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Studio 60 Fodder

Studio 60: The Friday Night Slaughter

Huzzah! A show title that doesn't annoy me! It's relevant to the episode, it's interesting....Anyway, it beats the heck out of "The Christmas Show." Snore.

We open in dress rehearsal with the musical guest for that evening's show. Musical guest has a heck of a push-up bra. There's a nice shot going through all corners of the second floor, including zipping through the booth, which is nice, because unlike on stage with snakes and ferrets and coyotes, Cal isn't a doofus in the booth. From a technical aspect, this shot is a hell of a way to start the show, and I can only imagine how many takes it must have been to pull it all together.

Down on the floor, Danny is producing and gets a call from Jordan. She has also noticed the singer's push-up bra and wonders if Danny has enough cameras focused on it. She says to get them off the chest. She's no fun.

Andy comes in to talk to Matt about dress rehearsal and points out how much nicer his current office is from his first one (even WITH the Clock O' Doom). Andy, who is in rare form in this episode (for which I love both him and Aaron Sorkin for giving him rare form to be in), says that he doesn't like anyone or anything, but if Matt needs to talk, he could talk to him. He then elaborates on the office comment. Apparently in the old office, you could hold out pencils and write on both walls at the same time (I've worked in that office! Well, not QUITE that office. One about twice that big, but meant for three to four people and four computers and no windows and no ventilation. Nice).

Matt says his first office was actually the floor outside the writers' room. This leads to a dissolve to flashback to seven(ish) years ago.

After panning through the writers' room, where we see a stretching Andy and a popcorn machine, we find Matt on the floor, looking scuzzy in a T-shirt and backwards hat and creating a nice fire/trip hazard with his foot sticking out in the middle of the hall. He almost gets beaned by videotapes dropped by Tim, who's been fired. Now Matt can share Tim's old office (the aforementioned tiny one) with Luke. That's a two person office? Well, hope they all shower and don't wear too much cologne.

Anyway, Tim was caught popping pills. He could have his job back if he goes to rehab, which Matt advises. He thinks rehab is actually a good idea. However, Tim thinks Matt going to Hell is a better idea.

Back in the present, Andy apparently decided the flashback wasn't interesting him (he missed his cameo in the beginning), because he's disappeared. Matt actually looks less chunky in the suit, which seems backwards to me. Back on The West Wing (the most suit-heavy show I think I've watched), whenever Bradley Whitford, Rob Lowe, or Martin Sheen got out of the suits, they all looked a lot smaller to me. Maybe it's the collar.

Matt takes a handful of pills, I'm guessing "left over" from his back surgery at the top of the season, chased with a Red Bull. Bleh. Actually, his pupils do look pretty dilated right before the credits. I was going to blame it on the general darkness of the show, but while the lights look low to us, they're probably pretty bright on set.

Or, it could all be in my imagination.

It does seem like there's a lot of addiction/substance use/abuse on this show. Admittedly, there's a lot of addiction in entertainment too, and we really haven't talked much about Danny's cocaine or Simon's pot use lately, but this is a third person out of an eight-person main cast. Just saying. Matt's pill-popping is actually a compelling storyline, but it is beginning to look like we maybe need an on-set addiction recovery specialist.

After the end of the rehearsal, the boobtastic singer has probably gone off to give her bosoms a rest (hey, fighting gravity that much is hard work!), and Harriet explains to the rehearsal audience that now Matt and Danny are going to get together and decide which sketches make it into the final show in a process called the "Friday night slaughter." You know, that sounds like a good title for a TV episode!

While watching Harriet, Matt has another flashback to one of the first writers' meetings of the new season. The writing staff is huge, and Luke Scott, wearing somewhat of a mountain-man beard, is part of it. Luke seems a little put off by the fact that smoking is no longer allowed in the building. Get used to it, buddy. In seven years, you're not going to be able to smoke anywhere else, either.

Harriet is introduced to the staff as a new cast member. The head/supervising writer guy gives her a bit of a hard time. Then he gives Matt is bit of a hard time when he tries to talk to the pretty new girl. Well, at least he's consistent. Matt, however, is clearly smitten already.

