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Herc Loves The Pilot Script For STUDIO 7!! Aaron Sorkin's New Faux-SNL Backstage Series!!

I am – Hercules!!

Studio 7 On The Sunset Strip 1.0 FAQ

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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Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 19, 2005, 10:07 a.m. CST

    Doesn't sound anything like a Sportsnight does SNL

    by Jake Timmons08

    What a real original idea.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 10:11 a.m. CST

    And Fuck those first posters

    by Jake Timmons08

    He should have done a show about behind the scenes of the WWE. You could have Bulk Bogan discover Addie Auero's body. "I think he's dead, brother." Then have Meve Maustin do the stunner on Gince Gchman. It's Genius.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 10:12 a.m. CST


    by BrunoTheDog

    That sounds boring. Actually, it kind of reminds me of that HBO movie "The Late Shift", which was the comedy/drama behind the scenes view of the fight between Letterman and NBC for The Tonight Show. I also thought that movie was boring. BTW, Aaron Sorkin is hardly one of the best screenwriters on the planet. The American President? Shit.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 10:16 a.m. CST

    I really doubt this will be Aaron Sorkin's 'Firefly'

    by Anchoriite

    if that. Lets not forget Alien Resurrection was fucked over by an idiotic director.

  • Because, you know, that's comedy.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:03 a.m. CST

    Wasn't UBS the name of the network in the movie Network?

    by Stanley Spector

    United Broadcasting System or something like that. I've been looking forward to this show for years, but now I'm fucking hyped. Not only does the pilot breakdown make the show sound terrific, but if it really is Sorkin's homage to Network then it will be the best thing on TV (after The Daily Show). Sorkin is the new Chayefsky.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:13 a.m. CST

    Chayefsky and Network are both mentioned repeatedly in the pilot

    by Hercules

    And Joss Whedon has said he thinks Aaron Sorkin is a genius. And how is this being like "Sports Night" a bad thing?

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:15 a.m. CST

    "Is there a fat mexican whose only contribution to the show is t

    by Hercules

    Artie Lange is actually Italian.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:20 a.m. CST

    Being like Sports Night isn't bad

    by Jake Timmons08

    If this guy is such a genius, why can't he come up with another idea besides a variation of Sports Night. Is Joss Whedon's next show going to be about a guy who kills werewolves?

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:23 a.m. CST

    herc, when i read that i thought he was talking about horatio sa

    by Holodigm

    and this sounds like yet another podium for sorkin's political views. yawn. we get it, he's liberal, is he not able to leave his politics out of his material? if not, that's kinda sad. not that i've seen any west wing (besides that recent live episode, which rocked), and sportsnight was nifty, but he should shake things up a little.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:37 a.m. CST

    POTUS in the original West Wing pilot?

    by capt jack aubrey

    The description of the Studio & showrunner's uncertain role in the larger series reminds me of how the West Wing was originaly concieved. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the original plan for WW to have Sheen play Bartlett only in one or two cameos, that the show would instead focus on the staff? But Sheen's casting and performance made Sorkin decide to make Jed the focus of the show. Can anyone confirm this? (I seem to recall it from a haze of years of TV production trivia, possibly from this very corner of this very site.) Anyway, maybe Sorkin's toying with a similar idea: cast the original Lorne-like showrunner, see how he/she works out, then decide whether or not to bring him/her back or make him/her a larger focus of the show?

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:39 a.m. CST

    "Studio 7" not "Studio &"

    by capt jack aubrey

    damn shift key

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:52 a.m. CST

    capt jack aubrey

    by symphy

    Yes, that's right.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 12:44 p.m. CST

    Herc, it was Horatio Sans I was talking about...

    by OBSD

    Over the last few lears I've caught a handfull of episodes of SNL, and in EVRY SINGLE SKETCH Sans is in, he can't stop cracking up at himself. It's more than a little bit off-putting.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 12:51 p.m. CST

    very very sorkin

    by violetparr

    and very very good. i read the pilot and it is very much like the pilots for both sportsnight and west wing. lots of characters being introduced in the high-tension environment of people getting fired or nearly getting fired. but the familiarity of the plot points only make it that much easier and more comfortable to truly fall for the characters. Herc's inviso text didn't give away the last great reveal about the "controversial" sketch but i will say that, if done right (including the music suggested by the script), the last moments of this pilot will be truly classic and it all just makes me very excited for the season beyond.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Jean-Pierre Jeunet is not an idiot director.

