Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I don't read the comments by readers for all the shows reviewed at various online forums; only those for shows I'm particularly interested in, like 'Lost'. And then only at TVSquad, Tim Goodman's Bastard Machine, Alan Sepinwall's blog, and TVGasm.

So this O'Bservation may have come up already in some other forum, but I haven't seen it......

One of the shows for which I read the comments is 'Studio 60'. So far I'm right down the middle on this show - two episodes I liked (the pilot and this week's, "The West Coast Delay") and the other two I hated with a passion.

This week, aside from the delight I find in the trashing of Sorkin's vision of the Funny, I was looking for comments regarding the plot line about plagiarism.

Mention was made in the past few weeks about Sorkin reusing plot ideas and even lines of dialogue from his other shows, 'The West Wing' and 'SportsNight'. But the basics for the plagiarism story can be found in a classic show of the sixties, the "Camelot" of sitcoms.

Consider the specifics:

Head writer Matt Albie accepts a comedy bit from the writers' room which goes on the air.

Later they find out that the joke was plagiarized from a standup comic.

And then it turns out that the comic stole the joke as well.

Ultimately they discover that they owned the rights to the joke after all.

Now here's the description for "When A Bowling Pin Talks, Listen", an episode of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show':

"Hoping to help his dad through a temporary bout of writer's block, Richie inadvertently inspires Rob to plagiarize a sketch idea from a TV kid's show."
May 8th, 1963

[The description is from "The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book" by Vince Waldron.]

And here's from

Rob needs an idea for the show for the week; Richie helps his dad by giving him an idea for talking bowling pin. (Rob has no idea that the bowling pin idea has been used for three years on The Uncle Spunky Show!) Now Alan will be sued by The Uncle Spunky Show.

Rob tells Alan to cut the joke, Alan wants to buy the joke and appear on "The Uncle Spunky Show" free and get a pie in the face!

There was also this note:

Carl Reiner - reprising the character of Alan Brady in the 1995 'Mad About You' episode "The Alan Brady Show" - references 'The Bowling Pin Sketch' from this episode.

The specifics are obviously different. Rob Petrie got the comedy bit from his son. Alan Brady later revealed that he did the monologue back in his Catskills days, and that "Uncle Spunky" stole it from him.

I always hear this line about there being only seven basic plots, and Sorkin did dress it up with a LOT of detail. (More than needed, actually - breaking in to the West Coast feed three times was one time too many. By then it was just confusing.)

Did all the basics have to be the same? Couldn't they have found a different way to end it; perhaps find out that each succeeding comic they tracked down had stolen the joke from somebody else, until its origin was lost in the prehistory of standup?

As a TV series about what goes on backstage in making a TV series, 'Studio 60' probably doesn't have many original plotlines available to them. So we'll probably see Danny forget the 44 tickets he was supposed to reserve for the PTA, and the starlet guest star who falls for Matt Albie, and the toy spaceship hovering around the studio which has the recorded message "Uhny Uftz". Sure, just the stuff that always happens backstage at comedy variety shows.

I'll bet there will be a few weeks this season when 'Studio 60' and '30 Rock' have the exact same plotline.

But that's..... okay. So long as Matthew Perry doesn't trip over an ottoman, it should be okay.

Of course, since Matt Albie has back problems, Sorkin may yet resort to the pratfall for some dramatic - and original! - subplot.

Just before he strikes Jordan McDeere down with MS........


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the DVD Show, I think somebody should check Sorkin to see if he still has his thumbs. Because I think he's been turned into one of those four-eyed, walnut-wielding Twiloites who drink air and have no sense of humor!

As for 'Studio 60', as long as it's about the interaction between the characters - and so long as they're not praising Harriet for being this so-called comedy genius - than I think it's a great show.

But once he tries to show actual comedy, the show dies. It's lecture time, not laughin time.

And why does it always have to have some deeper meaning; tied to some big theme? DVD Show never did that. I'm sure Reiner and Persky and Denoff could have written the show as a drama and still showed the sketch-work as actually being funny.

Good call on the earlier use of the plotline!