While trying to figure which 28 minutes to slaughter from the episode one 4-minute sketch at a time (so that's good--even when the sketches fall flat, they're short. That's generally something that can't be said for the real SNL), Danny suggests pulling Juliette Lewis, which Matt wants to fix. Danny also notices that the show is Harriet-heavy. Cal also notices this separately, which probably means it's Harriet-heavy. And singer's chest-heavy.

In the past, Matt runs through the studio to "Save Tonight" by Eagle Eye Cherry. I feel just like it's 1999. Matt wants to find Harriet, and one of the production assistants encourages him to "go get her." He meets Harry in front of her dressing room, which she can't get into because there seems to be a conference going on in there.

Sarah Paulson doesn't really necessarily look seven years younger, but she does have a nice fresh-faced New Girl vibe in her performance.

He introduces himself and says that Danny, who is his best friend, says that she's great. Matt wants to maybe write and pitch a sketch with Harriet, which isn't usually done with the brand new girl if you want any hope of the thing making it to air.

The two of them are already bickering a little, not really going at it, but fighting. Harriet notices it; Matt doesn't so much. He wants to know if she has any voices that she does. She does Julia Roberts, Neve Campbell, and is working on Juliette Lewis. She demonstrates her Julia Roberts, and Matt falls for her further. The close-up on her lips probably isn't hurting any.

For some inexplicable reason, I realized at this point that the flashbacks went back to the same time that The West Wing premiered. I suspect that's a coincidence, but it's one that made me smile, anyway. Probably it's because I wasn't busy falling for Harry's lips.

In the present, Danny notices that all of the many, many Harriet sketches involve characters of hers that debuted seven years ago. Well, that's sure to give the show some immediacy.

Mat keeps wanting to "stick a pin" in the things Danny wants to cut. He's apparently unwilling to dump any of the sketches, which is a problem because whatever show airs after Studio 60 isn't going to want to start a half-hour late.

Matt suddenly wonders if either Danny or Cal knows what happened to Tim. There is a very cool, very Sorkin exchange with Matt and Danny trying to establish who Tim was. The rhythm and pacing is very sharp. Danny and Cal don't remember him, and Cal hopes he's going senile. Maybe he's just hoping to forget what happened with Yote.

As Danny is trying to figure out whether to keep the "Metric Conversion" sketch, he realizes that Tom and Dylan, the sketch's writers, are outside the office. He and Cal then mercilessly tease them, threatening to cut the sketch, then leave it in, then cut it, etc., etc., etc. Dylan and Tom figure it out, and Tom wants to start kicking butt, which seems like a good way to find oneself out of a job. Dylan demonstrates some spectacular problem-solving skills. Apparently Tom and Dylan have been working on this sketch for six weeks. Dylan's smack-talk is pretty bad. If his writing is anything like that, there may be a reason this sketch hasn't made it to air yet.

In the past, we're now listening to "All-Star." I'm a geek. I still bop out to that song. At least no one's watching Mystery Men. I don't bop out to that at all. Matt brings a fern to Harriet's dressing room. It likes shade, which works in a windowless little box. Matt reveals that he watched her audition tape. Many times. Oh good. Now HE'S stalking her. Er, THEN he was stalking her. Matt also tells Harriet that she can sing. She actually knew that. She tells Matt there are things he doesn't know about her that he doesn't want to know. However, she does tell him he can call her Harry. So I guess that's not something he didn't want to know.

Matt starts talking about Values Voters, referring to them as honey-crusted nutbars, and mentions that 68% of Americans believe in angels. Harry actually gives him several body language cues that she doesn't agree with him, but he presses on, suggesting these folks need to be mocked. And we get the genesis (as it were) of the "Crazy Christians" sketch, where Harriet plays a radio talk-show host who interprets the Bible literally and gives advice based on "Revelations." Okay, Matt's an atheistic Jew. He's allowed not to know that there's only one revelation. But later in the episode, Harriet also says "Revelations," and she should know better. Anyway, in the sketch, among other things, the host would have to keep coming up with excuses for why they haven't been able to book an angel on the show (actually, that part sounds reasonably amusing). Harriet finally reveals that she's one of the nutbars and yes, he has offended her, thank you. He apologizes, and she wonders if he wasn't happier when he thought she meant he didn't want to know about something normal, like drug use.

