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Studio 60 Fodder

Studio 60: Breaking News

The show opens with Matt wandering through the studio looking perturbed. Hey, look! Matt is back this week! Non-Big-Three members of the cast wander through the studio. They could look perturbed, but they go by so fast, it's hard to tell. Hey, look! Danny is also back this week! He's moving through the studio with a purpose. He rarely wanders. He looks perturbed. But he frequently looks perturbed. He wants them all to huddle up. He helpfully tells Dylan he should be nervous because he's going on TV in two minutes. I don't know, after Dylan wasn't killed on live TV during the disaster show, I'm guessing something as banal as just acting on TV isn't going to bother him too much.

Matt confronts the show announcer, Herbie, before the huddle. Apparently he said "Studio City" during dress rehearsal. Herbie says that's all he can think about now. Now HE looks perturbed. Matt helpfully tells him the name of the show is all he has to think about. Danny actually smooths it over, telling him it will be fine and he should just take his position. I guess Herbie doesn't get to huddle up. Matt yells after Herbie (on Danny's urging) that he'll be great, but he is annoyed that, after all, the name of the show is written all over the studio. Hey, one year in marching band, the announcer managed to misspell the name of the school. Which was also the name of the state. And which was written all over the stadium (poor band members weren't sure if they should form the letter they were supposed to form, or the one he'd actually announced). And he'd probably been announcing the name of the school at least as long as Herbie has been announcing the show.

Danny tells the cast to keep sharp, they may make some last-minute changes to show order. And he and Matt demonstrate some of their wonderful chemistry that I'm going to really, really miss in a few weeks. And that I'd been missing for several months before this.

Danny also tells the cast that they are not to think about ratings. He's been hearing the cast talk about them, and that's not their business. Their business is making the audience happy. Let the network and Advertising worry about ratings. And they should "eat 'em up." Which isn't nearly as catchy as "What's next?"

Simon leads the huddle. He's always grateful for another week of working with the cast (Aw, man, don't make me preemptively miss the show when it's still on the air!). He's happy that Harriet has (apparently) wrapped the film, because her head is back on the show full-time. He still thinks she and Matt are dumb, dumb, dumb, but at least they're speaking. Simon wishes them all a good show. There is a White House press conference set on stage.

Herbie announces Danny before the show. He gets Danny's name right, at least.

Jack finds Jordan up on one of the balconies. Hey look! Jordan's also back this week! She mentions that she's just happy that Hallie Galloway isn't trying to take her job again. I'm not sure she should be telling her boss how threatened she is by that woman, but what do I know? Jack says pitting the two of them against each other gets him better results. Jordan tells Jack that Danny is aware of the show's ratings, and Jack wants to know what he (and Jordan) are going to do about it. He then tells her that if she can't be tough with Danny (professionally, not Personally), he'll just have Hallie do it.

On the show, Tom is playing Dick Cheney's press secretary (I admit it, I don't know who Cheney's real press secretary is, so I have no idea if Tom looks anything like him or her. Then again, I'm probably not the only American who doesn't know. Still, I'm amused that Tom plays Cheney's press secretary and Cheney's "boss."). He's giving a press conference about how well the troop surge is working in Iraq. Danny seems stressed by the sketch. There's actually some fairly decent humor in this sketch. Gee, Aaron Sorkin in his element writing about a White House press conference? I'm stunned. Though not disappointed.

Harriet finds Simon and wonders if Tom got an E-mail from his brother before the show. She got a call from Tom's parents (who don't know about Abbott and Costello, but can work their phone, so they aren't complete neo-Luddites); they haven't heard from Tom's brother in 48 hours. For those who don't remember, this is the brother who was standing in the middle of Afghanistan while Tom was showing them around the studio. Hopefully he was doing more than just standing. Seems a pretty ineffective tactic. But Mark (the brother) always E-mails Tom before the show. She wants to know when they should say something. Tom probably knows that he didn't get an E-mail. Simon says not to say anything during the show.

