Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Studio 60: Let's get rid of demented Santa Claus!!!!!

Spoilers for "Studio 60" just as soon as I find out why nobody told me it was Opposite Day...

... because that? That did not suck. There were a couple of the requisite cringe-inducing moments, mostly involving the two leading men and their unconvincing romances, and the FCC subplot set up such a strawman villain that I was longing for the subtle nuances or Bob "Crime, boy I don't know" Ritchie, but overall, I didn't hate it. For this show, that's huge progress.

Let's take the good stuff first. I laughed several times, mostly at Cal's antics (see the subject line) and the Christmas debunking going on in the writers' room. (Though even I know that the virgin birth was Mary, not Jesus, and I'm the idiot responsible for the "figgy pudding"/"won't go until we get some" fiasco from the other night.) While the News 60 jokes were as lame and overly-wordy as ever, I at least admired the premise of the "To Catch a Predator" spoof with Santa. (Would have been funnier if Conan hadn't dipped a toe in these waters back at the Emmys, but c'est la vie.) And shameless as the New Orleans thing was, it was still beautiful. Sometimes you've gotta be shameless to provide good schmaltz.

Now, the bad. Matt and Harriet continue to have zero chemistry together, and him planting a kiss on her during a commercial break to mark his territory was a dick move, as both a guy and as a boss. But he's got nothing on Danny, who, aside from looking old enough to be the unborn baby's grandfather, came across like the kind of guy who should be the victim of a "Dateline NBC" sting operation with his obsessive stalking of Jordan. "I'm coming for you" isn't romantic; it's the sort of thing T-Bag from "Prison Break" would say.

Also, there is No. Way. In Hell. that the FCC would issue a $73 million fine in a situation involving live news and an American soldier in the middle of combat. No way. This is totally different from Janet Jackson or even the silly "Saving Private Ryan" thing, and no political administration of either stripe would allow this to happen. If Aaron wants to go after the FCC for the post-Nipplegate atmosphere, go right ahead, but pick a better target.

But, still, didn't hate it. I don't know that this is going to win anybody an Emmy the way the first three "West Wing" Christmas shows did, but it was by far the least objectionable episode of the series in weeks, if not going all the way back to the pilot.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I'd heard good things about this episode and was tempted to tune in again after vowing to never watch again a few weeks ago. I finally decided against it after realizing I was only willing to give this show so many chances. Fool me once Aaron Sorkin, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it didn't suck this week. I thought the Dateline thing was funny. And the music was good.

But, dear god, Danny DOES look old enough to be Jordan's father. His "snarky" comments make him come off like a cranky, catty "queen." He's creepy.

Tom and Simon grow increasingly tiresome. I loved the rest of the writers going apeshit with internet information about Christmas, but can't stand the way Tom and Simon appear to be attached at the hip and speak in obnoxious cadences.

The FCC thing was tediously played. Jack explained the details -- not once -- but twice (apparently Sorkin thinks we're all idiots). And I can't imagine that the FCC would really TAKE DOWN A MAJOR NETWORK.

Matthew Perry -- god, I really don't like you on this. You're smug and petty.

BF said...

Harriet continues to be the most ignorant Hollywood Superstar ever ("people make deals during lunch? who knew?!?")

That said, "To Catch a Santa" was clever, at least in concept. At the very least, it's the first proof that Sorkin has turned on a TV since 1999.

Kat Coble said...

But, dear god, Danny DOES look old enough to be Jordan's father. His "snarky" comments make him come off like a cranky, catty "queen." He's creepy.

Is it ever so slightly wrong that Danny is starting to remind me ever so slightly of Boston Legal's Lincoln Meyer?

That shuddery quallity aside, I do agree that this was the best of the episodes so far. Even though, as one of my friends noted, it was 'the best episode of Sports Night we've seen in awhile.'

Now if only I could find an MP3 of that brass quintet...

Anonymous said...

I loved it.

I must be the only one not having a problem with the Danny/Jordan romance- I find it very sweet and Whitford's doing a terrific job. I detected a lot of self-loathing in that "I'm coming for you" statement, and Peet's chewlicious reaction was excellent.

I agree that Matt kissing Harriet was a dick move, and Sorkin trying to soften the blow by having that director admit that, yes, he wanted to cast Harriet AND start dating her again was awkward. I think we're supposed to see Matt as kind of a jerk but Sorkin also wants us to root for them to get together, and while I see that yes, they were happy together once, both Paulson and Perry do nothing to convince me that that ship hasn't saile. Both of them need to move on.