Luke is doing the pencil trick on the opposite walls of their tiny office. His hand is right below the dartboard. A little higher and he could improve his score. Also, that office has to be too small to support an officially sanctioned dart game. Luke is going to put Matt on the floor in here, too, but at least now he can be behind a door that closes. Matt tries to tell Luke how he blew it, and Luke says that he had his eye on Harry, too, and he's got seniority. He's also been watching her audition tape and thinks she's cute as hell. Luke starts thinking of a sketch where Harriet, a trained singer, plays the world's worst singing teacher. He thinks that she'd be so indebted to him for writing so well, it would be just like falling in love with him. Thus emboldened, Luke goes to introduce himself to Harriet.

Tim wanders back into the office, having gotten past security and not encountering Luke on his way. Tim's girlfriend is in Canada ("Her name is Alberta/She lives in Vancouver/She cooks like my mother...") and has taken up with a costar. He's too depressed to be funny. Matt suggests telling all this to Wes, but Tim refuses.

Matt has yet another energy drink and realizes that Tim always wore SOMEthing, but can't figure out what. He listens to the singer for a minute (she's back on stage, not resting her bosom at all), and wonders if she's serious with these depressing lyrics she's been singing all week.

Jordan calls Danny, who goes to her. Cal tells HIM to "go get her," and Danny suggests that he continue to shut up about the two of them.

Tom and Dylan intercept Danny as he goes to Jordan to talk up their sketch. Danny says they're embarrassing themselves, and Tom agrees. Dylan continues to embarrass himself.

Danny meets up with Jordan at her office. She's there because her office, which is apparently cursed (he points out the electricity, the phone, and the falling ceiling) has fleas. She bought pillows at auction, and apparently the fleas came with them.

Danny wants to smooch her, but she won't let him, because they're too visible to the rest of the world. Good girl! Apparently they couldn't be seen under his desk (right on!) but there's not enough room down there for two. It's time to get a new desk, then. If you can't even fit to smooch down there, what's the point? You certainly can't fit to do anything else there.

Like the pillows bringing fleas to Jordan's office, Jordan has brought Hallie to Danny's office. Now there's a cold shower for them.

Matt has finally figured out that for a year, Tim wore a blue oxford shirt with tan khakis. Cal points out that's what everyone wore. Everyone but Matt and Danny and the writing supervisor.

Matt goes to make nice with Harriet. We can tell he's being earnest because his hat is forwards now. Harry says her dressing room is bigger than her apartment.

Matt is able to quote Revelation, but still thinks it's Revelations. He seems annoyed that the author used a poetic way of saying there were 100 million angels. First off, I don't know how that's put in the original language. It might have actually have said "100 million." The King James translation is specifically very poetic and the language is intentionally a little archaic even for the day it was written in. But even so, you'd think as a writer, he'd appreciate the beauty of the language. But apparently not when he's making a point.

Matt wants to talk more about a sketch, and Harry enthuses about Luke's "World's Worst Singing Teacher" idea. His idea is that her only pupils were the guys who sang "Pac-Man Fever."

Matt wants to have her play Brandi Chastain as a social studies teacher. What is it with the breast obsession in this episode? She'll whip off her shirt every time a student gets an answer right. So Matt's given up being subtle, apparently. Harry points out that it's really only funny once. Hard to build a whole sketch around. She reveals that she read Matt's one-act plays (apparently she's been checking him out a little, too) and wonders why he's trying to impress her with physical comedy when he likes language. He offers to get some food with her, but she's working with Luke. He points out that Luke will be writing feature films soon.

Matt tells Cal that Luke is the one who came up with "World's Worst Singing Teacher," another sketch in tonight's Harry-heavy show. He wants Cal to bump any of his sketches in the first half-hour for "Singing Teacher." He goes to the balcony to watch the singer, who keeps singing sadly about love.

