to be an edgier show. The jokes pushed the limits in a more intelligent way. The political commentary had depth. Now, even the venerable Weekend Update is little more than Bush is dumb jokes. This past season was better. I think we have the guys from The Lonely Island to thank for that. But it's been lagging for years. Perhaps the recent reshuffling of the cast will bring some growth to the show.
But Studio 60 is definitely poking SNL with a stick. Will SNL wake up and respond with actual smart humor? Or will it just whine to NBC execs to take away that stick?
Check out Jon's rave on Studio 60.