Up in his office, Matt is watching the sketch on his monitor. Suzanne the Assistant comes into his office with Mary Tate, Hot Lawyer. She thinks Matt is so happy to see her he could just spit. I dunno, she is pretty hot. She needs to talk to him, and she needs to do it immediately. There's going to be a deposition in the morning, and she needs to prep her client. She also needs to talk to Harriet, but she can wait until after the show for that. Mary wants to be Matt's date for the wrap party. Or perhaps just his "date." Maybe both.

Matt wants to know what Harriet did. Apparently, after a sketch of Karen Salazberg's (the woman suing over wrongful termination and sexual harassment) was cut from the show, Harriet told her that a writers' room is a tough place for a women. Matt counters that a writers' room is a tough place for someone who isn't a writer. It doesn't look like a walk in the park for someone who is a writer, for that matter. Mary then says that he must be excited about her being his wrap party date. Wow, Mary has one short attention span. She points out she has nice shoes. Yes, but where are the glasses Matt likes?

He wants to watch the show.

Herb announces the show is coming from Studio City on the Sunset Strip. Um, OOPS. We crash to show title, and the evil part of me really wants to title card to have been changed just for this episode to also read "Studio City on the Sunset Strip." Admittedly, I watch too many Matt Groening shows, where the titles are changed weekly. But it would have amused me tremendously.

The first sketch after the commercial is a cooking show with Nicholas Cage. It turns out that Alex actually does a pretty decent Nick Cage impression. Possibly Nick Cage on speed, but otherwise not bad.

Up in Matt's office, Mary Tate, Hot Lawyer, is impressed that Matt has dressed up for show night. All Matt's old writer heroes all wore suits and ties, so he does too. Mary Tate, Short Attention-Span Lawyer, is back on the lawsuit. The plaintiff has now filed a retaliation claim. Apparently Karen Salazberg was up for a job with another series, and the producer called Matt for a recommendation. Mary is provocatively playing with a dart as she talks to him, but she doesn't want Matt to play with her. Again, that's professionally, not Personally. She actually encourages personal playing. Matt gets peeved that one of the jokes didn't get the laugh it should have. Mary declares Matt to be cute. Well, he is that. She still wants to know what he told the producer about Karen. He said that he had never worked with her, but she'd been fired by the show and was now suing and that she was bad news. Oh, dear. Yeah, that's a no-no. Even I know that. Now he's depriving her of future earnings. But on the bright side, Mary thinks he looks good in his tie, and he could wear that for court. I'm guessing that isn't real comforting.

She still thinks that she'd be a great date for the wrap party and that the sketch is funny. She knows, because she's so brilliant she can listen and talk at the same time. And she has a really short attention span. Matt finds this a turn-on.

The Nicholas Cage sketch ends, and Harriet, in a really nice dress, tells Alex that he stuck it, and he says he didn't. Simon catches up with Harry and tells her the last E-mail Tom got from his brother was three days ago. Simon can check Tom's mail? Time to change that password, man. It's unusual for Mark (the brother) to go on assignment without telling them when he'll be back. Harriet really thinks they should tell Tom, and Simon still insists they shouldn't do it during the show.

Meanwhile, Jordan comes down to talk to Danny. For someone who's trying to look like they aren't dating, she touches his arm very tenderly in front of a live audience. She says Jack is hassling her, but she says she'll talk about it with Danny after the show. He presses her; it's about the ratings, isn't it? She says she asked him not to open with the war sketch. Danny seems vexed.

Up his office, Matt also seems vexed. Jack comes into the office, which is only going to vex him more. Jack wants to know if Matt has any good scotch. Matt says to help himself, which doesn't exactly answer the question, but Jack gets some scotch anyway.

Jack reveals that he bought part of a company that day. It's called "Dramatic Revolution," which Matt says he could use. Funny he should say that....The company is developing software that "watches" TV shows and says what needs to be added or taken away to make them hits. They already make a program to do that with pop songs. Hey, there's a glowing recommendation (Yes, well, that's Sorkin's point). Matt seems thrilled. It can be used with sketch comedy, too. Well, huzzah. Matt says that ratings are cyclical, and Jack insists that the computer can figure out what people find funny. It's a chilling prediction, and while good, it's not Aaron Sorkin's most subtle statement on the direction of television. Okay, neither was Wes's diatribe in the pilot episode, but that worked better.

