"Studio 60" Tries To Head Off Christians At The Pass

This is less of a review than a commentary of the new NBC show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Technically I have to say the show is very well done, but here I tend to combine both content and execution of a TV show or movie when discussing it, and the content of the show puts me off.

The premise of the series is that it shows the backstage workings of a network show that is Saturday Night Live in everything but name. It stars Matthew Perry (of Friends fame), Amanda Peet and a bunch of other recognizable faces. The upshot is that the show has gone downhill since two producers left the show four years ago, and that it has been choked by the "suits" in the name of political correctness.

So, the producers are brought back (one of them being Perry) by the new president of the network, Amanda Peet. Now the tipping point for the show was the fact that the network guy who determines what can and can't go on the show, denied the previous producer the option of airing a skit called "Crazy Christians". That particular producer loses it and goes on a live-on-the-air tirade along the lines of the old movie Network, and although he also rails on the level of crap that's on TV today, he concludes by referring to religions as "psycho-relgious cults". The new president of the network makes her first promise to the returned producers that they can do the skit on the following week.

Now as far as I'm concerned, everyone can be a target for a comedy skit, but after watching three episodes of Studio 60, the only consistent target I saw on the show was (can you guess?): Christians. Oh sure, they threw in a few other religions in there for one skit, but the whole jist of all three episodes was that religion is oppressive and ignorant. They do have one character on the show who is Christian, and prays with her castmembers before each show, but that struck me as a token effort to show "the other side".

Now the interesting thing about this is that one of their main plotlines over three episodes had to do with Christians boycotting and being outraged by the idea of a skit called "Crazy Christians", before they'd even seen it. The reason I find it interesting is because now any criticism of the show due to it's content can automatically be labeled as ironic and an example of exactly what they're talking about (in their minds, anyway).

Now I really did try to keep an open mind about the show (I sat through three episodes, after all) and except for their targeting of religion, I actually found it very well done. I kept thinking that this would pass and they'd move on to other aspects of what it's like to produce a show of this type.

Unfortunately, about 2/3 of the way through the 3rd episode came a line from the president of the network that was my signal that I wouldn't be watching the show anymore: "What percentage of Studio 60's audience do I need to maintain in order to keep playing tough with the Christian Right?"

Sorry folks, but for me that was the one that broke the camel's back, following on everything else that has happened on the show. I may be playing into their hands with this commentary, but the fact that they set it up to look that way makes me not care.

As the network president said on the show: "Don't they know how to change the channel?"

Why yes... I certainly do.

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