    by Lenny Nero

    If you can watch A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT without feeling some extreme film geek storytelling euphoria, I wish you the best in life.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 1:11 p.m. CST

    Sorkin is the best

    by ShadowSorkin07

    There isn't a better tv writer out there. Lost and 24 writers come in a close second. But Wedon? Give me a freaking break. All of his shows were good, but great? They just weren't.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 1:12 p.m. CST

    And SPORTS NIGHT is my favorite show.

    by Lenny Nero

    Saying this sounds too much like SPORTS NIGHT sort of reminds me of saying FRASIER sounds too much like CHEERS. Bad analogy, I know.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 1:53 p.m. CST

    I'm excited

    by Ribbons

    If this is as good as "Sports Night" that'll be quite alright with me. I wouldn't call it a re-hash, per se. It's behind-the-scenes on a TV show, but it seems to me like a lot of the relationship dynamics, if not all of them, are different, not to mention some of the main conflicts of the show (censorship, drug abuse, fame). I think this fits in well with the rest of Sorkin's ouevre: a peek behind the curtain. I hope it turns as good as Herc and others have made it sound.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 1:54 p.m. CST


    by Ribbons

    ...turns out* as good, I meant to say.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 1:59 p.m. CST

    well if Joss Whedon called him a genius it MUST be true!

    by white owl

    give this Sorkin fellow a genius-award; a Nobel and a Pulitzer! Master God Whedon has spoken! All bow to the Master God! Right, Herc?

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 2:04 p.m. CST

    white owl

    by Ribbons

    Glad you got to bitch about Whedon and his "cult-like" fanbase some more, but maybe you should look at the post Herc was referring to, you dumbass. The guy who said Sorkin cannot top Whedon in terms of writing. So Herc's respons was "You like Whedon? Well he thinks pretty highly of this Sorkin guy."

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 2:05 p.m. CST

    oh please, aaron sorkin is awesome

    by mistersparkles

    come on peeps... let's calm down here... writers are told to write what they know... Now, besides the fact that I'm sure Joss Whedon has never been turned back into a vampire for having sex with someone, it is a LOT EASIER TO WRITE BLATANT GENRE FICTION. Aaron Sorkin is a master of his craft, and must at least be lauded for the unique way that he makes highly witty, highly intelligent, and highly improbable dialogue sound completely natural coming from actors' mouths. In any case, I can't freakin wait for this show

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 2:16 p.m. CST

    But will the sketches suck or will they be on par with 'Stac

    by Big Bad Clone

    Or Sanz's commercial for his Mustache Ride family business?

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 3:47 p.m. CST

    James Urbaniak is also the voice of Dr. Venture on "The Venture

    by The Garbage Man

    Which earns him a free pass in my book.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 3:52 p.m. CST

    "Artie Lange is actually Italian."

    by 3 Bag Enema

    He was talking about Horatio Sanz. And now, Artie Lange fans hate Herc. Dirty Work is the finest comedy ever made!!!

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 4:12 p.m. CST

    Studio 7

    by vinceklortho

    I read the pilot as well. All of Hollywood is "buzzing" about it. I think that's hilarious. however, it is pretty good. Let's see how the execution have the whole West Wing crew working on it. Get a good cast!

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 4:40 p.m. CST

    is it just me, or did the screw up the timeline on the west wing

    by Chicken2nite

    This has been bugging me for a while really. The beginning of season 1 was the rounding out of the first year of Bartlet America, so the election was in 98. mid terms in 2000, season 2. season four was the re-election in 2002, so here we are 3 years later in 2005 looking for the next guy? do I just suck at math, or is NBC just creative at it? Any response would be welcome, meanwhile I'm late for work

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 5:17 p.m. CST

    Oh and for the on topic post....

    by Chicken2nite

    My favorite bit from that whole norm debacle was when a year later they had him back on to host the show, and for the opening monologue he goes on about how he was fired for "not being funny." then they bring him back and really, is a year a long enough time to go from not being funny enough to being aloud in the building to being so funny to now hosting the show. "And then I realised - I haven't gotten funnier, the show has just gotten really bad... So, in recap, I'm still not funny, and this show blows!"

