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Episode Review: STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP (“The Disaster Show”)

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Season 1, Episode 17 (17)
Date of airing: May 24, 2007 (NBC)
Rewatched for review: Jan 6, 2012
Number of review in January/2012: 95/104

I consider this episode to be not just the best of the show, but also one of my favorite all-time favorite TV episodes. And I wondered if it would hold on, now that I have another thousand of TV hours behind me, and lots more of comparisons, character works and similar. And looketh here, it still holds. I just love the concept of a disaster show, and how this episode was so much different from the rest of the show: No Matt and Danny (a pretty bold move to cut the three major actors for this episode), instead Cal (Timothy Busfield) is running the show, and Sorkin gave his BFF Allison Janney enough screentime to shine as a separate, but also interesting character. Whether she played really herself, or just the STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP version of herself, it was great to see her. It was wonderful she was able to play her comedic talent in here again. It was wonderful how chaotic the episode was, giving loads of opportunities for great comedy. What a shame that the episode was only 37 minutes long. I don’t know if a story as cut out for whatever reason (who knows, maybe Matt and Danny were cut from the episode).

In addition, the episode does well in telling a story of a live airing, and what could happen during this live airing. Even though the story is a bit idiotic for me – the prop masters going on strike BEFORE the end of their contract, making Danny say what he said, making the prop and cue card masters angry, which was a bit over the top – it worked well as the setup for the disaster show, giving loads of reasons for the audience-within-the-show to hate the episode. I’m just thinking about what the online critics would say about such an episode on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. The missed cues during the live show, the wrong props, or just an annoyed Allison Janney, who’s pissed and angry at everybody, while the cast has the fun of their lives. Like Tom (Nathan Corddry), who laughs about the disaster show, because the cast has the advantage to blame the badness of the show to the host – incredibly funny. Or how Harriet (Sarah Paulson) re-enacted Allison’s death-in-a-sketch scene, waiting for it to become available as her screen saver. Or just the comment that Allison will see the scene in a couple of minutes on YouTube. Just great, and I was laughing. In addition, the episode worked, because it showed the live airing of the show – in its completion. The first act was mostly all before the show, but also all preparations to the show. I just love TV episodes, when their timeline is reduced. And STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP worked before well, because it was able to let one episode play over a time of a couple of hours, followed by the next episode instantly being told after the last episode.

Even more cool: With Matt gone for this episode, there was no Matt/Harriet drama. No political drama. No relationship crap. A very good decision to cut it out after last episodes’ troubles. And it was also a good decision to give all the attention to Cal. Only Simon’s (D.L. Hughley) women-problem, as well as the bomb threat, could have been … well, better. Simon’s women were just ways to tell the story of Simon and his women (something I don’t need), while the bomb story probably could have stomached more thrill. Because at the end, the whole sub plot felt like a comedy too. The angst of a bomb threat because of a Mohammed sketch (I find it unbelievable that Studio 60 would bring such a sketch, or even think about bringing it on air. I don’t believe SNL would do that in a million years) is just too big to make Cal annoyed about the question, if he is working with electrical devices in the building…

At the end, it is still one of my all-time favorite episodes. But it’s not on that special list anymore. It lost some steam, but it’s still the best episode of the show. And just funny. 9/10

Thumbs up for this awesome monologue!

Death on stage. Everybody laughs

Written by Christian Wischofsky

January 25, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Episode Review: MR. SUNSHINE (“Pilot”)

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Once I was reading the pilot script, and wasn’t much in love with it. The humor felt mostly over the top, though it was the perfect suit for Matthew Perry; the series arc is not really interesting for a potentially long-running comedy series; and I already hate it, when a series is stating from the first episode that it is not an ensemble cast series, though it has an ensemble cast. After watching the pilot, my concerns were somewhat killed, but I still have some worries about the show. I love Matthew Perry, I love Allison Janney, I love that MR. SUNSHINE will probably deliver a lot of humorous moments between the two, but on the other hand: I don’t think I will love this show as much as I liked Janney’s and Perry’s earlier NBC work.

