Worth The Wait?

It's been a pleasure to guest edit the Daily Shvitz this week – for me, at least, if not for yourselves (an experience that has only redoubled my determination to find out what a "shvitz" actually is). I'm taking my leave … Read More

By / July 27, 2007

It's been a pleasure to guest edit the Daily Shvitz this week – for me, at least, if not for yourselves (an experience that has only redoubled my determination to find out what a "shvitz" actually is). I'm taking my leave of you now to go out and watch the Simpsons movie, which came out yesterday in Britain and to which I am looking forward rather more than a man of my advancing years really should. Reviews have been mixed, with the exception of Rupert Murdoch's Times, which duly proclaimed it the best thing since the invention of the Twinkie bar. Nonetheless, I go into the movie full of hope and relatively unspoiled, and will be interested to see for myself how well Matt Groening's creation has made the jump to the big screen.

The contrast with my viewing experience last night is worth noting. A full ten and a half months after it aired in the US, the first episode of Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip premiered on British TV. Again, reviews were mixed: this time the Times hated it ("a smug, self-satisfied dud.") while others were more conciliatory. My own instinct, as a huge West Wing fan, was that, while the pilot was so-so, it would be more sensible to wait a few weeks and form my own judgement over time, as you do.

Except, of course, that I don't get to decide whether I want to make Studio 60 a regular part of my weekly viewing. Reading through the puff pieces in the papers, there was almost no hint in any of the officially-sanctioned publicity that the show had been canned by NBC before the end of its first season. This strange PR campaign was taken to its logical conclusion in a surreal column in the daily freesheet Metro on Tuesday, which ran excerpts of an interview with Matthew Perry in which he revealed that he was "not concerned" about whether or not the show was as successful as Friends. (' "There's less pressure on me now," he says in Grazia magazine. "I will not sign up to the kind of thinking that this has to be as successful as my last show." ')

Watching Studio 60 for the first time is a slightly strange experience when you already know that it has failed; disappointment normally comes after the anticipation (as my ex-girlfriend will testify), not before it. It's rather like watching Rita Hayworth sensuously peeling off that glove in Gilda; the beauty of that moment will last for as long as our civilisation, and possibly longer – but then it passes, and you remember that you are watching a ghost, and that Rita died of Alzheimer's more than twenty years ago. 

For British TV addicts and cinemagoers, though, this is not that unusual. Hit US shows take months to reach our screens, and even once they are here, they normally run some distance behind their US air dates. (We're still waiting for the second half of the final season of the Sopranos, and trying to avoid finding out what happens is incredibly difficult.) The same is true of movies. It is common practice for even the biggest movies to open in the US weeks, and sometimes months, ahead of their release dates in Europe, although this trend has been reversing in the age of digital piracy. This means that, for big "event" movies like Star Wars, or shows like Lost, it can be difficult to remain unspoiled while you wait to see it for yourself. In the case of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, for which we Brits must wait until 21st September, I suspect the damage will be limited: but the reveal at the end of The Empire Strikes Back would not survive today's internet age, nor would "Who Shot J.R.?" be a very interesting question if it had been answered weeks before you even saw the cliffhanger that preceded it.

They say that trends begin in America and take a little while to get across the Atlantic to us; in my own little field of political blogging, that is certainly true, but it applies to much more important things too – from the housing market to our choice of foreign wars, it is impossible to ignore the fact that America sets the agenda. The aforementioned Spice Girls are the exception that, thankfully, prove the rule.) So my plea to you is to watch more intelligent shows like Studio 60 (even if they're flawed), and stop showing up to crap like Pearl Harbor; because today it's the Lincoln Square cineplex, but tomorrow, it's the world.

Oh, and don't vote for Hillary Clinton. Please.

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