Jordan wants advice from Danny, who tells her to be fast. Apparently she forgot he had a show to put on in less than an hour. The show that used to be All You Need Is Love is now The Reckoning. Well, at least that's a little more related to the content of the show. Plus it sounds more proactive and out of the box and forward-thinking and all that rot.

The kid who was shot in a drive-by and was about to graduate from medical school, the guest the show was originally built around, is having cold feet. Actually, this kid's grandmother is having cold feet. Jordan swats Danny in the head during the discussion, which looks like it could have been a substantial hit. Way to take one for the team, Brad! Anyway, Grandma feels the kid is being exploited. Danny (and Jordan) point out that, after all, he is. Jordan really wants to convince Grandma, because if she can't, the kid will drop out, and Hallie will replace him with a porn star who was molested by her swim coach. Jordan actually utters the line, "Good taste says I need to go with the paralyzed med student." She manages to says this without choking. Jordan wants advice on how to convince Grandma, which Danny doesn't have, but he wants to watch Jordan try to sell this train wreck she doesn't believe in.

Before going back to the Slaughter, Danny puts his hands on Jordan's tummy and tells Baby McDeere that his voice is authoritative, confident, and always right (I'm probably not buying that last part). He's very, very sweet and cute doing so. Jordan giggles and takes off.

Before he can return to the killing floor, Tom and Dylan try to make a case for not cutting "Metric Conversion." Danny says they can make the case, and then leaves them standing in the hall.

Leaving the office was a good idea, because now the show is only 4:20 over (Hey, it's always 4:20 somewhere. Someone get Simon!). Danny suggests keeping "Celebrity Poker," which sounds like it may not have starred a seven-year-old Harriet character, so naturally Matt isn't sure about it. He runs off to talk to the boobular guest star (Sorry, I shouldn't pick on her rack. It's really very nice and neither excessively large nor small. But Jordan set the mold for it. The teasing, not the rack. I blame her).

The head writer/supervisor guy, Joe, says they have to get their sketches in within an hour if they're going to be considered. Matt tries to get other writers to look at his sketch, but they're all too busy. He asks a sleeping lump on the couch to look at it, calling him "Danny." The hair looks like Bradley Whitford's, but the voice doesn't, which makes me wonder if someone else dubbed the voice in later or if there were a second Danny working for the show seven years ago. I'm GUESSING it's someone else dubbing. That, or Bradley made himself sound funky there. Or Brad didn't come in to tape any of the flashback scenes, so it's a Danny stand-in.

Matt continues looking for someone to look over his sketch and finds Simon waiting for an audition. He's been waiting for six hours. He's way the heck more sanguine about it than I would be after waiting for six hours, even if it were a huge opportunity like this show is supposed to be. I'd suck it up, but I'd look more annoyed than that. Matt recognizes Simon, who he saw at Yale in Lysistrata. He went from Aristophanes to playing fruit. Not everyone can say that of their career. Not everyone would want to.

Simon wonders why he's been waiting so long for his audition. Matt says Wes likes to "screw with" people he likes to see how they handle chaos. This is one of those cases where it really helps to head up the sort of project that people desperately want to be involved in. No matter how badly you treat them, they won't tell you off or refuse to audition because it's such a great gig. Despite the fact that Simon has this huge audition, he agrees to reads Matt's sketch. It's a take-off on Being John Malkovitch with Neve Campbell (I still liked the MadTV "Being James Brown" sketch, myself).

Simon doesn't read that far before he figures out that Matt is either in love with Harriet or is just stupid (There's no reason those two have to be mutually exclusive). The script sounds like a first date, trying to impress the girl. Simon also points out that writing a sketch for a new cast member won't get on the air and Matt clearly needs to get a script on the show. Matt decides that he's just stupid. Simon does finally get to audition. Hopefully his material will allow him to be pissy and he won't have to act at all. Matt wishes Simon "good luck." Oh, sure. The six-hour wait won't have jinxed him enough; he has to say "good luck" and not "break a leg." Nice. He does tell Simon he'll take another pass at the sketch. Simon says "good," but I can't imagine he's really that worried about it.

