Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: The Harriet Dinner (Part One)
They got stuck on a freaking roof!?
Just let that sink in a second. Aaron Sorkin, boy genius, reviler of all things "lowest common denominator", actually had his two love interests... get... stuck... on... a roof.
Excuse me while I go find something to jam in my eye. Repeatedly.
Maybe I'm harping on the whole getting stuck on a roof bit a little too much, but here's the thing: you can't set yourself up as a paragon of good, cliché-free TV and then fall back on a plot device that's so old it makes Family Guy's "My Black Son" parody seem fresh by comparison. And calling attention to it (as Danny does) doesn't make it any better. It just means that Sorkin knew he was being clichéd and thought that he could undo any potential damage by being post-modern and ironic.
Believe me, I used to be a high school teacher, it sucks when kids try to be ironic and post-modern in their poetry and it sucks when supposed TV geniuses try to do it on their television shows.
(The only time it doesn't suck is when television bloggers do it. Like I'm doing now. Okay, maybe it sucks then too...)
The sad thing about Danny and Jordan being stuck on the roof together is that I think that the time they spent up there was the best between them since the show returned from Christmas break. I thought it was great that Danny admitted his creepiness and that Jordan was only rebuffing him because she thought his love was more pity about her situation than actual emotion. I wanted to see more of that particular conversation. I was just disappointed about how Sorkin got us to there.
(What were the rejected ideas for this scene? Danny tries a magic trick and handcuffs himself to Jordan except that he forgets how the trick works and the two of them are stuck together all night? They get stuck in an elevator? She gets kidnapped by a giant ape and he has to rescue her?)
(And -- sorry another sidenote here -- are you kidding me that the cellphones don't work on the roof? They work inside the building, don't they? What kind of service do they have that it actually gets worse OUTSIDE!? Just... horrible.)
Okay, that's out of my system. Let's get to the other cliched and stupid plot line: Tom and Lucy.
Why didn't he just tell her that he had to go on the date because his boss told him to? Why? Why couldn't he just say to Lucy, "Listen, I really like you and I'd love to go out with you Thursday, but stupid Mr. Rudolph wants me to go entertain some fan for the night because it means a lot to the business. I'll totally be thinking about you the whole time and I'm so, so sorry. Here is some chocolate and also flowers because I know people with estrogen like those sorts of things."
Ladies... wouldn't that have worked? I'm being serious here, because I can't see how any woman in the real world could possibly get upset at that. Or, more to the point, even if she did get slightly angry, how the level of her anger would necessitate Tom Jeter coming up with a ridiculous lie to cover it up.
It just feels like the obstacles here are artificial. Aaron Sorkin is a better writer than this. I can't believe that at the new year, I was complementing him for not making us jump through the normal sitcom sexual-tension hoops. Maybe Mr. Sorkin needs a refresher course on how to make sexual tension be excruciating without ever seeming forced.
The scene where Lucy catches Tom in his lie (along with the ready-to-bust-out-of-her-dress-and-yes-I-feel-like-a-dirty-old-man-for-noticing Kim) felt like a moment we've seen approximately nine million times before. If I wasn't so busy shouting at the screen about how stupid Jordan and Danny getting stuck on the roof was, I would have had time to yell at the TV about how stupid that scene was. What's next for Tom? He accidentally makes two dates for the prom and has to try to juggle both of them?
All that being said, has Lucy Davis ever been as completely radiant and beautiful as she was in the scene where she kissed Tom? I mean, she was super-cute on The Office and all, but maybe American cosmetics are better or something because she was definitely teeth-gnashing, coyote-howling hot tonight (and yes, I realize I'm being creepy).
Speaking of creepy, I think they finally found a way to make Harriet appealing: put her in a cheerleader uniform. I might be hurting any chance of ever running for political office for saying this, but I'm 100% in favor of all women having at least one of each of the following outfits in their closet: cheerleader outfit, catholic school girl uniform, and Princess Leia slave-girl bikini. (If you haven't guessed, my wife secretly hates me.)
By the way, Masi Oka showed why he's been such a hit on Heroes (and just signed a mega-deal in Hollywood) -- he's a bundle of charisma. In just a few brief seconds filming the promo with Harriet, he was incredibly engaging. I'm actually disappointed that I won't be getting to see an actual sketch show hosted by him this Friday. Maybe someone should wake Lorne Michaels up from his slumber and get this guy on SNL stat.
I could rail at length about Harriet and Matt's on-again-off-again-oh-who-cares relationship, but I think I've harped on cliché enough this post. I still think a charity auction is silly. I think it's sillier still that a professional skateboarder (or was it snowboarder? I missed it) was the other bidder. I think there's no 15 year old on the planet with a crush on Harriet. This subplot was the least of my problems, though, so one paragraph is all it gets.
One quick question: it was a good Star Wars shout-out with the kid, but I didn't understand the 5858 reference. I'm something of a Star Wars nerd (if by "something" you mean "completely and unabashedly") and I've never heard any special meaning with 5858. I tried a google search, but I've come up with nothing. A little help from the commentators please...
The only subplot of the week that I found unreservedly entertaining was also a nod to sitcoms past, but it worked for me: Cal losing a snake and spending two days trying to find it. I guess I should be just as angry about this as I am about our love stories, but I'm just a sucker for a coyote/ferret/viper story. And, really, anything with Timothy Busfield at this point is very welcomed by this reviewer. In fact, there's a part of me that wishes that I lived in an alternate universe where Aaron Sorkin decided to make not Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but, rather, The Matt and Danny and Cal Show (with special guest star Lucy Davis). Basically, every episode is two hours and has Matt and Danny and Cal doing walk and talks in different locations and every fifteen minutes or so, Lucy Davis comes out in a different outfit -- cheerleader/schoolgirl/Princess Leia.
I'm not sure what was in the note that Darius received from Simon, but I'm not sure I care very much either. I think there was a time in which I trusted Sorkin to make whatever was in the note interesting and special, but after the last two episodes I'm not so sure any more. I guess we'll see...
I just reread this review and I know I'm coming down awful hard on this episode. I think I'm disappointed because I've spent most of September through December defending this show to anyone who would listen and the first two episodes of the new year have made me feel a lot like Hilary Clinton must feel like for having supported the war. Unfortunately, I can't flip-flop my decision on Meet the Press so all I can do is write a bad review and hope that the next episode is better. And believe me, kiddos, I want the show to be better. I've loved this show from day one and with this cast and this writer, I know that the chills I felt in the first episode are right around the corner.
One final thing -- and I know this review is thirty thousand words already, but I just need to say this -- a special shout-out to my friends at SUNY Oneonta. I was doing a gig there tonight and had to get off stage at ten to watch Studio 60 for this review. Not only did the school turn it on in the student center, a whole bunch of the kids sat and watched it with me. It was a lot of fun and a nice change of pace from how I usually watch a TV show. It reminded me of my college days, with the exception that there were people around me and I wasn't crying. The kids, incidentally, weren't too happy with the episode either.