Media/Entertainment

A pox on 30 Rockefeller Plaza

So NBC has announced plans for its Fall schedule, and it smells like a trainwreck.

They’re leaving Thursday night alone – which is good, although I’m baffled at the idea that there’s “critical” acclaim for 30 Rock. Alec Baldwin is good and Tina Fey is likeable, if not actually funny. And if there’s a writer in America who can make Tracy Morgan funny, we know this much for sure: that person did not work at SNL and does not now work for 30 Rock.

My main beef lies with the network’s cancellation of “high-profile failure Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” Two things, NBC execs. 1: Bite. 2: Me. There is so precious little on network television that’s actually thoughtful, and when something that’s genuinely different and innovative comes along, bet your ass it’s dead in the water. Studio 60 was smart TV. Great characters. An essential, vital commentary on what’s wrong with TV. It was a show with actual ideas and actual characters that a viewer with an IQ of better than 100 could find some redeeming value in. Of course, maybe that’s the problem – you don’t get rich developing TV for the hypothetical audience I’m describing here.

So it wasn’t drawing great ratings – folks, Studio 60 was never going to be the #1 show on television. But given time, promotion and maybe a decent feckin’ time slot it would have grown into the sort of stalwart presence you could count on for the next 5-8 years. How many times in the past has a network stuck with a quality program a couple years and had it turn into a success? Well, Hill Street Blues was the classic case, and Cheers sure didn’t light the ratings lamp early on.

Here’s hoping that the producers are currently talking to other networks about a new home for a great show.

Otherwise, I guess it’s going the way of Twin Peaks and Max Headroom.

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7 replies »

  1. You still watch network TV?

    Seriously, the only reason to even bother is genre stuff like “Lost” and “Heroes.” Any serious dramatic show is better served in a format with no restrictions, like pay cable or the Internet.

    Broadcast television is designed to take up space between advertisements. Any value the medium once had for commentary has long since dried up, and its entertainment value is not far behind.

  2. Yeah, I know. Sometimes the nets do sitcom pretty well – The Office is just a tour de force of wrongness and My Name is Earl is one of the best shows on TV. And Heroes has been a great show so far – they seem to have learned from Lost’s mistakes.

    What you say here is on the mark – The Riches is one of the best new shows of the season but would have zero chance on a network. I’d love to see Studio 60 land on cable somewhere….

  3. Network television has the advantage of big budgets–that’s how “Lost,” “Heroes,” and the like can provide movie-quality effects each week–but the constraints of the FCC, advertiser squeamishness, etc. drain the medium of its ability to really take chances.

    “The Sopranos” broke all barriers for what a serialized television show was capable of, and in its wake we’ve had fine dramas such as “The Wire,” “The Shield,” etc. How are you gonna keep ’em down on the broadcast farm once they’ve seen L.A.? 🙂

  4. I have to disagree. I really wanted to like Studio 60, but it was so heavy-handed in its attempts to be meaningful. I kept watching, but I ultimately found it self-absorbed, preachy, and annoying–even when I agreed with the points they were trying to make. I dropped it in late November. I don’t think the show would have grown in the way that Hill Street Blues, Cheers, Seinfeld, or The Office did. Those shows all started out with low ratings; Studio 60, on the other hand, debuted well and saw its viewership steadily erode. In today’s TV climate, where shows are often mercilessly yanked after a couple of weeks, Studio 60 got about as fair a shake as you can get.

    I do like 30 Rock, though, and I have read some critical acclaim. It had a shaky start but came into its own as the season developed. I wouldn’t mind seeing less of Tracy Morgan, though.

  5. Two points:

    1) I quit watching network TV once it decided that “reality” was what viewers wanted;
    2) I ain’t watching any show with Tracy Morgan – my god, what’s next a “critically acclaimed” show with Chris Kattan…?

    I realize I’ve reached a point where all I watch on TV are live sports events, (and fewer and fewer of those anymore), documentaries, and cartoons.

    I actually enjoy cartoons….

  6. Cartoons are sweet. I liked them when it wasn’t cool to like cartoons (there’s nothing like getting glared at by the “in” crowd in high school because you and your friends are singing the theme song to “Tiny Toon Adventures” at the top of your lungs your senior year. From the primo spot in the lunch room too – it must have galled them to no end that we geeks and nerds had the best lunch spot in the school 9 days out of 10).

    Spear and magic helmet, anyone? 😛