Now Matt seems more vexed.

Suzanne the Assistant comes into the office. She says the show's going okay. She's got something on her mind. Man, everyone's being thoughtfully vexed tonight. She doesn't say anything until Matt promises he won't fire her if she asks him something. She wants to know if he's high at the moment. There's a very nice unspoken moment here, where both characters know he's been found out. He wants to know how she figured it out. It turns out Suzanne's mother abused Percocet something awful. He tries to say he was taking them because he was a little depressed, but it's okay. Suzanne's not buying. He says that comedy isn't precise, you have to have energy and not be depressed, and you can't ask people to sit and wait while you pull yourself together (although if there were more than four writers total, the others could help take up some of the slack). He then insists that when they have a hiatus, he'll quit (What about that hiatus they've had since February? No, wait, that's the hiatus we've had since February). Suzanne still isn't buying. She's seen this before. In fact, when her mom told her she would quit, less than a year later she killed herself. Merritt Wever, who plays Suzanne, gives a very nuanced performance here. She speaks volumes with simple, subtle changes of expression. For that matter, Matthew Perry's performance here is one of his finest. I don't know if he's drawing on his own experience as a recovering painkiller addict (I can't imagine it doesn't figure in at least a little), but this is a very powerful scene in an episode filled with powerful drama.

She shifts attention then, wondering if Herb knows he said "Studio City." Matt says that was his fault for basically psyching Herb out. Oops. Suzanne smiles, just a little, says okay, and leaves Matt alone in his office.

We see part of "News 60." It's cute. Not hilarious, but cute.

Jack is talking up Dramatic Revolution to Jordan. She says that the show is averaging a 5.7/19 share for late night (A quick n' dirty on ratings: The first number is the actual percentage of households in the US watching the show. The second number, the share, is the percentage of televisions currently in use tuned to that program. In this case, these numbers are especially interesting in that the NBC show Studio 60 frequently had ratings and shares greater than other shows that NBC were happy to renew. Sure, not super-subtle on Aaron Sorkin's part, but he does tend to write what he knows. And exorcises his demons--or at least his issues--to an extent through his writing). She says Jack knows anyone would take that and run. Jack points out that that's the average over five months. Over the last two months it's only been 4.8/15, and the show is coming perilously close to losing 300,000 viewers half-hour to half-hour (again, not unlike the actual show, the average of which is not bad, but which hemorrhaged viewers week to week). Jordan says critics love the show, but Jack points out that the critics don't pay the bills. Besides which, lately the critics don't, in fact, love the show. Once again, he says he'll let Hallie do the dirty work if Jordan wants, since he's sensitive to Jordan's "situation." Jordan wants him to stop waving Hallie in her face, which he says he'll do when the show stops losing viewers in droves.

Mary Tate, Hot Lawyer, comes into the room and meets Jack, who runs away. Okay, actually he makes Mary and Jordan leave, but same difference. He does, however, like how Mary calls him "sir" and sounds sincere and doesn't follow it with "you're making a scene."

Mary is there to keep Jordan up to speed, but first asks how far along Jordan is (seven months) and what she's having. Jordan says, "We're having a little girl." Mary, brilliant woman she is, picks up on the "we," which Jordan quickly (but not necessarily convincingly) amends to just her. Mary is not convinced by Jordan's save, but she says it's none of her business. Darn straight!

So apparently Jordan is a lawyer herself, so Mary can tell her what's going on without spelling it out (plus, she did that earlier in the episode). Jordan wonders if Matt wasn't just exercising free speech. Hmm, maybe there's a reason Jordan isn't actively practicing law right now. Again, I knew better, and I don't practice law at all. Nor do I live in California. Jordan agrees with Mary, now demonstrating her short attention span, that Matt is "cute as a bug." Okay....I don't actually know that many cute bugs, but I don't think she was being that sincere. Right, back to the case. Since Matt didn't specifically know anything about Karen Salazberg and had never worked with her, all he was allowed by state law to tell her potential employer was her dates of employ at the show and nothing else (and he probably should have just sent the request to HR. That's how a lot of companies tell bosses to handle the situation). Jordan says it's a crazy-ass law. Mary is thrilled because the case could go straight to the Supreme Court. Jordan points out that if that happened, it would take seven years. Hmm, so I guess the viewers won't get to see how that one turns out, huh?

