'Studio 60' And 'Illiterate' Programming

Networks will now need to hire "vice presidents of illiterate programming" to make their staffs complete -- that, or better comedy writers.

That's what Jordan McDeere, president of entertainment for NBS on "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," called her recent hire -- a woman who is actually  vice president of alternative programming.

Alternative programming executives, as most of us know, are in charge of -- among other things -- reality shows.  No doubt that illiterate swipe comes from how "Studio 60" creator Aaron Sorkin probably feels about reality shows these days. At the last Television Critics Association meeting in the summer he expressed some angst against networks' ill-advised direction -- especially in the mean-spirited reality show genre.

On this week's episode, NBS, the network that runs "Studio 60," doesn't have much to run in the May sweeps. But Jordan gets pitched a reality show idea from an aggressive and cheeky alternative-programming executive -- one where bad people confront their victims and say they're sorry.



Looks like illiterate programming wins out, anyway -- which seems to be a cute wink and a nod from Sorkin, the master of TV language and prose.

Sorkin also seems to be angry at some daily city newspapers. For example, The Los Angeles Times has written a few stories questioning whether "Studio 60" really has a funny bone. Some on-the-record writers, and others on background, said they don't think the show-within-a-show on "Studio 60" is funny. They said that as a late-night sketch comedy show, it should be funny, since it's modeled on "Saturday Night Live."

Yes, at times, the comedy sketches on "Studio 60" don't seem to offer up any real guffaws.  But the truth is, "SNL" isn't all that funny either, sometimes.

Perhaps feeling they'd been too harsh and one-sided, the editors at Los Angeles Times came back with another story touting writers who like the show. One TV writer, Dan Hindmarch, who has written for "The Unit," wrote in an email to the Times that "It should be understood: 'Studio 60' does not represent television reality any more than 'The West Wing' represented political (reality)."

Reality and non-reality. It's still hard to turn away from Sorkin's stuff. Don't expect him to be banished from the NBC island just yet.

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