Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sork of July - Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip 1.2

I know, I know, you're thinking "Skip, don't you know that using the internet to praise Sorkin is like giving a vegan a gift card to a steakhouse; he's going to find very little useful there."  But what can I do?  I mean I've neglected this blog for over a month.  I need to use it for something.  

And I mean we're talking about Aaron Sorkin.  How can you not praise that dude?  

Well today's episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is called The Cold Open.

Host & Musical Guest: Mark Walberg & The White Stripes

# of references “Crazy Christians”: 4

Sketches Referenced: 2 - The Cold Open and Crazy Christians (though a completed show board is shown)

Sketches Shown: 1 - The Cold Open

Pop Culture References: None to speak of

The episode opens with a press conference?! On a Sorkin show?!  Get out!!!

NBS is having a press conference announcing Jordan’s regime and the return of Matt and Danny.  Some tidbits gleamed via Jordan’s press conference; NBS is a rival for FOX.  Props to Jordan for dropping anathema in a press conference. 

Backstage Danny and Matt are discussing the past (Jemma spent the weekend at Matt’s) and the future (Matt has less than five days to pull the show together.)  Matt takes the opportunity to attack the yet to be seen Ricky and Ron.  Furthermore, talk radio seems to be all abuzz about Matt and Danny’s return; apparently the concensus is they are notorious liberals and possibly gay.

Back at Studio 60 Jeanie and Harriet watch the press conference.  We see that Harriet is envious of Jeanie’s physical attributes and Jeanie is envious of Harriet’s talent.  #yesallwomen amirite? 

Finally we meet Ricky and Ron, who are less than pleased that Matt is returning to Studio 60.  Also worried are the writers.  They’re concerned that Sorkin is going to do all the writing, leaving them to assist, because that’s the rumor about him.  Wait, I meant Matt. 

Jack is also appreciating the press conference, until Danny, prompted by a question from the press, reveals he failed a drug test.  Jack is less than thrilled. 

A reporter from Rapture magazine, which apparently has a circulation of four time Vanity Fair’s, asks about Crazy Christians.  Matt tries to deflect, while Danny announces that it’ll be in Friday’s episode.  Boom press conference over. 

Jack confronts Jordan, Danny and Matt about the press conference and is less than pleased with the answers given by those involved.  He storm off leaving Matt and Danny to vent to Jordan about her setting expectations too high.  Her response is curt; “clear it.”  Maybe she is a typical network suit. 

Matt is sweating the cold open for the show, which he feels needs to be a statement.  George who works the front desk at Studio 60 is pretty happy to see Matt and Danny return, underscoring the point that these guys were missed.  Then Matt and Danny argue over who gets Wes’ old office.  Matt runs down Wes’ resume; wrote for Smother Brothers, wrote for Pryor, wrote for Cosby.  Then they get in the office and bask in nostalgia, before Danny notices the clock that counts down to the next episode. 

Then they go down to the writer’s room, where Danny sets a no nonsense tone before departing to speak to the cast, leaving Matt to try to get the best out of this room full of strangers. 

Downstairs Tom is reading internet reaction to the shake up at the show, to which Simon says “stop reading the internet.”  Tom laments the rise of the internet and resigns himself to being part of the problem.  Simon then ponders if Matt’s back surgery will even allow him to work Studio 60 hours.  Jeanie informs everyone that it’s not going to be an issue because Matt is doing leg lifts with weights. 

Danny enters and once again offers up a speech that is decidedly more “call your agent” than the cast is expecting.  It’s here where we learn that Mark Walberg will be hosting with musical guest The White Stripes.  Once again Simon brings up Matt’s fitness, at which point Jeanie lets it slip that she was at Matt’s this weekend.   Cue uncomfortable silence as the cast shares awkward looks about the revelation.   Harriet then storms off to confront Matt.

At this point Danny and Simon share a moment of intensity, where Simon gently asks Danny’s thoughts on the season so far and Tom’s impression of Bill Frist.  There’s a stare down and a weird tone to the whole thing. 

Back in the writer’s room Matt is fielding less than funny pitches mostly involving the making fun of the Bush Administration.  It devolves into chaos, before Matt lays down some laws; he wants people to act professionally.  Cue Harriet storming in calling him names for hooking up with Jeanie, before storming off.  Matt cracks a joke and hurries after her. 