"News 60" ends with a number-heavy rich Jew joke. I don't believe I would have done it that way, but again, what do I know? Though it might explain why they're losing viewers. Danny looks vexed again. Actually, if it were my show, I might be vexed by that choice, too.

Tom, who is the weatherman for "News 60," obsesses over the fact that he said "snow machine" instead of "snow blower" in his segment. Alex tells Tom not to worry, but Tom says that that sort of thing is why they're losing viewers. Dylan suggests that they should concentrate on catch-phrase-worthy material. I was going to make fun of this, but then I remembered how many catch-phrases still linger in our common lexicon from Saturday Night Live sketches, some dating back to the first season. Alex wishes they had started the show with "Thai Therapist" because it features Samantha in a bathing suit. It's just a one-piece, but clearly Alex is a fan of the swimsuit anyway.

Simon comes in and wants to know what's going on. Tom still obsesses, and Simon scolds them for talking about ratings when Danny told them specifically not to. Harriet pulls Simon aside. Evidently she got yet another call from Tom's parents. I know I only do amateur theatre, but we really hear about it if we don't turn our phones off during performances. True, the studio is much larger than most theaters I perform in so probably the ring wouldn't be heard by the audience, but I should think that it would still be forbidden. Especially during a live show, when taking a phone call could mean a missed entrance. Better yet, Harriet had the phone with her during the "News 60" segment. True, it was on vibrate, but that's still not a great idea. But I digress. Apparently the Jeters heard from the parents of another soldier in Mark's unit who also haven't heard from their son. She has a terrible feeling about it, and she's going to tell Tom now, and to heck with Simon. He points out that no one knows anything, so what good would it do to tell Tom now? Harry suggests that Tom has a contact that maybe his parents (or the Air Force) don't have that he could talk to. Simon says that it would worry Tom, possibly needlessly, and then he'd have this memory of additionally sleepwalking through the rest of the episode, which would make it that much worse. He also says that "this" is where they really get in trouble. Harry wants to know if he could possibly be serious, talking about the ratings at a time like this. However, Simon says that if there's something "they" need to tell him, they'll do it. So apparently they are at least capable of calling Tom, after all. I do wonder why the parents are calling Harriet when I've always had the feeling that Tom was closer to Simon, but I imagine that Simon wouldn't obsess over this the way Harry is, and then there wouldn't be a TV show.

Simon also admits that yes, he is worried about his job. He doesn't have a movie coming out later this year. Again, this feels a little funny just because we know that D. L. doesn't have a job anymore. Well, he might. But it's not this one.

He tells her that everything will be fine before going to his next scene, but she's clearly not convinced.

Matt confronts Harriet, asking her if she really told Karen Salazberg that the writers' room is a tough place for a woman. Because that's so much worse than telling Karen's potential employer that she's bad news. Harriet explains that she was just trying to make Karen feel better. But Matt says they'll ask her if she was lying to Salazberg or lying to the court when she gives that answer. She says they're both true. Matt doesn't seem to believe that the writer's room is a tough place for a woman, but Harry insists it is; women are taught not to be funny because it isn't attractive. He says Joe DiMaggio thought it was. I assume not even he really believes that. He then asks her what a snow machine is (It's this machine that blows fake snow onto, say, a stage or Santa's village). She tells him to ask Tom (But I just told him!).

Jordan is waiting for Danny in his office. He comes up and wonders (not for the first time tonight) if she's feeling all right. When he was told she was going to his office, it sounded like she needed to lie down. He tells her cockily that he can be in the office for a few minutes during commercial; he's done this before. Probably not the best move he's made. She seems perturbed. Then again, so is he, because of her earlier mention that she had asked him not to open with the war. She says it was a note from the network president, and she asked him not to open with the war. Danny jibes that the war used to be a money maker, but now it's just a bummer. She says she's not going to have this argument. Now he brings up the 5.7/19 rating. Psst, that argument didn't work earlier; I don't see it flying now. Oh, and I'm right: It doesn't. In fact, Jordan uses Jack's exact counter argument. Danny says that they do need to talk about it, and she says they will. She then adds that she told him not to open with the war, and he even knew he shouldn't do it, and he did specifically because she asked him not to. And he's taking down a lot of good people with him when he works out relationship power issues through the show. They're both at loggerheads, and she tells him to get his ass back down on the floor. And he looks half prepared not to, again, just because she said to do it.