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 5:27 p.m. CST

    I'm a fairly big Joss Whedon fan...

    by DanielKurland

    but this is getting ridiculous. He's getting mentioned in nearly every post, and frankly, it's only embarrassing me. I think this show sounds really good, and hopefully Sorkin will do good things with it. I'd just like to see Peter Krause return to TV.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 6:22 p.m. CST

    this show will probably be alright

    by dubsy

    i mean it hasn't even casted yet, and everyone in the mother is getting a boner over this script....i've read at least four different people, from Herc, to the Sports Guy on, and all of em think the pilot is fucking genius...i'll admit im curious to see what it'll be like, hopefully they can get a good cast, which normally brings good written shows up to great shows (like Lost, 24, etc, well written shows whos cast makes it better) there a copy of this on the internet or what to read? im curious how so many ppl are able to read it

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 7:32 p.m. CST


    by EyeofPolyphemus

    As only a casual West Wing fan, i can't tell what time period the creators sped up or skipped over, but it appears to be late September or early October 2006 on the series. My best guess is they skipped from Spring 2005 to spring 2006 last year in order to feature the presidential primaries.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 7:41 p.m. CST

    actually, joss whedons next movie

    by dr.bulber

    is about a young woman who finds herself alone in a strange world and who has a duty to protect it whether she wants to or not and she has to learn what that means all by herself.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 8:39 p.m. CST

    Herc knows you meant Horatio Sanz

    by Village Idiot

    He was making a retort, and being deadpan about it.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 8:55 p.m. CST

    "Everyone in their mother"? Could you mean "Everyone and their m

    by Lenny Nero

    Sorry, that made me laugh. Very very hard.

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 9:21 p.m. CST

    by drstinkfinger

    suck it

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 10:24 p.m. CST

    Thanks For The Scoop, Herc!

    by buster00

    I'll watch it. I'll probably like it. Fuckin' LOVED "SportsNight," longtime "SNL" fan (when it's good, anyway). And yeah, it DOES sound like HBO's _The Late Shift_, but I liked that too. Guess that about makes two cents...

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:07 p.m. CST

    Sports Night

    by BrunoTheDog

    was crap. Sorry, but I couldn't stand it. Watching it go through it's transition from mediocre comedy/drama to sitcom was painful and made it evident that Sorkin couldn't create the proper balance to keep the show entertaining as it was originall envisioned. Why should I believe that he can do it now?

  • Nov. 19, 2005, 11:09 p.m. CST

    The Vincent Price skit was pretty funny

    by Jake Timmons08

    I really like the guy who did the Vincent Price impersonation. He's the same guy who did Al Pacino a few weeks ago I think. He's a funny bastard

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 12:44 a.m. CST

    shut up ribbons i dont read the talkbacks here

    by white owl

    i just post to flame

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 1:11 a.m. CST


    by Ribbons

    Well you obviously read at least one of them...

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 1:22 a.m. CST

    i read the black posts

    by white owl

    because black stands out to me as i scroll. that's wy i only date black chicks.

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 6:11 a.m. CST

    The two writers are different

    by ChorleyFM

    No one can come close to Sorkin's dialogue, but Whedon writes with more subtelty. Whedon is a smarter storyteller, better with structure with an ability layer his shows perfectly, while Sorkin is a more heart on his sleeve kind of writer. I think both are great but I enjoy them in different ways. To the guy who said he preferred Buffy because you knew with a Whedon writing credit you were getting a great episode, I am sorry but that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Yes if you saw a Whedon writing credit you knew you were going to be watching some very good TV, but other episodes where mediocre while more than 95% of Sorkins's 6 seasons of network tv had his writing credit and you knew at worst the show would be very enjoyable. I am really looking forward to this and I might read one of those SNL backstage books to get caught up in it all (being a Brit I have very little knowledge of SNL).