I agree with Lizbeth that Tom and Simon are obnoxious when together. I find Rob Corddry's voice to be weirdly irritating. Or maybe I just find Tom irritating, for not having the guts to throw his father off the balcony for that "Standing in the middle of Afghanistan!" crack.

I'm in the minority here too, but I liked the Jack Rudolph plot, because I love Steven Weber as an actor and I love the way he's brought shades to a character who was little more than a mustache twirling villain in the pilot. Implausible? Probably. Sorkinlicious? You bet.

The New Orleans tribute was quite good as well, because, hey, things still suck down there.

Anonymous said...

The "To Catch a Predator" sketch was the first ever "S60" sketch funny enough to have been a real sketch-comedy-show sketch. I loved it, it caught me by surprise, made me laugh. And the comedy wonk in me took a lesson about successful sketches: let the premise do half the work, let the cast do the other half, and write ONLY as many words as needed to facilitate those two things.

Makes me wonder who wrote it. I can't imagine Sorkin ever watched one of those "Predator" specials. (And I didn't even think about the Conan-Emmy bit, but still, doing it with Santa was GREAT.)

The two fake-news jokes, though, were pure Sorkin. ("retinitis pigmentosa, an ocular disease that...") Not only didn't they have the rhythm of jokes, they didn't have the rhythm of news.

Otherwise, I was annoyed by the things you liked, Alan. The Christmas-debunking banter in the writers' room left me cold. The New Orleans tribute was total schmaltz.

We agree that the notion of a network being fined for an F-bomb uttered live on the news is ridiculous.

I still enjoy how Perry and Whitford play ping-pong with the text, but only as a matter of craft, not out of any feeling for them as alleged human beings.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it was good but still annoying. Danny & Jordan I'm OK with (it's not that much more of an age difference than Josh & Donna, is it?)

The debunking Christmas stuff wasn't necessarily bad, but the presentation stunk, firing off 47 different things. If they'd picked one or two and made the point, it would have worked better. What I really didn't like was Tom trying to cozy up to Lucy like a 10th-grader. He's got to have better moves than that.

Same sort of problem with the New Orleans thing - I didn't mind that it was schmaltzy, but the setup felt kind of forced.

On the FCC thing - didn't they fine somebody when a celebrity cursed at an awards show? I agree this is taking it out of touch with reality, but maybe not as much as you'd first think.

Anonymous said...

Not to be too picky about the New Orleans thing -- particularly since it seems to have worked for a lot of viewers. But I wonder whether I would've appreciated it more if, instead of having the musicians standing still in a dignified appeal to sympathy (and in accord with Sorkin's righteously lugubrious instincts), the musicians were allowed to cut loose in the celebratory, up-tempo spirit for which New Orleans music is world famous? Or would that have been a cliche?

Anyway, that trumpet player -- Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews -- blew his ass off during the first scene with the house band. If you want to read a New Orleans Times-Picayune article on Mr. Andrews and how he and other New Orleans musicians were brought together for this episode (at some personal expense to Sorkin and Schlamme), click my name above.

Anonymous said...

Click it now.

Anonymous said...

Crap. I thought this Blogger software was idiot-proof. Apparently not. Sorry about that, y'all.

Anonymous said...

Clearly Mark McKinney wrote the Santa skit, because it was the only thing remotely close to a joke. Aaron Sorkin uses too many words to be funny and his characters come off as obnoxious with their "look how many Christmas myths I can debunk" rants. At least Matt Perry's character was telling them to get over it, but still, if they were going for funny in that scene.. well it didn't hit the mark.

The whole Jordan eating like a pig was tiresome and has been done ad nauseum. Yes she is pregnant, but I seriously doubt she wants to gain 80 pounds that will be impossible to lose in the weight-obsessed world of Hollywood. The love that Danny feels is creepy not because of the age difference, but because it comes out of nowhere. I would have prefered Jack to be the father, at least they have spent time together at work.
I still love Jack, but the FCC storyline was stupid and Weber did his best to sell it, but could only do so much with clunky dialogue.

I never watched West Wing or Sports Night, so I really fail to see the alleged genius of Sorkin. Right now he makes David Kelley in later Ally McBeal years look brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I actually think the show has improved in the last couple of episodes and this was the best yet (although we are still a long way from even mediocre West Wing). If I may pick on something completely random: the Ob/Gyn scene had me cringing (I have two kids, so I'll be the pregnancy police here). No way the doc would do a vaginal ultrasound at 12 weeks (he had the long wand designed to do just that in the scene with Jordan); additionally, it is highly unlikely that they could have determined gender without amnio at this point. Again, minor points, but I just couldn't believe that someone--a person with kids on the cast or crew--didn't suggest the technical problems with this before they actually filmed.