The musical artist, Gran Bel Fisher, starts to play his second set. Your humble blogger admits that some time after she turned 30 she stopped knowing what music was cool, so she doesn't know Gran Bel Fisher at all. It's a nice song, though.

While Mary Tate, Hot Lawyer, enjoys the music, Matt opens up the vitamin bottle where he keeps his pills, and takes three with another Red Bull chaser. I don't know if that expression on his face is about the drugs or the drink. Bleh.

Harriet finds Mary and says that she got in trouble with Matt because of Mary talking to him. Mary turns out to be a big fan of Harry's. Harriet wants to know if Mary wants to talk to her, but Mary says she promised that she wouldn't until after the show. Harriet says she's done except for the good night's, so it's okay for them to talk. Mary asks Harriet about the situation with the sketch that Karen Salazberg wrote that got cut. It was a sketch that starred Harriet. Again, Harriet tries to explain that she was trying to make Karen feel better. Harriet refuses to say that she was lying to Karen. Lying is a Big Thing for Harry. Mary wants to know if Studio 60's writers' room is a tough place for a woman. Harry says it was at the time. Mary tells Harriet that the answers she's giving at the time won't be real helpful to their case when she's deposed.

Harriet says she's sure that Karen was fired because she wasn't writing good material. Mary points out that, no, she's actually not sure, and she'd better not make Matt's mistake of saying that to anyone else. Harriet keeps answering questions that aren't the one she's asked. She finally says that Ricky and Ron ran a room with a bunch of guys who had never been part of the group and had never dated the prom queen and wrote to be mean. Hey, they say anger turned outside is comedy.

Mary finally takes that answer. Meanwhile, I'm not positive, but it looks like Sarah Paulson (and by extension, Harriet) has tattoos on the back of her neck. Awesome! Harriet tells Mary the wrap party will be on stage. Mary says they'll talk more later. She then asks why Matt writes, since the old writers wrote to be mean. Matt writes to get people to like him. People like, you know, Harriet. Harry notices that it's working on Mary. Harriet doesn't seem especially pleased. Hey, she asked.

Tom walks by, tossing clothes around. He passes Lucy, who's having her dress altered by a wardrobe person while she wears it. I bet that's exactly what the wardrobe worker wanted to do. They love extra work, you know. The dress is being altered to show more leg. Tom's in favor of this. She tells Tom he was great, and he says he wasn't; he doesn't know where his head is. Possibly on the E-mail that he didn't get from his brother? Or maybe just on Lucy's legs. He tells her that only amateurs aren't hard on themselves. Tom and Lucy are adorable together. Tom's also sad that he didn't get to impress her on the show tonight. Simon, Ratings Stalker, wants to know if they're talking about ratings. Well, they aren't specifically talking about them, no...Simon refuses to tell Tom that he was good tonight, what with that snow machine gaffe. I realize if Simon's too nice, it'll be obvious that something's wrong, but he doesn't have to be a jerk about it.

Simon takes Tom aside, presumably to finally tell him about what's going on with his brother. However, Tom starts enthusing on how crazy he is about Lucy. He screwed up, people are talking about how badly the show is doing, and he still feels great all because of her. Tom just wants to sit back and relax at the party tonight, enjoy more moments in their lives. Simon agrees, and says nothing about Mark after all, saying he forgot what he was going to say. So far he's the only one who saves face well at all.

They show the "Samantha Li, Thai Therapy" sketch. It's basically a one-liner. One and a half, tops. No, Alex is wrong. They really shouldn't have opened with it. It's not a good opener. It's not a good closer, either. Should have been shoved in the middle somewhere.

