Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: K & R, Part III
"I'm sorry Harriet, I'm having trouble paying attention to you because the woman I love is so sick."
"Well then, I know what'll cheer you up! Watch as I make this rare Siberian white tiger disappear!"
It was our good luck, though, that other than the small, usual failing of Studio 60 (ahemHarrietahem), we were treated to one its best episodes yet.
A lot of you have been saying that it's a shame that the show has been putting its best foot forward during its last gasp. Up until tonight, I really haven't been able to agree with you -- I've found the recent melodrama way too over the top and much different from what the first few episodes promised we'd be getting with this show. As Don Ameche once said, however, Things Change.
Here's what I don't understand about myself: I thought the first part of this four episode mini-arc was probably the worst episode of the entire season. I thought it was overwrought and ridiculous in a way that reduced the show to a soap opera with slightly cleverer dialog and infinitely more walk-and-talks.
We're now in the third part of this arc and even though the characters are in the exact same over-dramatic situations they were in during the first episode, I found tonight's installment to be among the best of the season. I don't understand this at all. It's completely illogical; so illogical, in fact, that I now have to retire my "women are unreasonable" line whenever my wife decides to yell at me because I was "mean to her in her dream." I must now admit to being just as illogical and unreasonable as she is.
If I had to venture a theory, it would be this: what tonight's show had that the first part of the arc didn't was a very real sense of family. Maybe it takes a full-season for a cast to come together enough to pretend that they care about each other, but tonight I bought it whereas two weeks ago I didn't. Whether it was Jack Rudolph trying to convince Simon to apologize or Matt and Jack dismissing the costs of saving Tom's brother, or watching Danny try to cope with Jordan's turn for the worse, you got the sense that these were smart people who cared about each other and were trying to deal with the crisis at hand as best they could.
I thought a lot of potential was realized with tonight's episode. Tonight the show moved away from the central premise of people trying to make a TV show and just became a group of characters that we care about dealing with a problem. For the first time, I wasn't thinking "When are they going to drop all this ham-handed religious hooey and get to some good behind-the-scenes stuff" and I was just concerned about the characters and their individual problems. Seriously, Sorkin's got me now. He can make next week's finale be Matt and Danny trying to pick up their dry cleaning but... bum-bah-bum... one of their shirts is missing a button. I'm there.
I finally get where you guys are coming from... the show is teasing us by being so good just as its dying. Being a fan of the show this week is like having a crush on a girl all summer and only getting to kiss her a week before you have to go back home. At least, I imagine that's what it's like as the only thing I got to kiss during my summers growing up was my Spiderman comics and even then I usually found them the next morning rocking back and forth in the shower repeating "can't get clean" over and over again.
Anyway, here's what was good tonight:
-- The flashbacks! I apologize folks! I thought they served no purpose at all when they were inserted two weeks ago. Tonight they were a fine counterpoint to what Jack is going through with Simon. Does it help that I realize that I'm an idiot? Probably not.
-- Danny dealing with Jordan. Maybe it's the fact that my wife is about ready to pop out our first child (the doctors, as helpful in real life as they are in the show, have said that my wife could give birth "in the next few hours" or the "next few weeks" and that we'll just have to "wait and see"), but watching Danny look at his daughter knowing, as a viewer, that if Jordan dies he could lose custody of her... well, I'm all man, so I didn't cry, but I swear someone must have been pepper-sprayed in my neighborhood because I was tearing up just a little.
-- The size of the pen Jack wrote Simon's apology with. Did anyone else notice how big it was? It was like NBS gets its writing utensils from Brobdingnag.
-- Danny's speech about God. More on this in a second, but it saved what could have been a terrible, terrible scene.
-- The dialog and the interplay. I realize that pointing out good dialog in a Sorkin work is like saying DaVinci was "pretty good with inscrutable smiles", but I thought tonight's was particularly good. "Why are you carrying your shoes?" "I guess because I was going to put them on."
-- Simon's reasoning for turning on the press. I thought his actual turn on the press last week was the worst part of an otherwise good episode and while I still think it's a bit much that a popular television star would be that unable to control his reactions in front of the cameras, I thought he justified his breakdown pretty well tonight.
-- I'm not sure if this was a national commercial or not, but did anyone else see that Lincoln is advertising their new, even bigger Navigator on Studio 60? I'm not anti-SUV by any means, but doesn't it strike you a bit odd that, affluent audience or not, Lincoln would choose what might be the most liberal leaning show on television to push an SUV so big that they might as well call it the "Blood for Oil EXT"? Krusty pushing the Canyenero made more sense than this commercial airing during Studio 60. Don't know if it counts as a "good point" of the episode, but it made me laugh...
-- The Bill Maher reference. I'm a big Bill Maher fan, so it's nice he gets a subtle defense of what he said six years ago that was so organic to the plot. I still think he got a raw deal. It's nice to know that Sorkin agrees.
-- The era-appropriate imac. Any other mac nerds in the readership?
Things I didn't like tonight:
-- No Cal. I know I harp on this whenever I don't get enough Busfield to get me through the night... but, seriously, no Cal. Budget or not, we need to see him for at least 10% of each episode. Do I have a homemade Jay + Cal airbrushed T-shirt? You'll never know.
-- Captain Boyle. I've been waiting and waiting for his "unorthodox grief counseling" to finally, you know, actually counsel some grief, but so far he's only been annoying.
Things I out and out hated:
-- Holly Hunter. Really. Honestly. If I were Danny, I would've punched her. No court in the world would have convicted me.
-- "Let me teach you how to pray." Really. Honestly. If I were Danny, I would've punched her. No court in the world would have convicted me.
-- Look, guys, I know it's getting cliched to talk about how much we hate Harriet, but... wow. Has there ever been a show this derailed by a character? It's like if Klinger from M*A*S*H actually really thought he was a woman. Each time he was on the show, you'd've just gotten kind of uncomfortable and have felt sorry for him. Eventually you'd hate his presence because it takes a great show and ruins it. That's how I feel about Harriet. And I'm not alone... my wife, who happens to be the most tolerant human being on the planet (as witnessed by the fact that she, you know, married me) turned to me right after Harriet so smugly offered to teach Danny how to pray ("You need to kneel", really, thanks for that, you've finally cleared up why they call that crouchy-looking bug a praying mantis! I get it now!) and said, "You know what? I hate her. I just hate her." I could be wrong, but I think my wife speaks for a lot of the viewing public.
I want to end this review with a special shout-out to my bud Rich Keller for taking over the reviewing duties last week. He did a great job!
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