Anonymous said...

Though even I know that the virgin birth was Mary, not Jesus

Well, that's not quite it, either.

Most, if not all, Christian denominations hold that Mary was a Virgin when she conceived and gave birth to Jesus. This is the Virgin Birth.

The Immaculate Conception is a doctrine, held pretty much exclusively by the Catholic Church, that Mary was conceived without sin. This means to solve the problem of: if Jesus was born of a human, how is He not subject to Original Sin? The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, essentially, absolves Mary of Original Sin.

Anonymous said...

I fell half-asleep watching Studio 60 last night. The scenes were thus in my subconscious as I faded in and out. I had a weird dream during this median state of awareness. In it, I was watching a horse trainer put peanut butter on the teeth of his steed. The horse then struggled to lick it off, flapping her lips and jaws, her long face contorted in the task. It was both fascinating and disturbing to observe. Weird dream.

I then watched Studio 60 again on TIVO this morning. When I saw not one, not two, but THREE scenes of Amanda Peet chewing huge, gummy wads of food, I understood my dream’s origin. “Are you feeling sad, Amanda? No? Then why the long face?” I asked the TV screen, expecting her to bray a response back.

As far as realism in the show goes, once again Studio 60 offers a Santa’s sack of presents for the cynical skeptic. Let’s see…

Jordan McHorse – under 35, married a hippie loser who was into sex clubs (and thus probably into drugs as well), acts like a total ditz when sitting in on a meeting, alienates a reporter when ordered to ‘fix it’, gets pregnant in a meaningless one-nighter even though she just started an extremely high profile, hyper image-conscious Hollywood job, insists on eating in front of her boss and her boss’ boss, and her boss’ boss’ grandchildren when no one else has any food. Yeah, I can see why NBS was in such a rush to hire her to turn things around, given her outstanding history.

Danny – I can see why in the span of two days he fell in love with Jordan. There is nothing sexier than peanut butter horse face like bumbling incompetent woman carrying another man’s child that lights up a man’s desire. If she also smelled like vomit, then she is just not playing fair with the male libido.

Harriet– Not only is she the funniest woman on the planet who cannot repeat a simple joke, she cannot even remember her name without cue cards. Her saying “I’m Matt” after the weakest, It’s-in-the-script-so-I-have-to-do-it-right? kiss from that limp-wrist Matthew Perry was about as believable as Neil (Kneel?) Patrick Harris now playing a womanizing lothario. If chemistry were as easy in the real world as it is in Sorkinland (just have someone say it and its TRUE LOVE!!!!), Kim Jong Il would have had 100 nukes by 1965.

Sorkin / New Orleans Tribute – Completely patronizing. Aaron Sorkin says: “Hey, YOU might have forgotten about the Big Easy, but Aaron Sorkin hasn’t. Aaron Sorkin is always about the little people. Aaron Sorkin knows about heart and the human condition, that is why Aaron Sorkin is the best TV writer, nay, best PERSON ever. Aaron Sorkin is royalty.”

“Now leave Aaron Sorkin alone. Aaron Sorkin needs to retire to his $1000 a night hotel room and snort $2500 worth of blow so Aaron Sorkin can fuel another all-night writing session about a Genius Writer who saves the Studio, nay, the WORLD with his writing. Aaron Sorkin needs to show that M. Night Shayamalan who is the king of Hubris, after all. Either that or Aaron Sorkin needs to move psychedelic mushrooms through more airports. That is important too. For New Orleans, of course.”

Thanks, Mr. Sorkin.

The only believable thing in that episode was when Danny asked Matt if there was something completely unfunny that could be cut from the show so he could put in that New Orleans Tribute, and Matt proceeds to name 5 sketches without blinking an eye. That I believe.

Tom’s Lowbrow Parents

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, that's not quite it, either.

Okay, I'm just going to stop commenting on all things Jesus from here till the end of time. Sound good to everybody?

Matt said...

Allegedly, the "O Holy Night" will be available for download from iTunes for free later today or tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

"TV Watch", the point of contention isn't that the FCC is going crazy, but that to fine a network for something that had no malevolence at all would be downright crazy. The PR hit they'd take on this would be worth more than the fine, and likewise, the PR boost NBS would get. Though I can appreciate the storyline, as if it lets Steven Weber get some good airtime in, I'm not complaining.

