Sorkin did a discussion with journalists near the end of the shows life. He pretty much rips them apart. I heard a audio recording of this speech, and he sounds exactly like Josh Lyman with the way he speaks. Parts in italics are the questions from the press:
[Why hasn’t the show caught on with viewers?]
I’m not greatly sophisticated when it comes to ratings or crunching the numbers. But I can tell you this - our audience is 10 percent bigger than you think it is. The reason why is, we’re the No. 1 timeshifted show on television. If you don’t know what that means, that means that more people TiVo us and watch us later in the week than any other show on TV, and when you add the number of people who are recording the show and then watching it later in the week, our audience grows by over 10 percent, 10.9 percent. So we’re getting screwed by our own petard. It is a high-end audience, they all own TiVos, but Nielsen doesn’t count those people because there’s an assumption that you’re fast-forwarding through commercials, so they’re of no use to advertisers.
Not everything is for everybody. And when I compare the size of the ‘Studio 60’ audience to the size of the ‘Sports Night’ audience, I’m delighted. Would we like to have more people watching it? Of course we would. But we’re really happy with the audience that is watching it. It’s the most upscale audience on TV. We have the highest concentration of households earning more than $100,000 a year. Would we like more people to come to the show? You bet. But there isn’t a lot we can do creatively. Let me say this: I think it’s a mistake to do things creatively in order to attract that audience.
[What about the high expectations for the show?]
I’m very proud that there were and still are high expectations for this show. It’s certainly better than the alternative. It’s not an advantage though.The lion’s share of the press about the show certainly out of the gate was simply about the show’s ratings and it was very difficult to get anyone past that. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, when the pieces are all about the ratings.
When the people are reading, ‘Gee, this show is tanking,’ they’re less likely to tune in than if the pieces said ‘Gee, there’s this show that everybody’s really excited about.’ But that’s not your problem, it’s ours. Hopefully the next step will be that the ratings will tick up and you’ll start writing about that, or even better, about the content of the show.
[What about the backlash, and the idea of comedy writers not liking the show, etc.]
“I’m sorry, I’m taking a moment to think whether I should answer that question honestly or diplomatically.”
OK then, if I’m going to answer honestly you’ve got to promise me that you’re really going to hear me on this and you’re not going to run with anything. Listen, we get a lot of negative press on this show, you get a lot of negative press when you’re doing anything. We got it on ‘West Wing,’ we got it on ‘Sports Night,’ I’ve gotten it on the plays that I’ve done, on the movies that I’ve done and public comments that I’ve made. It’s the cost of doing business. It’s not fun, but you get used to it.
The Dec. 25 piece in the LA Times, I’m assuming you’re referring to that, was different, simply because. First of all, let me tell you, it was the third piece that the Los Angeles Times had done in four months about how people on the Internet don’t like ‘Studio 60.’ There was a piece by Maria Elena Fernandez about how people on the Internet don’t like ‘Studio 60.’ Then Scott Collins followed that up with a piece about how people on the Internet don’t like ‘Studio 60.’ This was followed up by the piece that you’re referring to, which blew the lid off the story about how people on the Internet don’t like ‘Studio 60.’
As if there aren’t people on the Internet who do like ‘Studio 60,’ and as if there are people on the Internet who don’t like other shows. But that wasn’t the most aggravating part of the story. The most aggravating part of the story was - the comedy writers she’s referring to - first of all, her headline was ‘Writers don’t like “Studio 60.”’ She was smart to ignore the fact that one week earlier, the show had been nominated for two Writers Guild awards, as that would have undercut her thesis.
Secondly, the comedy writers she interviewed are unemployed. The sketch comedy troupe that she’s referring to which is I think called Employee of the Month - because I read this, I read the headline and I thought, ‘Does Colbert not like the show? Does Billy Crystal not like the show? Tina Fey? Seth Myers? Real comedy writers - do they not like the show?' No, she wasn’t talking about those people.
I would encourage you to go to the Web site for Employee of the Month, the improvisational comedy troupe that was complaining about the show, you will discover that they are unemployed and disgruntled. Folks, it is not at all difficult to go on the internet and find opinions of disgruntled people, I don’t need to tell you that. So, that LA Times piece was a piece of nonsense. There have been negative pieces written about the show, which, like I said, it’s not fun to read, but I get it. I get when people write that there’s a smugness to the show, that there’s an arrogance to the show, I get when people write that the characters on the show take doing a television show too seriously. Again it’s not fun to read, I don’t necessarily agree, but it’s a well-considered piece of journalism. This was nonsense and the LA Times should be ashamed of itself. And frankly, an arts section in a town like Los Angeles running a piece like that - that was just godawful.
I do believe that we’ve seen an enormous rise in amateurism. One of the things I find troubling about the Internet, as great a resource tool as it is, and as nice as it is that we can all communicate with each other, and that everybody has a voice - the thing is, everybody’s voice oughtn’t be equal. You people are credentialed journalists in here. There’s a certain understanding that you had to be good to have gotten that job. You had to have done something. If I start the Sorkin blog and if that opinion by your newspaper is raised to the level...when the New York Times quotes a blogger, saying ‘Pastyboy2000 says this,’ suddenly you give it the imprimatur of the New York Times - that’s, first of all, lazy on the part of the New York Times, second of all, incredibly misleading.”
[but the closes thing we have to consensus on the show, whether people like it or hate it, is on the quality of the sketches - that they’re not good.]
I’m not going to tell you all you’re wrong. That’s one of those places where, if enough people tell you one thing, it’s got to be a little bit true. But I’ll tell you what my intention was, and hopefully I’ll get better at executing my intention. We never show you a full sketch. We show you a tiny shard of it, in rehearsal, when a writer is pitching it out. Even in the performance, we kind of slice across it for a second, and all I was trying to show was to give it the feel of a sketch-comedy show. [as on ‘Sports Night’ they would have a few seconds of the sports show or on ‘West Wing’ they would talk about the Council of Economic Advisers, that kind of thing].
I think that if you saw a random 10 seconds of the ‘SNL’ sketch Wayne’s World, I think if you saw a random 10 seconds of the Coneheads, or any ‘SNL’ sketch that you like, you wouldn’t necessarily say, that’s hilariously funny. You probably wouldn’t get it. So I do think about that now, when I’m writing that stuff, which is to say, I want to make it clear that you’re not supposed to be finding this funny, you’re supposed to be finding it a rehearsal.
I think that’s what’s unusual about ‘Studio 60’ is that the people who don’t like it are extremely vocal about it. There have got to be people who don’t like Grey’s Anatomy, they just don’t write letters about it. They don’t devote entire Web sites to it. Just to back to that LA Times piece for a second, for a group of people who don’t like the show, they certainly watch it obsessively and can quote every line from every episode.