The almost 22 minutes basically didn’t show what the writers want to tell with MR. SUNSHINE. First I thought it would be similar to CALIFORNICATION, following Ben’s life, in his job, with his friends and colleagues, but in the middle of it all, he has a midlife crisis and needs to be taken care of in some way. Maybe MR. SUNSHINE could be something like a soaped network version of CALIFORNICATION, without sex and family and all. But then, MR. SUNSHINE didn’t show much of Ben’s character and the troubles he has in his life (instead, the writing made it all funny, therefore ridiculous, therefore over the top, therefore not really likable for me), and the pilot didn’t even show some characteristics from the other characters. Crystal is a crazy woman, but that’s basically it. Her son Roman (Nate Torrence) likes Mafia movies, and that’s basically it. The pilot mentioned the non-existing relationship between mother and son, and the episode even teased that MR. SUNSHINE will focus on Crystal/Roman, but there is no background story at all. Alice (Andrea Anders) and Alonzo (James Lesure) are a couple (without any shared screentime), but the pilot didn’t do anything to show me that Ben is totally in love with her, and the fact that Alonzo is a somewhat über-happy guy is already annoying me – in addition to Ben mentioning that Alonzo is his best friend, just for Alice to tell him that he hates Alonzo. One cliché after another was hitting me in the face, and I couldn’t really laugh at all.

But the biggest problem I have with MR. SUNSHINE: Matthew Perry wrote his old Chandler character into the script. Didn’t he have anything new to tell for his own show? MR. SUNSHINE could basically be a FRIENDS spin-off with Chandler as the title character. Even more, I had the feeling that the Roman character was an exact copy of the Dylan character in STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP. And Crystal is about to be nice as C.J. Cregg in THE WEST WING. Yeah, the pilot didn’t deliver anything new for me.

So, what’s the bottom line? MR. SUNSHINE could be a really good and funny show, but it wasn’t funny for me in the pilot. Matthew Perry, after all involved in the writing process, could have done more than just copying already known characters from previous shows. But the show scores with its cast and the chemistry between some of the actors. Perry and Janney are crazy enough to pull off such a show from their own shoulders, while the rest of the cast is good enough to deliver good performances in future episodes. Other than that, I wasn’t blown away. Instead I was bored most of the times. 5/10

Attack of the clowns

Mother and son reunited, for the awkwardness

Written by Christian Wischofsky

March 1, 2011 at 8:00 PM

Season Review: LOST (VI)

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Aired between February and May 2010 on ABC

Lost’s sixth and final season drew both raves and criticism from its passionate fans who wanted answers to the series’ many loose ends. Executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse found a way to wrap up some lingering story lines while introducing entirely new ones when they decided to employ a “flash-sideways” plot device, showing us an alternate reality in which Oceanic 815 never crashes (a consequence of the hydrogen-bomb detonation that occurred in season 5’s finale). This method allowed some long-gone characters to return (Boone, Charlie, Libby) and even showed sunnier outcomes for some of the survivors’ more unhappy pasts (Locke, Hurley). But in the non-Sideways world, the bomb’s detonation doesn’t change their course, and the survivors find themselves delving deeper into the island’s mythology: notably the yin/yang of the demigod Jacob (Mark Pellegrino) and the smoke monster, the Man in Black (Titus Welliver), as well as some curious denizens of a temple. As the smoke monster’s scheme to escape the island leaves a trail of carnage, culminating in a face-off with that other villain Charles Widmore, some primary characters meet their end in season 6 while others find the redemption they’d been seeking since the series began. Moreover, some survivors finally find out their connection to the island (and each other) when the two realities start to intermingle, leading to a tearful finale that satisfies and frustrates at the same time.

Episode 01/02: LA X 8/10
Episode 03: What Kate Does 6/10
Episode 04: The Substitute 6/10
Episode 05: Lighthouse 8/10
Episode 06: Sundown 7/10
Episode 07: Dr. Linus 8/10
Episode 08: Recon 3/10
Episode 09: Ab Aeterno 9.5/10
Episode 10: The Package 7/10
Episode 11: Happily Ever After 3/10

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