What’s “Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip”?
A new series headed for NBC’s schedule next autumn. It’s a backstage comedy-drama set at a show very much like “Saturday Night Live.” It will mark Aaron Sorkin’s return to television following an absence of three years.
Who is Aaron Sorkin?
Sorkin wrote the screenplays for “A Few Good Men” and “The American President” before he created ABC’s “Sports Night” and NBC’s “The West Wing.” Many consider him one of the finest screenwriters on the planet.
Is “Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip” any good?
It is. It’s funny and exciting and thought-provoking. If it’s not the best new show of next autumn, it’s going to be a very good autumn.
Backstage at “SNL”? Written by noted cocaine-abuser Aaron Sorkin? Are there drugs?
Tremendous drugs. When panicked execs are forced to commandeer musical guest Counting Crows’ empty dressing room as an impromptu war room, they are confronted with bongs, loose joints, and a vast cloud of marijuana smoke. We also learn a major character, a former writer for “Studio 7,” has recently tested positive for cocaine. It’s a major plot point.
So no drugs among the cast?
No one associated with the show, including one cast member known for her Christian background, seems to have any aversion to alcohol. A big chunk of the pilot is set at Skybar.
Is there a John Belushi figure?
Not so much. Our exposure to the cast is limited in the pilot, but we do glimpse an obnoxious rookie player named Dylan, described as “maybe a Jack Black wannabe.” But no one thinks he’s funny, so he’s obviously no John Belushi.
Compare and contrast “Studio 7” (the show within the show) and the real “SNL”?
“SNL” is 30 years old; “Studio 7” is 20. NBC broadcasts “SNL” live from New York on Saturday nights. UBS broadcasts “Studio 7” live from Los Angeles on Friday nights.
Is there a “Weekend Update”?
None that we noticed.
Is Jed Bartlet (or Matt Santos) president in this alternate universe?
In the pilot script (written before NBC bought the show), the show’s opening sketch deals with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Is there a Lorne Michaels?
I’m saying yes. There’s a guy named Wes Mendell who created the show and has been running it for the last 20 years. But it’s unclear whether Wes will be an recurring character or not, since he’s fired in the pilot.
What does the Michaels character do to get fired?
Remember when the great Norm Macdonald was telling a lot of pointed jokes about NBC exec Don Ohlmeyer’s old friend O.J. Simpson on Weekend Update? Remember when Ohlmeyer forced Michaels to remove Macdonald from Update?
Do I! The Ohlmeyer/Macdonald affair was one of the shadiest, most grotesque chapters in TV history! Somebody should make a TV show about it!
Now imagine that Michaels is told he has to replace Macdonald minutes before the 20th SNL season premiere airs. Imagine Michaels, livid but helpless, agreeing to replace Norm. Imagine the show starting. Imagine Michaels getting out of his seat by the stage, climbing up onto the stage in the middle of a live Bush-Cheney sketch, and stopping the sketch to talk about how Ohlmeyer and his ilk are destroying SNL and a lot of other great television besides. Imagine an NBC standards & practices exec screaming at the show’s reluctant director to cut to a commercial. Imagine every cell phone and blackberry in Los Angeles going off at once.
So the “Studio 7” showrunner implodes because he’s forced to fire somebody?
Kind of. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is the network’s decision to kill a sketch called “Crazy Christians.” The sketch apparently killed during dress rehearsal, and everybody (except the network standards guy who killed the sketch) seems to think it’s the best thing “Studio 7” has done in years.
So if the Lorne Michaels character is fired before the second act, who is this show about?
Like “The West Wing,” it’s an ensemble show, but the most prominent character in the pilot is the network’s new president. She’s the one who has to clean up the very public mess.
Kindly run down the main characters, Mighty Hercules!
* The most compelling character in the pilot is the smart and persuasive Jamie McDeere, the UBS network’s new thirtysomething president. Even though she’s newly hired and doesn’t officially start work at UBS until Monday, she immediately and repeatedly demonstrates she’s the quickest-thinking individual in every room she occupies. She defies her new boss and new underlings with a strategy certain to shore up the public’s appraisal of the network and its commitment to quality programming. Almost everybody on the planet wants to sleep with her.
* Matt Albie and Danny Moore are former “Studio 7” writers who have moved on to feature films. The network forced Wes to fire them four years ago, and when Wes has his meltdown, it’s Matt and Danny whom Jamie McDeere is determined to lure back to the show. Danny, the recovering cocaine addict, is dating a star L.A. Times journalist named Martha Moyer. Jamie, the super-brainy UBS prez, tells Danny that Martha will win a Pulitzer within three years. Danny’s partner Matt was, until very recently, dating …
* … Harriet Hayes, the most popular female cast member on “Studio 7.” (Matt and Danny, like Superman, clearly enjoy dating young women with alliterative monikers.) Harriett, we’re told, is one of “the big three,” the three most popular members of the cast, and its de facto leaders. The not-Harriet part of “the big three” are Tom Jeter and Simon Stiles. Tom is white; Simon is black. In the pilot script, Tom is a lot funnier than Simon, though everybody seems to respect Simon, so maybe Simon is just having a bad day. We don’t learn a whole lot more about Tom and Simon in the pilot.
* There’s also Jack Rudolph, Jamie’s UBS boss, who apparently ordered Wes to fire Matt and Danny four years ago. And Wilson White, chairman of UBS’ parent company, Atlantic Media Group. Jack covets Wilson’s job. Ron Oswald and Ricky Beck are the weaselly “Studio 7” hacks who covet Wes’ job.
Who will play these people?
Our sources indicate Doug E. Doug has auditioned for the Simon role. James Urbaniak (who played R. Crumb in “American Splendor”) has also been in to see the producers. Denis O’Hare (“21 Grams,” “Garden State”) could be up for either Wes or Jack. Ben Shenkman (“Just Like Heaven,” “Must Love Dogs”) could play Danny, Matt or Tom.
How does it end, spoiler boy?
>The new network president hands Danny the sketch that caused Wes to take the stage.
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