This creative gem from Aaron Sorkin has something in common with another, albeit completely different creative gem from another award winning writer, David Milch's "John From Cincinnati". Both were scripted by writers with prior successes of major proportions: Sorkin with "The West Wing", et al, and Milch with "Deadwood" "NYPD Blue", "Hill Street Blues", etc. Tragically, both shows were canceled after just one season because their respective networks failed to support either show long enough for it to develop a solid audience. Both shows had stellar casting, excellent writing from week to week and solid direction. Commerce over art. What a loss.
I watched "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" back when it was originally broadcast on network TV and thought it was everything one would want in a weekly series. I was sorry to see it go. I was recently drawn to watch it again after reading "Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by its Stars, Writers, & Guests". I was captivated here by Sorkin's writing from the POV of an inside look at a weekly late night comedy sketch show, as well as the directing, sets, acting, dialog, pacing, & camera work - love the signature extended "walk and talks" throughout the series. In addition, the casting of this show was sublime. The chemistry between Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford is genuine and it's so much fun to watch them together. You really believe there's a bond between these two guys that goes way beyond a working show business partnership. After "Friends", Matthew Perry was never better than he is here. Add in Steven Weber, Amanda Peet, Sarah Paulson (excellent on a couple of episodes of "Deadwood" by the way), Timothy Busfield ("Thirtysomething"), D.L. Hughley, Simon Helberg ("The Big Bang Theory"), John Goodman ("I don't roll on Shabbos!")...what more could you want? Weber, in particular, is a standout as a network executive. His performance is electric.
The subject matter here is unique - not another overly simplistic police procedural or medical drama. After reading "Live From New York: An Uncensored History...", I found Sorkin's writing about the inner workings of a late night sketch show to be spot on. Something I didn't truly appreciate the first time around and in a completely different league than "30 Rock". Tina Fey is great, but she's no Aaron Sorkin.
I agree with the other reviewers here. This show is a lost gem. Some of the references are a bit dated, but ignore those and watch this series. If you like smart writing, great dialog, and enjoy watching a superb ensemble of actors doing what they do at their very best, you will not be disappointed. Although, if you're like me, you'll be left wishing there was more than just this one season.