Friday, June 08, 2007

“We have been having this fight in two different millennia now!” – Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Remember the ending of last week’s Studio 60? With Tom’s brother getting captured and Jordan having a pregnancy crisis? Remember how dramatic and intense those last three minutes were? Well, by the end of this week’s Studio 60 those memories will feel very distant indeed. After that great set-up, Studio 60 has squandered any dramatic tension by choosing to stretch said storylines over not two, but three episodes. That’s right, last night’s ‘K & R’ is the first of a three-parter inter-cutting the current drama with flashbacks to past dramas at Studio 60.

Now admittedly, Aaron Sorkin has done wonders with this basic premise before – the West Wing two-parter ‘In the Shadow of Two Gunmen’ is television at its finest, a wonderfully gripping eighty minutes with rapidly escalating drama combined with flashbacks to the events of The Bartlett Campaign. Those episodes made events which the audience had never before wanted to see seem as dramatically urgent as the present storyline. The same effect has not been achieved on Studio 60. Theoretically, flashbacks seem like a good idea, especially in regards to the Matt and Harriet storyline. Here we’ve been introduced to a long standing couple that’s clearly already been through heaps of drama before we met them – therefore, with the flashbacks we should be able to gain a better understanding of their relationship. Right?

Wrong. In ‘The Friday Night Slaughter’, the flashbacks to Matt and Harriet first meeting merely re-emphasised what we already knew – she’s a believer, he’s a cynic who routinely belittles her beliefs, and they argue a lot. ‘K & R’ added nothing, instead contenting itself with more scenes of Matt and Harriet shouting at each other over Iraq and their contrasting beliefs. I’m sorry, what’s the point in flashbacks if they’re exactly the same as what’s going on in the present?

Sorkin at least had the good graces to acknowledge this overriding theme, with Matt and Harriet commenting several times ‘Haven’t we had this argument before?’ This led into a cute montage at the end showing all the stages of Matt and Harriet’s relationship, all of which involved them fighting. Acknowledging it, however, does not make it less irritating. Matt and Harriett’s constant fighting would be funny or endearing if they made a good couple, but clearly they do not. On a character level, whenever they are left together for long periods of time things inevitably end in misery (see The Harriet Dinner). And on a performance level, Perry and Paulson are both fantastic and give it their all, but simply can’t generate the necessary chemistry to get us involved in a relationship this central to the whole show.

Everything else was fine, if uninspiring. The scenes between Danny and Jordan were less interesting than they should have been, but I’ve never had a problem with the two as a couple. That being said, Danny’s totally out-of-nowhere proposal stretched plausibility, and I hope Sorkin and co. don’t plan on actually having them get married by the end of the season. Nate Corddry has proved very effective at the dramatic stuff, and his performance continues to impress. The ransom idea seems ridiculous to me, but I can’t claim to have much knowledge on the matter. Still, I didn’t really believe that both Matt and Jack Rudolph would get on board with such a risky idea. Finally, Kari Matchett continues to be abused; her character started out as a lovely romantic possibility for Matt, then started coming on way too strong, and this week served as little more than a plot device. I hope this will be rectified, as she and Perry have far better chemistry than him and Paulson.

Oh, and making fun of Jenna Fischer? Not. Cool.

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