After she vents a bit more, Matt admonishes her and warns her that he’ll remove her from the action and make sure the only time she’s on camera is when it’s time to say goodbye.  There’s more walking and talking.  For those keeping track, Harriet’s been on the show for seven years, while both Matt and Jeanie started on the show two years prior to that.  So basically Jeanie’s been on the show for nine years and still isn’t part of The Big 3. 

Despite breaking up with Matt, Harriet is troubled by Matt and Jeanie hooking up.  Matt, not wanting to shake her confidence before this all important episode, tries his best to put her mind at ease. 

Later Jordan goes to Jack’s office and meets Peter from Affiliate Relations and Joe from Sales.  Apparently there’s an affiliate in Terra Haute who doesn’t like the idea of a sketch called Crazy Christians and won’t carry the show.  Jordan butts heads with Jack over the inclusion of the sketch.  Jordan is warned that evangelicals get personal.  Jordan remains firm; she promised Crazy Christians would make it to air and she’s keeping that promise.  Maybe she’s not a typical network suit. 

Back at Studio 60 Danny is having a meeting with the crew and can’t prep them for anything because he doesn’t know what’s going to be in the show.  As the meeting wraps, Danny gets word that Jack White has tonsillitis and they have to replace the musical act. 

After that we get a confrontation between Simon and Danny.  Danny didn’t like getting called out and Simon didn’t like that Danny abandoned the show four years ago.  Danny counters that he was standing by Matt, while Simon points out that he stood by the show.  Stalemate. 

In Matt’s office, Matt stares at a show board that’s virtually blank.  Danny and Simon enter, followed by Tom and Cal.  Matt admits that he’s stressed, but he feels that if he can nail the cold open, everything else will flow.  He thinks it should be a musical number.  It’s a quick spitball session that ends up with a parody of the Major General’s song from the Pirates of Penzance.  Based on that Tom, Simon and Harriet get the call that they’ll be doing the heavy lifting in terms of writing this week. 

We jump forward to Friday where there are as many as 300 protestors outside Studio 60, in response to Crazy Christians.  Matt and Danny head to Matt’s office and the show board is full.  Matt laments that it’ll be an empty board again in a couple hours.  Danny implores him to be satisfied for once.  The dress rehearsal was great, why can’t Matt be satisfied? 

Then Danny changes the topic to Harriet.  Matt says he’s not in love with her and then goes into so much detail that it’s obvious that he is.  On a related note, downstairs Jeanie and Harriet make their peace. 

Danny pulls Simon to the side so they can hash things out.  Danny confesses that he did have a grudge against Simon four years ago, when Simon felt like he was too good for Studio 60.  But now that grudge is gone.  Simon confesses that he’s worried about his job security because Ricky and Ron were pressuring him to do impressions and he doesn’t do impressions.  Danny wants Simon to focus on what his strengths, as such he’s going to be co-anchoring the News. 

It’s also in this exchange that we learn that Danny and Matt leaving Studio 60 took all of the fight out of Wes, who effectively gave the show over to Ricky and Ron at that point. 

Jack and Jordan compare notes over how many advertisers and affiliates were lost due to Crazy Christians.  Jordan still carries herself with confidence and shows no sign of blinking. 

We finally get to see Harriet’s preshow prayer ritual; the seven cast members, plus Matt and Danny pray.  Ok, so Matt and Danny don’t pray, but they down join hands with everyone.  As everyone departs, Matt gives Harriet some tender advice. 

Then we get the cold open (which I’ll go into a bit later) after which, Matt shots a glance at the clock counting down. 

My Take:  It’s not a bad episode,  but this is clearly when the show begins to get shaky.  “Crazy Christians” is occupying way to much of this show already and we’re two episodes in. 

There’s not that much new in this episode, other than the neuroses of the cast.  Simon is worried he’s going to get fired, Harriet was jealous of Jeanie and that was before she found out about Jeanie and Matt, Jeannie is jealous of Harriet’s talent. 

And that cold open.  On one hand it’s pretty terrible.  It’s difficult to endure and even more difficult to believe that anyone would a) think it’s funny as a viewer and b) think it’s a great opening as a writer.  A writer might think it’s funny, though at best it’s clever.  But a comedian or anyone affiliated with comedy would never sign off on that. 

But on the other hand, it needed to be shown.  The episode is called The Cold Open.  Matt stressed the cold open the majority of the episode.  We needed to see it come to fruition.  Plus, it’s Matt and Danny’s first episode, as viewers we needed to see that they are indeed capable of pulling it off. 

So that cold open was indeed a necessary evil.  Now let’s never speak of it again. 

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