And not going to take it anymore

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

The pilot episode of NBC’s upcoming Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip has all the Aaron Sorkin hallmarks you either love or hate: the long walking shots and the characters stepping on each other’s lines, and speaking in the same voice, and saying things like “I’m running a live broadcast. Can you threaten me later?”

But that’s easy to overlook because Sorkin’s target is TV, and he hits the bull’s-eye much more frequently than on his wildly overrated and mercifully defunct Sports Night. Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford are Matt and Danny, respectively, a writer and director who once made Studio 60’s sketch show, Friday Night in Hollywood, a daring, edgy comedy that tested the intelligence of their audience and the patience of their bosses. They got canned, got famous elsewhere and, in what looks contrived but actually could happen in Hollywood, get another chance at their old jobs because Judd Hirsch, in a cameo as an executive producer, melts down live on the air à la Peter Finch in Network.

The hackneyed plot doesn’t really matter because the cast makes it fun. Perry and Whitford (a mainstay of Sorkin’s The West Wing) are totally believable as the beleaguered heroes—much more so than Peter Krause and Josh Charles ever were on Sports Night. Steven Weber, as the suit who fired them, has perfected his slime-ball persona. The usually insufferable D.L. Hughley is excellent as a Friday Night cast member, and Sarah Paulson is borderline delightful in a barely plausible role as a cast member and Perry’s very recent ex-girlfriend. Only Amanda Peet as the network president doesn’t register. But give her points for playing her character as sympathetic and not bitchy.

This DVD is available to Netflix subscribers and includes Kidnapped, an NBC pilot starring Jeremy Sisto, Delroy Lindo and Dana Delany.