Sunday, May 27, 2007

"It's gonna be my screensaver!": Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

See, this version of Studio 60 I probably would have been more enthusiastic about. There was some bad plotting in Thursday night's episode (Simon having two dates was the sort of thing you might have seen on Facts of Life), but the central plot of everything going wrong and driving Cal completely nuts was engaging and even sporadically funny. Timothy Busfield, of course, is a fine, fine actor, and the show might have done well to feature him more often.

I think that by putting Cal at the center of the episode, the show was able to breathe a little. When Matt and Danny are at the center of the show (or Jordan), the whole show is predicated on the idea that these geniuses will have to top their own prior genius to deliver something even more genius. Cal has no illusions about his grandeur -- he's a television director, and he just wants to get something up on the air. Whatever it takes, he's willing to do it, so long as the show goes on. While he clearly likes the show he works on, we don't get the sense that he considers it the height of the televised art form.

Similarly, the episode paired Cal with network exec Jack Rudolph, easily the most entertaining network exec not named Jack Donaghy on television this season. A drunk Jack Rudolph is a very funny thing, from his hitting on Allison Janney to his mock concern over the bomb scare, and the way that Cal kept trying to get his job done with Jack getting in the way was actually quite amusing.

In particular, the snowballing disaster show was well-developed, growing from the props guys going on strike to the cue card guys going on strike to the bomb threat to squibs going off in a non-bloody scene to a bomb-sniffing dog coming up on stage and sniffing Allison Janney as she delivered her closing speech. It was all nicely set up and Aaron Sorkin stuck the landing, putting some of the funnier stuff toward the back.

That said, the bomb threat subplot was all kinds of D'oh!-inducing, what with Cal learning that it isn't always a Muslim calling in a bomb threat (in this case, it was a slacker kid who did it for, apparently, no reason). I'm glad we all got to learn a lesson, Studio 60, but it was mostly an annoying one.

Also, the Matt and Harriet subplot just won't go away. And Matt wasn't even in this episode! The scenes where everyone told Harriet that she and Matt should just get back together were enervating, largely because the Matt and Harriet relationship is so very, very boring. I don't care what the rest of the cast thinks. I think that Matt should run off with Kari Matchett and make lots of little whalien babies.

But, y'know what? This episode was fun to watch. You can't always say that about this show, but you could say it about this episode. Probably the best one since The Christmas Show. Let's see if they can continue this roll in the weeks to come (if they get a chance to air -- the ratings were pretty bad).

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