Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC, Mondays)
The first problem is, How do you make the audience care about the making of a sketch-comedy TV show? Sorkin solves this by (a) using the difference between edgy, funny sketch comedy and lame sketch comedy to represent the squandered potential and possibility for redemption of television itself; (b) putting the very appealing Amanda Peet's career at stake; (c) amping up the race-against-time aspect with a giant clock. Sorkin: 1, difficulties: 0.

The second problem is, How do you follow The West Wing? Sorkin (and Schlamme) respond by replicating the feel of TWW in a consistently more grown-up vein: longer and more beautifully composed tracking shots, faster and more continuous and less cutesy dialogue, no benevolent-daddy-sorts-out-right-from-wrong at the end of each episode. Also, at the thematic core they replace race (embodied in TWW in the strangely moving father-son/master-slave relationship between Bartlett and Charlie) with religion, the hipper, sexier reason that Americans can't talk to each other. Sorkin: 2; difficulties: 0.

The third problem is, If you make a show that posits a genuinely funny version of SNL, do you also have to be able to make a genuinely funny version of SNL as an existence proof? The first episode of Studio 60 suggested that Sorkin's answer to this question was no -- that we'd see the backstage machinations but take the quality of the finished product on trust. The difficulty here is that you can only be told that a person is brilliant at their job so many times before you want to see some evidence of it. The second episode took the other tack, showing us the big opening sketch that was supposed to set the tone for the rebirth of the show-within-the-show, exemplify the possibilities of sophisticated and daring and genuinely funny sketch comedy, and demonstrate the Matthew Perry character's genius. Perhaps Sorkin is incapable of writing sketch comedy, and, because he's good at writing dramatic comedy, doesn't know it. But this is really the best he can come up with: a Gilbert and Sullivan parody? Sorkin: 2; difficulties: 1,000,000.