Many years ago when I was teaching a curse on Hollywood industry, one of my students recommended that I watch a show called Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Well, I finally have (it only took five years). The series is based around a television production a la Saturday Night Live produced by "NBS". That the show aired on NBC perhaps suggests that the creators aimed to make this show as directly reflective as possible. That Matthew Perry plays someone with drug and alcohol issues is one layer of reflexivity that cuts particularly close to the bone. In fact, the show opens with a tribute to Network and directly acknowledges that is what it is happening. From the outset then, it is clear that the writer is self-assured. As it progresses, the series displays that confidence via its breakneck dialogue, which is witty even if it is not always laugh-out-loud funny. In fact, the series leans towards drama much more than comedy, so Friends fans attracted to Studio 60 by the presence of Matthew Perry should take note.
The characters are likable and the performances are well judged, but ultimately, what let this down for me was the increasing reliance on romantic comedy conventions as the series progressed. The finale was especially disappointing on that front, not least since the Danny love story was established so rapidly...a little too damned rapidly in my view. The writers makes the mistake of leaning too heavily on a relationship that is not founded firmly enough to take the weight applied to it, and impending tragedy that never quite feels real (because "it's not that kind of story" as Matt has declares). Much of the time, the romance elements seem like a way of excusing that the series was written more for people who work in television than for people who watch television. Perhaps the continuing references to flagging ratings throughout the series latter half were another level of reflexivity. Its short run suggests that it was not especially well received. In sum, not a waste of time, but not groundbreaking.