As the host (who I'm pretty sure is Jenna Fischer. But it might be Linda Cardellini. Or someone else altogether, for that matter. But I think it's Jenna) closes the show, Danny rips off his headphones and goes tearing through the building. He bursts into Matt's office, demanding his pills. Matt says he doesn't know what he's talking about. Danny says that he's a recovering drug addict, he will be forever, and he will beat Matt to a bloody pulp if he doesn't give him the pills. Danny starts tearing apart the office, wanting to know what Matt's been taking. He also says that if he crushes up OxyContin, it defeats the time-release mechanism and gets one high right away. He tells Matt how to really take the drugs right before one last request right in Matt's face to know where they are. Matt hands over the vitamin bottle. Well, A vitamin bottle. This one has Flintstone vitamins in it (are Flintstone vitamins useful in an adult?), which Danny determines by tasting the inside of the bottle. I don't know much about addiction, but even though it would have been a small taste, wouldn't consuming narcotics be a really bad thing for a recovering addict to do?

Danny says that Suzanne told him Matt was taking pills. Once again, Matt knows he's caught, and says he was taking pills, but isn't anymore. He's been clean a full hour. Does Narcotics Anonymous give you a chip for one hour? He tells Danny he's been taking "anything," but he's stopped now. Again, I don't see the recovering addict taking the one-hour clean thing as gospel. Matt says the pills weren't helping him write. In fact, Danny points out, they were making his writing worse. Matt says he knows that. And Danny confirms that Matt's done. Though I still doubt he really believes it.

Okay, just for a moment, I'm going to step away from my already not terribly objective role as reviewer and go into FanGirl mode. Bear with me a moment: OhMyGosh, Angry!Danny is just so flipping hot I can hardly stand it! Ditto with RecoveringAddictWhoKnowsWhereofHeSpeaks!Danny! I could watch him yell at Matt over and over and over again! I could probably wear out my iPod on this scene alone! Homina! This is another of the excellent performances that really made this episode so compelling to watch. Wow. Wow!

Okay, back to just reviewing. Thanks for your indulgence on that one.

Danny finds Jordan sitting alone at the cast party drinking orange juice. They're either on a set that looks like a roof, or they're back on the roof where they got together in the first place. I think it's probably the latter. Jordan's hair is blowing gently in the breeze. Danny wants to end the fight. Jordan apologizes for telling him to get his ass back on stage. Well, actually, isn't that both of their jobs? Him to be on stage, and her to tell him what to do when he isn't doing it? He decides he isn't sorry about anything. What a man. How about leading with the sketch she told him not to lead with in a move that probably isn't helping their ratings any? She points out that sometimes they will actually have to act like people in their respective jobs. Okay, then, he tells her, give him notes. She's says he's skewing "urban" and needs to increase red-state appeal (and we've never heard that about the NBC show Studio 60 before, now, have we?). He's also skewing older and needs to increase younger and female voters. I've never specifically heard this about NBC's show, but it makes sense for a sketch show. Networks like young men. Er, in the audience, I mean. They actually tend to not worry that much about women, but Jordan is. Danny deduces that her note, in fact, is "get more people to watch."

She wants to know why he opened with the war. Danny says that it was in the news that week and felt like a good cold open. Jordan then asks for the rest of the carton of orange juice. I think she has an orange juice problem.

Jordan wants Danny to stop asking him what he wants from her. She agrees with Alex that Samantha Li should have been in her bathing suit at the opening of the show. Okay, but that sketch was weak. Could they have put her in the bathing suit in a better sketch?

Danny tells her to stop. They're losing viewers because they show hasn't been good lately. Ah, so he actually paid attention to the Samantha Li sketch. And the other sketches, for that matter. He says it hasn't been good because Matt hasn't been able to start writing until Wednesday. Um, crap? There's cutting things until the last minute, and then there's not starting writing for a live show with guest hosts who don't usually do live television two days before air. That's bad. She wants to know why, and he says he's working on it. I have to say, if this were a show I were running, I don't believe I'd take that for an answer. However, Jordan does. He wants her to look at the show's history and see that its numbers have always gone up. Well, except, of course, for when they go down. Demonstrating that he has a bit of a short attention span for a moment, Danny wants to know what's up with the excessive amounts of orange juice. Jordan says that she hasn't felt the baby kick all day, and usually drinking OJ gets the baby to kick. Danny is concerned and leaves, taking Jordan with him.

