Riding on The City of New Orleans: Losing Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Curator's Note

My first response was panic as I approached the pile of unmarked VHS tapes. Where was the videotape of “The Christmas Show” (air date: December 4, 2006) from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? I knew I put it in a safe place because I wanted to write about the New Orleans musicians, fictionalized as “The City of New Orleans,” playing “O Holy Night” as part of the show-within-the-show. Given that Studio 60 was pulled from NBC’s schedule on February 17, 2007, I was relieved to see that the network’s website included downloadable “highlights” from popular episodes. Indeed, entire episodes can be downloaded from iTunes, including “The Christmas Show,” and YouTube also includes this sequence. What initially struck me about the sequence was the way that the jazz musicians’ (Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Kirk Joseph, Mervin “Kid Merv” Campbell, Roderick Paulin, Stephen Walker, and Frederick Shepherd, organized through Tipitina’s Foundation in New Orleans and the producers of Studio 60) performance of “O Holy Night” served as an affective foregrounding and backgrounding of post-Katrina New Orleans. I am curious about the narrative constraints placed upon the story of Hurricane Katrina, displaced New Orleanians, and the continuing struggles of daily life in my current home. What are the ways that New Orleans continues to circulate through television and through other media such as iTunes or YouTube? In some senses, the fact that this sequence in particular moves through various media channels tells a story about the ways that television programs are “lost,” but also about how, through other sites, we find them again, thriving in unlikely places. One could say the same thing about New Orleans, its music, its culture, and its people.

Note: This post was originally published April 19, 2007, and is reprised here for Katrina/NOLA-themed week. — Editors

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