This wasn't my favorite episode (probably my third behind the pilot and Nevada Day, Pt. 1), but I still liked it. It did help that there was no Christine Lahti, and it seemed to step it up a notch, quality-wise.

And is it just me, or in some scenes does Bradley Whitford really look like Martin Sheen?

Kat Coble said...

Okay, I'm just going to stop commenting on all things Jesus from here till the end of time. Sound good to everybody?

As long as you also include obscure Christmas song lyrics in your embargo, then we're good. ;-p

Anonymous said...

I wonder whether I would've appreciated it more if ... the musicians were allowed to cut loose in the celebratory, up-tempo spirit for which New Orleans music is world famous?

I definitely would've. I kept waiting for them to kick it up a notch.

I agree that it didn't suck. I saw the "To Catch a Santa" thing coming a mile away, but I agree it's something SNL would think of, and Nate Corddry is now my favourite thing about the show, so anything that keeps him onscreen is good.

The Danny/Jordan thing didn't come out of nowhere; they've been heading towards this since the pilot. Danny swung back and forth between sweet and stalker-y so many times I got seasick, but at least they finally had a Brad Whitford character just put his feelings out there, instead of playing games for 7 seasons. Of course, this show won't last 7 seasons.

Aside from Peet, Weber was the cast member I was most concerned about when the show started, and he's just been knocking it out of the park every week. That said, I really wish they weren't rushing to make him a good guy. Not that I think Jack should take the FCC thing lying down, but they've been softening him quite a bit. I liked him better when he was more cantankerous.

Marty McKee said...

"Also, there is No. Way. In Hell. that the FCC would issue a $73 million fine in a situation involving live news and an American soldier in the middle of combat. No way."

I think you're wrong about this. The FCC has already censored (and, yes, that's what it amounts to) news coverage because of language.

Mapeel said...

I just can't get over the miscast Sarah Paulson. No one on WW was so wrong for their role--what happened here. Imagine if Sorkin had paired Perry with an actress with whom he sparked. Imagine how much better the series would be if there were a Sam/Diane, Maddie/David, Seth/Alma pairing at its center.

Anonymous said...

another anonymous commented:

Her saying “I’m Matt” after the weakest, It’s-in-the-script-so-I-have-to-do-it-right? kiss from that limp-wrist Matthew Perry was about as believable as Neil (Kneel?) Patrick Harris now playing a womanizing lothario.

Wow. I was with you on your critique right up until you became an obnoxious homophobe. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who didn't like Josh/Donna? I certainly don't want to experience it again.

On the other hand, Anita Pallenberg. Bwahaha.

Anonymous said...

I'm also a mother of two who noticed the ob using the internal wand ultrasound that they only use very early on in your pregnancy. If Jordan is twelve weeks, they'd be able to use a regular ultrasound. And Amanda Peet she has the pregnant belly, so it's not like they have to fake it. Although she looks like she seven months pregnant so maybe that was the issue with showing her belly.

I also hated the cliche of her stuffing her face. So now that she's pregnant she's completely unprofessional in biz meetings?

But mostly I hated the whole scene in the ob's office because it wasn't believable and it was creepy having Danny there. Plus when Danny asked her who the father was, the correct answer should have been, "none of your damn business."

Anonymous said...

Josh and Donna.

I mean, Jordan and Danny.


See, here, this thing is happening that I like to point out: the difference in behavior between your true love, and a stalker?

Is next to nothing.

There's almost nothing you can point to about behaviors per se that's evidence of pathology, and this situation is no different.

if you love him, you think it's cute. If you don't, he's suddenly a stalker.

On the FCC issue, yes, they really *are* that stupid... but apparently not about news, after all:


Unknown said...

New Orleans segment schmaultzy? I am a New Orleanian and it was pure heartfelt love. I know most of America doesn't have a clue as to the heroic hope of the people of the city nor an idea of how hard their lives have been, but I think it is great that the rest of America get a wake up call every once and awhile that things are STILL not OK on the gulf coast of this country. The musical segment was beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I didn't actually like the 'debunking Christmas' scenes, partly because this is all old news to me, and felt like being talked down to. But mostly because I can't stand biblical literalists. I hate hearing people argue about what the Star of Bethlehem might have been, or who the wise men might have been, or what year Jesus was born based on when Herod died, and so on. It's like people arguing about what university Sherlock Holmes went to.


thank you, it feels good to get that off my chest.