Matt is on the phone in his office trying to get the East Coast ratings. Suzanne sneaks into the office as Matt gripes that one can get election results in two minutes, but not Nielsen numbers? Well, unless you happen to work in television, generally (though not necessarily always) the election results are a little more important.

Suzanne says she knows that Matt knows she told Danny about the pills. Suzanne is more obvious than Danny in her disbelief that Matt has really quit. She wants to know if he's mad at her. He says he's mad at himself. As well he should be.

She explains that he's going to crash and feel terrible. She's watched this. Apparently, because the drugs simulate the action of serotonin (a brain chemical) and endorphins, when one uses the drugs, the body stops making them itself. So when one stops using them, suddenly there are no chemicals in the body being produced that allow joy or pleasure. In a couple of hours, she tells him, he'll be so depressed that getting a Pulitzer from Miss America won't cheer him up. Matt makes a smart-ass comment. Suzanne insists that she isn't kidding.

Herb comes in. He just watched the tape and now realizes that he said "Studio City." Herb asks why he did that. "Just wasn't our night" is Matt's answer. Oh, and maybe that Matt totally psyched him out right before the show. He tells Herb to go enjoy the party. Herb has basically one job, and he messed it up. Going to be hard to enjoy the party after that. Tom's been moping over one biffed line of many. Herb leaves, but doesn't look any more convinced than I do that he'll be able to do that. Matt tells Suzanne he knows she isn't joking, and he appreciates it. He also asks her to tell him when she gets the East Coast numbers. Again, Merritt Wever gives a very powerful performance with very, very few words spoken. She's say so much just with minute changes of expression.

Matt finds Mary busily typing away. She says she talked to Harriet during the show, but it wasn't her fault. They told her they fixed it. Besides, Harry's the one who started it. Matt interrupts to agree to take Mary to the party. Or to dinner. Um, didn't Suzanne just get finished telling him that he was going to crash in a few hours? Why, that's a perfect time to take a girl on a date!

Mary declines. She says he's still in love with Harriet. However, he insists he's moving on. He has to; it's that or Betty Ford. Hmm, some lawyers might ask what that was all about, but not Mary. She says she'll call New York, but she'll let him take her out when she's done. Then she says she knows why he's taking her out, and she doesn't mind, because soon he'll find out she's hot stuff. He says already knows that. Well, her title IS "Hot Lawyer." She promises she gets to be even hotter stuff.

Danny and Jordan are in the prop room. Apparently Danny knows where it is, at least. Danny wants to know why she didn't say anything about the baby earlier. She didn't want to worry him. He finds a stethoscope, and as she listens to her belly, she says she's hit the bottom of the healthcare industry. Hey, it's not Dr. Nick Riviera checking her out, so there's still at least a little further to go before she hits bottom. Danny's face brightens (another nicely nuanced performance here), and he says he hears a heartbeat. She wonders how he knows it isn't hers. Oh, yeah...

He wants to take her to the emergency room, and she says she isn't going. She's worried they'll think she's crazy, and Danny offers to give her a head wound to avoid that problem. Ah, young love.

Jack approaches them on a mission: He has to talk to both of them, and Danny says he can't talk ratings right now. It isn't about ratings. There's been breaking news that the network is going on with in about three minutes.

We cut to the wrap party. Simon is talking up two girls at once. Danny comes up to Simon with Jack and Jordan in tow, wanting to know where Tom is. Jack tells him that three American soldiers were ambushed and captured in Afghanistan, and one of them is Tom's brother. Simon is hit hard by the news. Mark Jeter isn't dead, but al Jazeera has released some a very graphic video. Simon pushes past Jack in a sprint.

At a different part of the party, Tom is telling Lucy that tons of college students have Nielsen boxes in their dorm rooms now. Shouldn't those kids be studying? I mean, I watched TV in college, but not nearly enough for Nielsen to care about. Anyway, Tom isn't worried about his fate being in the hands of college students, mainly because of Lucy's legs.