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 6:36 a.m. CST


    by Ribbons

    Go ahead, but I don't think the stuff going on in this show is much like the behind-the-scenes stuff on the actual SNL. Then again, I don't know much about what happened their either, so maybe you should order an extra copy for me.

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 10:21 a.m. CST

    "Cut to commercial!" says the execs? fucking cliche, bro. as i

    by HypeEndsHere

    oh, wait. it's probably 'ironically self-aware' since Sorkin throws in some Network references to cover his ass.

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 12:43 p.m. CST

    The Michaeals character is kind of a Christ figure in this

    by Hercules

    He sacrifices himself and, in doing so, ends up rescuing the show from mediocrity.

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 2:16 p.m. CST

    Best Writers on TV

    by DanielKurland

    Comedy: Larry David, Mitch Hurwitz, Trey Parker, Paul Simms (and of course you get writers from their respective shows, ie. Jim Vallely, Abraham Higginbotham, Larry Charles, etc.) Drama: Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Alan Ball, David Chase, want to say David Lynch or Harley Peyton and Robert Engels from Twin Peaks, but unsure (and of course the same applies as in the above) What do you guys think? Who would you add? Who has really made their mark?

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 4:35 p.m. CST

    Lynch and David

    by DanielKurland

    I would also argue that Lynch should not be on there, because he typically didn't "writer" episodes, he'd throw out scripts, and just film how he felt and wanted. The series finale of the show is a perfect example of this (not that that's a bad thing)...Larry David being trash? How can you watch something like "The Contest" in Seinfeld and not appreciate the writing. Not only did David perfectly encapsulate humanity and the monotony of everyday life, he pushed the limits you could take TV, and he was damn hilarious.

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 5:22 p.m. CST

    Bruno, methinks SPORTS NIGHT went from sitcom TO a dramedy.

    by Lenny Nero

    Remember losing the laugh track?

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 5:47 p.m. CST

    Larry David is great.

    by Citizen Arcane

    The real talent in Seinfeld. The only thing is that I think he's probably just like George and the way he plays himself in curb, so I don't know how creative his writing is. But it's funny nonetheless.

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 6:56 p.m. CST

    You Know Who Digs Mushrooms?

    by buster00


  • Nov. 20, 2005, 7:15 p.m. CST

    you had me until "Counting Crows"

    by durhay

    I mean, c'mon!

  • Nov. 20, 2005, 10:31 p.m. CST

    I can no longer tell if the Whedon posters are serious

    by Gheorghe Zamfir

    or people making fun of obsessive Whedon posters. The line has been too blurred, I can't tell anymore.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:08 a.m. CST

    Why did Sorkin have to leave WW again?

    by scrumdiddly

    Was it because of Richie's similarity to Bush, and all the real-life political references? I can't think of another reason...

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:10 a.m. CST

    Sorkin didn't write all the WW scripts single handedly.

    by minderbinder

    He wrote all the dialogue, but there were other writers on board writing story lines. And I'd say there were "special" epsiodes, but obviously they never got as wacky as you can get away with on a vampire show.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 8:13 a.m. CST

    Sorkin left because he was consistently turning in scripts late.

    by minderbinder

    Which was causing budget overruns due to overtime. The network insisted he started working on-time and on-budget, so he walked. Also, the story about Bartlett originally being intended as a minor character only showing up every three or four episodes is true, I think they talk about it on the commentary track for the pilot.

  • Nov. 21, 2005, 5:01 p.m. CST

    Two things:

    by nushustu

    First, why does it have to be an either/or with you people? Couldn't you like Sorkin AND Whedon? Because I do. I liked Sportsnight, and I liked Firefly. And neither of them are on anymore. And that doesn't mean that either is a bad writer. It's not Student Council President. It's okay to like both. And also, put Shawn Ryan on the great tv writers list. The Shield owns both the above shows.

  • Nov. 22, 2005, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Shawn Ryan, nice addition

    by DanielKurland

    Also somewhat ironic that he in fact wrote for "Angel".