Matt winds up at chestacular musical guest Diana Valdes' dressing room. At the moment she's wearing JUST her bra. She thanks him for giving her the opportunity to perform, and he thanks her for filling in at the last minute. It's the second time they've had to find a replacement for the White Stripes.

Matt wonders how Diana can write songs about being so unbelievably sad; how can she write when she's that depressed? Well, she drinks, and that helps her write. She then hands Matt some eyedrops because his pupils are still dilated from the opening of the show. He tries to tell her that he was in the control room, but she ain't buying.

She tells him how much she loves narcotics: They mess with your dreams and make them really vivid. She's been sure she had a conversation with her bass player and it turns out that she just dreamed the whole thing. He tries to explain that he's been down for a while, and the narcotics are letting him work. Diana gives him some of her special drugs to take with wine, because schedule-2 drugs go best with depressants. He tries to pass, but she and her hypnotic breasts convince him to take them.

Matt walks into the writers' room, and Harriet really likes the sketch he wrote. Luke wants to ensure she doesn't like it better than the singing teacher sketch. Both sketches are submitted for consideration. Joe the head writer/supervisor guy makes sure they know that neither script will make it to air.

In Danny's office, Jordan is on the phone with the medical student's grandmother. She's stroking her tummy, which is probably lost on Grandma. Grandma points out that she knows that the show is about money, not about how inspirational her grandson is. She also says she came to her decision sitting in church on Sunday. Jordan walks away from the speaker phone, leaving Hallie to try to convince Grandma to let the kid on, but her arguments are all about letting the grandson be a Star and getting them more money. Jordan thanks Grandma for her time and lets her go. Hallie tries to convince Jordan that this is a blessing, and the porn star will be easier to promote than an inspiring story about a kid in a wheelchair overcoming adversity. Jordan knows that, and so does Hallie. If she didn't, she wouldn't have waited a week, from Sunday when Grandma decided until Friday, to tell Jordan about it. Jordan keeps telling Hallie that she has Hallie's number, but Hallie apparently keeps thinking she's cleverer than she is. I had this problem when I was 12. I actually grew out of it. Hallie doesn't look inclined to figure it out any time soon.

Tom and Dylan try to talk up their sketch and their performance to each other, which devolves into critiques of how they did. Tom realizes that Danny and Cal are trying to turn them against each other, so they go back to building each other up. They go to Andy for cheering up, which makes me think they've never met this man before. He calls them graceless homicidal bastards who left jokes lying on the floor to die. Ouch. He also tells Tom his Canadian accent was Mexican (Mark McKinney is Canadian, so he would know. I just had to throw that out there). Unless he were trying to be Quebecois or from Newfoundland, I can't figure out why Tom's accent would have been strong enough to be Mexican. Andy also says that Back In The Day, if your sketch didn't make it in, you had to sell lemon drink naked clothed only in your shame. And yet everyone loved Wes. Even though he makes people wait six hours for auditions and makes writers appear publicly naked. It's the ACTORS who are exhibitionists! Writers prefer being BEHIND the scenes. Naked.

The writers wait outside Wes's office for head/supervising writer Joe to say that the slaughter is done. There's a guy on the wall that could be Danny, but I'm just not positive. There are also a lot of writers wandering the hall in frat-boy chic, the fashion sense that Matt railed against when he took over at the beginning of the season. But it's 1999, so flannel shirts are still okay, or something (It's not 1993, though). Matt tries to make his point about how Harry puts a lot of faith in Bible writers who couldn't count very high. He then tries to start over, but then the board with the show schedule is posted on the wall, distracting her. Luke's "Singing Teacher" sketch has made it in, but Matt's hasn't. Harry and Luke brush right past him without noticing him. Joe helpfully tells Matt that it's going to be another one of those nights for him. He doesn't tell him to strip down so he can sell lemon drink, though. Darn. Then again, Matt's a little doughy right now, so maybe that's not too terrible.