We see Simon telling Tom the news through Danny's eyes. Again, this is terrific filming. As much as I love Aaron Sorkin's writing (and I do), this is another great scene that says everything with not a word spoken. Tom and Lucy look back at Danny before Tom leaves the party in a run.

Tom runs to the control booth, Simon and Danny close behind. Jack meets him there to tell him he's going to be taken to the network's newsroom. Tom shoves Jack out of the way (Jack's getting shoved a lot this act) to watch the feed in the booth. There is, again, a beautifully subtle performance given by Nate Corddry. Before Studio 60, I'd only ever seen him on The Daily Show. Which I love, but there's not a lot of opportunity for this sort of acting there.

The video shows three soldiers sitting in front of a group of menacing men with weapons. Matt tells Tom his brother is the one in the middle. The captor in the middle starts to read a statement. In disbelief, Tom says it doesn't even look like his brother (It looked to me that the solders' heads were covered when he says this, but it's a good dramatic moment, so I mostly let it go. Plus, on watching it again, it does seem conceivable that their heads are uncovered). Matt says Mark was beaten up. There's a cut to the other people in the booth, particularly Simon, distraught along with Tom.

Tom says there could be another Mark Jeter. Matt gives the soldier's assignment. It's definitely Tom's brother. Tom is devastated and hurls something at the monitor, cracking it. He goes to throw a stool, but Matt holds him back and Simon takes the stool and holds Tom. Jack says they're going to take Tom to the LA news bureau so he'll know everything the minute that network news does, and that they're flying his parents in, too. Tom wants his parents brought to LA. I'm kind of sensitive, but my heart just broke for Tom. Even watching it again to write this is very affecting. Simon and Jack take Tom away, leaving Matt, Danny, and Jordan to watch the video. Jordan notes that one of the captors has an ax, and Danny spirits her out of the room. He has a member of the crew drive Jordan to the hospital. She gives him a goodbye kiss. He wants her to call him the minute she gets to the hospital, and she wants him to call her if he hears anything.

On his way back to the booth, Danny passes Lucy looking at him very forlornly. He goes back into the booth. He and Matt watch the screen for a moment in silence before Matt asks what he wants to do. He wants to stay in the booth and have Suzanne quietly gather the cast. Matt asks why Jordan's going to hospital, and Danny tells him she can't feel the baby kick. Matt asks Danny if he's all right, echoing Danny's concern for Matt during "The Friday Night Slaughter." Danny says he is, but the look exchanged belies that. Danny asks Matt the same, with much the same result. However, Matt says the first person to talk ratings with him is fired. So hopefully that'll be someone we won't miss much. Maybe the cue-card guy who told the cast to shove the cards up their collective asses. The producers leave the booth together, and the episode closes with a view of the hostage video playing on the shattered TV screen.

Interestingly, we never saw Cal on this episode, but Timothy Busfield is credited as a creative consultant for this episode.

This episode starkly contrasted with "The Disaster Show." I tremendously enjoyed both episodes for completely different reasons. The entire cast gave excellent performances (though some admittedly had some more drama to work with, giving them a greater opportunity to shine) and some of them got to really add depth to their characters. Of course, that is as we're getting ready to have to say goodbye to them, but it was still nice. Additionally, while a lot of events occurred in this episode, because of the character development, it was a far more satisfying show than the ones that focused exclusively on Harriet and Matt's relationship (not on Harriet and Matt as people). Sorkin always writes best when he concentrates on the people and how they deal with issues as opposed to just the issues themselves.

It was also nice to see that they actually remember the addiction story line. There seems to be some chance that it will be resolved, at least in some form, by the end of the series. I was beginning to think they might forget about it. I do wonder how well the sexual harassment/wrongful termination story line will be resolved within the next (last) four episodes.

I've also seen it theorized in the grand blogosphere that the series end will in some way involve the show's declining ratings, perhaps with both Studio 60s, NBS' and NBC's, ending at the same time. Of course, it is just a theory, but it's an interesting one. If that is what happens, that will probably break my heart even more than Tom's reaction to his brother being taken hostage or the mere fact that the show has been canceled in the first place. It would be a strong ending, but it would still make me a sad, sad (yet always humble) blogger.

Posted by on June 4, 2007 5:48 AM
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