According to the morning Variety, S60’s ratings are now in free fall. Marc Berman of The Programming Guide has the scary numbers:
Retention for Studio 60 out of Heroes was just 77 percent in the overnights, 72 percent in total viewers and 66 percent among adults 18-49. Take a look at Studio 60’s three-week track:
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip – Mon. 10 p.m.
9/18/06 – Overnights: 10.3/16; Viewers: 13.41 million; A18-49: 5.0/13
9/25/06 – Overnights: 8.7/14; Viewers: 10.83 million; A18-49: 4.2/11
10/02/06 – Overnights: 7.2/11; Viewers: 9.05 million; A18-49: 3.5/ 9
And, to make matters worse, erosion in the second half of Studio 60 continued, with a loss of 8 percent in the overnights (7.5/11 to 6.9/11), 650,000 viewers (9.38 to 8.73 million) and 5 percent among adults 18-49 (3.6/ 9 to 3.4/ 9).”
Having watching the third episode last night, I can see why they bailed, too.
I don’t care how many overlapping waves of wild applause and how many manipulative trumpeting surges of triumphant music you put over the top of it: the show-within-the-show isn’t fucking funny. Every time Sorkin set up a hurdle in the first half, you could clearly see its legs had been sawn through — will they really do better than a 90% retention of audience? Will Jeannie really get one extra person to laugh at her dismal commedia dell’arte gag? — and therefore it was no surprise that half a million viewers bailed. They knew how it ended already. And, really, another barrel of jokes about how Harriet’s a Cute Christian and everyone including God loves her? When she’s practically firing lasers from her eyes half the time? Gimme a break.
I’m not the audience. I know that now. In a bar last week, I said, “really, who gives a fuck about Gilbert and bloody Sullivan in the 21st Century?” And two university-educated broadcasters and one professional illustrator who listens to nothing but Classic FM put up their hands and yelled, “I do!” So it’s just me. Operetta remains the finest and most vividly relevant form of art known to humanity and I’m just a slob who left school at 18. Similarly, the audience of the show-within-the-show are set up to be roundly castigated by the cast for not enjoying a gag relating to a performance form that actually dropped dead in the 18th Century. Presumably those people aren’t huge fans of cave paintings, either. I bet none of them have a picture of a deer being stabbed by stick men with spears daubed on slate and hanging on their walls, those Philistine pricks.
Aaron Sorkin said in an interview that the concept of the show-within-the-show meant he got to just write the best bits of sketches, the high points, and then cut. I do hope that “Pimp My Trike”, as weakly white a gag as any 7.30pm variety show could ooze out, really isn’t the best bit of a sketch that he could conceive of.
And to top it off, Sorkin has Brad Whitford lecture Amanda Peet, who’s just had a DUI revealed to the public. I spoke before about Sorkin seeming to be speaking through the show. He literally has Whitford say, us cokeheads only endanger ourselves, and you people who drink irresponsibly endanger everyone. I imagine the other parent of any small child sharing a house with a habitual sampler of, say, crack has a slightly different perspective.
Which is a nasty thing to say. But episode three really left a bad taste in my mouth. It was cold, button-pressing, dishonest and mechanical. There were good things. Amanda Peet has found her feet and is much more the actress she’s known to be, and Steven Weber’s varying his performance more, finding more depth. Everyone else who was good before is good now, and Evan Handler’s getting space to work, almost yowling like a whipped dog at times, cleverly avoiding eye contact when he’s under attack.
But this was a nothing episode. Pissed it all away. And the music is bloody horrible.