Matt notices Tim standing in front of the board. The security in this building really isn't very good. Usually when you get canned, you can't get anywhere near the offices, let alone the boss's office. Tim is now wearing a Studio 60 cap of the sort Matt was wearing at the beginning of the set of flashbacks. Tim tried to write a sketch to get his job back. Because even though he said he couldn't write when he was that in his current mood and rehab would be much easier than trying to write in said mood, he gave it a shot anyway. Apparently the drugs have addled his problem-solving ability. They will do that, of course, but we're seeing it right here. Tim's sketch didn't even make it to dress rehearsal.

Matt realizes he can't remember how he met Tim.

Danny announces the slaughter is done. Matt is still basically in his own little world, which Danny clearly notices. Matt says that he and Harry had a fight and broke up. Danny wants to know how this is different than other times they've broken up. It's not. Danny missed all this because he was locked on the roof, and Matt says he's really happy for the two of them, but he needed Danny's help on the Neve Campbell sketch. There isn't a Neve Campbell sketch; Matt meant Dolphin Girl. Sure, I can see how you could confuse Neve Campbell for a dolphin.

Tom and Dylan offer Danny money to talk about "Metric Conversion." He takes the money and shuts the door in their faces.

Danny keeps trying to press Matt. He says Harriet's with Luke, and Danny says he can change it all by telling her "I can't live without you." I'm not sure I see her falling for that this time. Neither does Matt, apparently. He says he can't put himself in a place to make himself feel worse than he does right now, and then runs away, telling Tom and Dylan that they're in. Weenie.

Danny is thoughtful. I'm hoping that we'll see more of them working this out. What with Danny's experience with both addiction and love troubles, he's the perfect guy to do it. And the show is still always best when the two of them are in the scene. They continue to have better chemistry than any other grouping of cast members. They're all growing, but Matt and Danny just Click.

Matt goes to Harriet's dressing room. Luke, face shaved, is down there going over makeup tests with her for the movie. They're clearly enjoying themselves. The movie starts shooting next week. Luke can't stay for the taping. I'm sure Matt's heart is broken. Matt points out that they're doing a World's Worst Singing Teacher sketch, but Luke says that isn't his sketch anymore.

Matt asks Andy about Tim, but Andy doesn't remember him, either. Andy doesn't even remember anyone being fired for using drugs. Andy suggests Matt point him out on the picture of the writing staff on the wall.

As he's looking for a picture of Tim, Matt mutters that the ever-boobular Diana said that sometimes you mix things up. In the photo, Matt's the one wearing Tim's oxford shirt and khakis.

Alone, Matt goes back to his office and takes the pills Diana gave him.

Oh, if anyone is interested in the woman playing Diana, her MySpace page is Check it out!

My theory on the whole Tim angle is that Matt is, as Diana said, having particularly lucid dreams. I further think he's using Tim to figure things out for himself. I did oversimplify the whole "Matt is Tim" thing.

I have no idea who had the office before Matt and Luke, and I don't really think it matters. It was the beginning of the new season, so probably someone moved on at the end of the previous season and the office opened up for the newer guys.

I think Tim represents the parts of Matt that he can't face about himself yet.

I had "hoped" to find out that Aaron Sorkin had abused prescription drugs at some point and was writing this from personal experience. However, if he has, that hasn't gone public the way some of his other former addicitions have. All this is to say I have no idea if prescription narcotics mess with your memories and dreams as badly as they suggest. I just know that I can barely take the things for medical indications, let alone for recreation.

I do wish they had been able to do a little more to make Matt in particular look younger. I could make an argument that Matt's seeing himself through the filter of what he looks like today, but I think I'm probably just making things up there. There are limits to what can be done, but they probably could have prettied up his face a little bit, anyway.

I realize this episode didn't work for everyone, but for me it was very powerful. I have a friend who's a psychologist who was also very moved by it, and I'd like to think that she knows more about what narcotic abuse looks like. I always enjoy when Aaron shows us the back stories, even if only about 2/3 of the back story we saw this time actually happened. I still want to see Danny get Matt through this and hope we will. Unfortunately, unless they do a super-fast resolution tonight (which would probably be at least as unsatisfyingly rushed as Danny and Jordan's relationship), we'll have to wait until the show comes back from hiatus, so hopefully that's not too far off.

Posted by on February 19, 2007 11:17 PM
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