Years ago there was a tv show from Britain called Shelley. It was about a lay-about character called, simply, Shelley. Why DO they do that. Why are there so many shows where the main character has no first name. Are there really people like that in real life? Why write yourself into a corner like that?
Anyway, this is not about that. This is about how Shelley was a droll and witty scoundrel who was well educated but chose to live on the benefit. He was amusing in and of himself. The problem was that there were several other regular characters, and many others who just turned up once. All of these other characters turned out to be just as droll and witty as Shelley.
This was more like science fiction than a situation comedy. Where was the range? They were all Shelley. The writer couldn’t help infusing everyone with the same outlook.
Now, fast forward to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. First: The name sucks. Second: It’s another Shelley, and on several levels. First, EVERYONE is clever, and witty, and fast talking and successful. Second, I find myself always thinking, “Where have I heard this before?” And the answer is: In every other Aaron Sorkin production.
If he were writing a show about a pet shop, the owner of the shop would be brilliant, scathing, addicted to something, and capable from time to time of showing achingly sweet compassion. His sidekick would love him like a brother; he would shield him from idiots and finish his sentences. Their arguments would be along the lines of:
“How many snakes did you order?”
“How many snakes did I order?”
“Yes, How many snakes did you order?”
“By snakes you mean…”
“I mean, snakes. How many did you order?”
“How many did you want?”
“Five. I wanted five snakes.”
“That’s how many I ordered.”
“You haven’t ordered any, have you?”
“Order the snakes.”
“We have too many snakes now.”
“How many snakes do we have.”
“Good. I didn’t want the damned snakes anyway.”
This inane boiler plate would have been lifted from Studio 60 but he would have needed to paste snakes over dancing girls; before that — in West Wing — the dancing girls were cruise missiles.
Oh, and this dialog would have been delivered rapid fire while they were both walking twice around the fish tanks, through the chokers and leads, around the cat cages…
You get the idea.