Friday, June 15, 2007

"I'm concerned that Doogie Howser is working on my friend and her baby" - Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

A pretty decent episode this week, much better than last week’s offering. While I still can’t believe Sorkin and co. are stretching these storylines over three episodes, there was enough to admire and enjoy here that I won’t rip into it as I did last week.

Tom and Captain Boyle’s scenes were the definite standout. Thanks largely to Sorkin’s enjoyable dialogue (he’s still got it, at least in that department) these scenes avoided melodrama and were instead very funny. The Captain Boyle character worked well as a tension diffuser and had some great lines, most especially his silencing of Simon (“Don’t front off with me, I’m not in show business and I’m not from the hood”). He was also very reminiscent of the Morris Tolliver character from The West Wing’s second episode, another military man who is fazed by nothing and full of understated wisdom. It’s rare to meet someone like this in real life, but Sorkin writes such characters with warmth and humanity.

The scenes in the hospital, as Jordan’s pregnancy scare gradually went from bad to worse, were somewhat tedious but saved by great performances. Bradley Whitford gave an accurate portrayal of the feelings of rising panic and frustration that come with waiting around in a hospital waiting room. Even if this setting is overused in TV dramas these days, Whitford’s subtle and understated performance deserves singling out. He has been underused throughout the season, something the writers obviously became aware of and are now rectifying.

Last week’s flashbacks were detestable because of the extreme focus they put on Matt and Harriett’s tiresome bickering, but this week’s benefited very much from a shift in focus onto the comradeship of Matt and Danny. The story being told – how they were fired from the show six years ago – is a plot hole I was eager to see filled in, so it’s disappointing to find that the explanation is just another ‘Art vs. Bureaucracy’ debate which would be dull even without the foregone conclusion. Also, it’s hard not to be irritated by how slowly these flashbacks are moving; I understand they’re not the main story, but last week virtually nothing happened in them, and this week they only got halfway through a story that could have easily been concluded in just as many scenes.

Nonetheless, while nothing about this is gripping, it’s at least diverting enough. Only two more episodes to go, and then we shall be rid of this endlessly frustrating show! Anyone else still watching?

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