|Season 1, Episode 1|
|Air date||18 September 2006|
|Written by||Aaron Sorkin|
|Directed by||Thomas Schlamme|
The Cold Open
The executive producer of a late night sketch comedy show sparks a media frenzy when he has an on-air meltdown during a live broadcast. The newly appointed network president, Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet), has to scramble to make things right by hiring back two former prized employees to become the new executive producers of her network's flagship program. In doing so, she appoints two former members of the team: writer Matt Albie (Matthew Perry) and former sketch producer, now director Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford), who had left the show years before on terms that were not amicable. Meanwhile Albie and ex-girlfriend Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson) come to terms with having to work on the show together very soon after their breakup.
The episode scored a Nielsen rating of 8.6/14 during its première on NBC, but suffered from a significant drop in viewers from the first-half hour to the second. Aired directly after Deal or No Deal, the show retained 81% of its audience with an average 13.4 millions viewers tuned in at 10pm. The show lost around 2.5 million of these viewers as the show progressed, with rival broadcasts CSI: Miami and Supernanny both picking up viewers over the hour.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strips première was well received by the majority of critics. Tad Friend of The New Yorker granted it a four-page review, in which he praised the dialogue, saying that "[the characters] get into pickles because they mouth off—and it’s great television because television prizes banter above all forms of conversation." Brian Lowry of Variety compliments the way the series "weds Aaron Sorkin's crackling dialogue and willingness to tackle big ideas", and praises the rapport between Perry and Whitford. The Washington Posts Tom Shales was less impressed with the episode, remaining uninterested in the "complications and relationships", and accusing Sorkin of pretentiousness.
This episode won the 2007 Banff World Television Festival award for best continuing series, despite the fact that at the time of its win the series had already been cancelled by NBC. Thomas Del Ruth was nominated for an American Society of Cinematographers award for 'Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Movies of the Week/Pilots' for his work on this episode, and creator Aaron Sorkin was nominated for a Writers Guild of America award for best episodic drama.