There's so much to trash about last night's episode, from the usual soul-sucking nature of the Matt/Harriet scenes to the ongoing grossness of Jordan/Danny to the sledgehammer references to 1999 to the even more sledgehammer-y attempt at pulling a "Bruce Willis has been dead since the first scene!" twist that I really hope you all saw coming from 12 miles away.
But either I'm in a charitable mood or I'm getting bored with the weekly negativity, so let's turn the focus for this post on the bright, shining aspect of this show: Matthew Perry.
In my review of last week's "Scrubs," I noted that John C. McGinley probably didn't have to dig too deep to find motivation for a scene about fearing for his unborn baby's health. Similarly, it's not exactly a stretch for Matthew Perry to imagine himself as a pill-popper, anymore than John Spencer knew how to play a drunk or how Sorkin or David Milch know how to write about addictive behavior. But these men in general and Perry in particular bring more than personal knowledge to the table.
Even in the midst of the telegraphed silliness about Matt Albie's imaginary anagramically-named friend Tim Batale (props to the fine people at TWoP for pointing this out, I wouldn't have spelled Batale that way, and am generally not great at word puzzles), I found myself really interested in what Perry was going to do next, how he would deliver a line, or look at a co-star. He's not infallible -- even he can't make me give a toss about the Matt/Harriet relationship or not think that Matt acts like an ass at every turn of that storyline -- but overall it's a revelatory dramatic performance, and one that makes me want to see what he does after this show gets canceled.
A few other thoughts:
- So Luke worked at "Studio 60" too, huh? Between him and Matt and Danny, why does it seem like all the writing alums have, instead of producing broad sitcoms or movies, have all gone the art film route?
- Where were Ricky and/or Ron? During the set visit last month, Sorkin lamented having a tighter budget for the rest of the season, but I can't imagine that either of Evan Handler and Carlos Jacott cost significantly more than Stephen Tobolowsky. Then again, Tobolowsky was there more as a substitute Wes (Ricky and Ron would've been low on the totem pole, assuming they were even with the show at the time), and I'm guessing the "Numb3rs" people are balking at making Judd Hirsch too available.
- Tom and Dylan going in circles on their metric system sketch felt very recycled Sorkin -- the sort of scene that Casey and Danny or Sam and Toby would have been in -- but not in a bad way. I laughed a few times, particularly when McKinney ripped them for their bad Canadian accents.
- Okay, so it's 1999, and Harriet is still working on her Juliette Lewis impression? It would have been dated even back then. And her Julia Roberts sounded exactly like Sarah Paulson's regular speaking voice.
- If I hadn't been watching the episode at the office on NBC.com, where the media player throws a hissy fit anytime you try to fast forward, I would have skipped past every Danny and Jordan scene, and especially any Jordan and Hallie scene. There is no way that, in 2007, any network would try a show like "The Reckoning" -- not because it's in poor taste, but because the mass audience for that sort of thing doesn't exist anymore, and hasn't for five or six years, if ever.
- As I joked last week, Perry in the baseball cap didn't look seven years younger, but at least Schlamme or Sorkin had the good sense not to even attempt to make Brad Whitford look younger, instead hiding his face in his flashback cameo.
- And speaking of Schlamme, and/or the editor, nice work on the cut from flashback Matt bouncing the ball to present day Matt catching it on the rebound.
What did everybody else think?