Friday, June 22, 2007

Studio 60: The neverending story

Spoilers for the next-to-last episode of "Studio 60" coming up just as soon as I find a comfy t-shirt to sleep in...

I didn't review the last two episodes, in part because it felt like piling on, in part because I was busy and figured it would be easier to just write about all three parts of "K&R" at the end. So, of course, "K&R" winds up not being an actual three-parter, but a five-parter in disguise. (You have to count not only next week's show, but the show from a month ago where we found out that Tom's brother had been kidnapped.)

And unfortunately, there isn't five episodes worth of story here, not even with Jordan (off-screen) suffering every pregnancy-related mishap imaginable, not even with the flashbacks to how Matt and Danny lost their jobs (which, unless someone utters the phrase "Crazy Christians" next week, doesn't seem to jibe with what we were told in the pilot). Basically, Sorkin's padding things out by having Character A find out a piece of information, then tell Character B, who tells Character C, who tells Character D, etc. David Milch used to do this sometimes on "NYPD Blue" or "Deadwood," so I have to assume this is some kind of last refuge of the past-deadline showrunner, but it's not remotely interesting enough to justify stretching out these two stories over this length. (Neither was Harriet's awards dinner, though at least that one only dragged over three episodes instead of five.)

The last few weeks, I felt like Aaron had just given up on writing a show about a sketch comedy show and was instead retreating to his "West Wing" comfort zone. (And given a choice between a hostage crisis in Afghanistan or Danny's pursuit of Jordan, I'll take the former.) This one felt more on topic, not just with the flashbacks -- which Matt over at Throwing Things suggests are Sorkin apologizing for "Isaac and Ishmael" -- but the present-day parallel subplot with Jack and Simon. Steven Weber remains this show's best asset, and Jack remains the only character written in three dimensions, and if there's a reason to be sad about the cancellation, it's losing this performance.

I also liked, surprisingly, the scene where Harriet "teaches" Danny how to pray. I mean, Harriet is still obnoxious and pushy and a caricature of a genuine believer, but Danny's rationale for not wanting to pray ("I got what I got because I took action") was far more mature and convincingly argued than anything Matt has ever said on the subject. Maybe if Aaron had swapped around the two central couples, the show would have been less irritating.

One more episode to go -- titled, in Sorkin tradition, "What Kind of Day Has It Been" -- and I may actually do some praying of my own in the hope that one or both of these storylines gets wrapped up.

What did everybody else think?


D. Bones said...

Harriet's solution to everything is prayer. It's funny that I forget this somehow -- I'm constantly shocked and dismayed when every scene ends with her mentioning that. And I yell at my TV to please wire her mouth shut.

I do appreciate that Danny walked out of that chapel. If he even condescended to bend his knees, I might have broken something. At least Sorkin knows how to write somewhat consistent characters. Danny = sensible, smug, overly aggressive suitor of females. Harriet = unfunny, pious little cretin. Oh, but please Harriet, sooth me with your Juliet Lewis impression!

Did you notice K&R II and K&R III ended on exactly the same note about Danny's tenuous custody issues without any other mention of it throughout either episode? Way to advance a shoehorned plot point!


Matt said...

I'd have to rewatch the pilot, but as I recall, "Crazy Christians" wasn't the basis for Matt/Danny's firing, but instead simply a sketch Matt had written that didn't make it to air because of S&P controversies.

Danny said...

I recall, also, a mention that Simon's first year was Matt/Danny's last year. Would Simon have already been so established at the season premiere?

Also, I just get the vibe that Sorkin didn't want to write any more episodes for whatever reason and just stretched out his plot to cover what's left.

TL said...

A few thoughts that I had while watching....

*At about the 45 minute mark I slapped my head in anguish that they STILL weren't going to wrap this up after 4 hours.

*I continue to find it quaint how the show expects us to believe that, in 2007, the major news media would treat the capture of soldiers in Afghanistan as a breaking, 'round the clock coverage story.

*I've cut the show more slack than some about never showing us that the show-within-the-show was actually funny. But not showing us the Karl Rove sketch is indefensible, especially given that they're spending 5 hours on this story. I guess Sorkin couldn't pull it off.

*No way Jordan would sign off on Danny being the guardian for her child. It's one thing to marry him and take a shot at raising the kid together. It's another to sign your kid away to someone who you've only known for 9 months. Bad idea for him to even ask.

Danny said...

I don't think the show, which I'm in no way defending, is trying to get us to buy into the news networks treating hostages in Afghanistan as big news. It's expecting us to buy the capture of a pseudo-celebs baby soldier-brother as big news. Which, you know, almost seems more likely.

Luna said...

See, I found Danny's attitude kind of as annoying as Harriet's there, because "I got what I got because I took action"? Sure, and because you're a white American male who was born with more than 99 percent of people on the planet. I think that's what Harriet was trying to get him to acknowledge--that even in this hour of darkness there are things for which one should be grateful--and that would actually have been an adult response. They both suck as people.

Luna said...

Oh, and are we supposed to be siding with Simon and his refusal to apologize? Because he should apologize--not for "sympathizing with terrorists" but for saying he would celebrate if the journalists there got mowed down by friendly fire. It's always out of line to publicly wish death on people.

Granted that I am irrationally against this show.

I agree, though, that Jack is the one thing worth saving. In a perfect world, he would get a transfer to 30 Rock.

Anonymous said...

Harriet's solution to everything is prayer. It's funny that I forget this somehow -- I'm constantly shocked and dismayed when every scene ends with her mentioning that.

It's one of Harriet's traits that's apparently true-to-life for Chenoweth, though. I remember reading a profile of her in The New Yorker several years ago where she, some TV honcho and the reporter were all in a car trying to get out of a parking lot and the gate wouldn't open, so she started to pray. The honcho asked if she could ask God to open the gate for them.

I haven't really been watching this since it came back from hiatus, but it is amazing that, in a show that contains two of the Mighty Sorkin Players as well as Matt Perry, the two best people onscreen have consistently been Weber and Corddry. I hope at least they both get some good work in the future out of this experience.

floretbroccoli said...

Is this the first time that a show covered the absence of a pregnant cast member by having her character near death as a result of childbirth?

TL said...

In a perfect world, he would get a transfer to 30 Rock.

I've been thinking about that too. They should totally do that, have Webber play the same character, and be the new rival of Jack Donaghey (sp) (assuming Baldwin comes back). "Jack vs. Jack." Maybe GE hires Jack Rudolph away from NBS to run GE's wayward microwave division.

Anonymous said...

Nah, I wouldn't want Studio 60 existing in the same TV universe as 30 Rock. I'd rather have Webber playing similar, more broadly drawn character with a different name on 30 Rock.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I don't know much about army guys sent to help out dudes whose brothers have been held hostage IN THE MIDDLE OF AFGHANISTAN, and I can see his sort of point in trying to be jokey and take Tom's mind off things, but really, it's almost his fault Tom makes the decision to choose the K and R. If he hadn't been so flip beforehand maybe Tom wouldn't have freaked.