As part of Sork of July, I've increased my daily intake of Sorkin dramatically. The weird thing is that I still can't get enough of Sorkin. I want Sorkin to write more tv shows. In fact I wish Sorkin would just be constantly writing tv shows.
What can I say; I'm selfish.
Today's episode is The Focus Group.
Host & Musical Guest: Rob Reiner & Gwen Stefani
# of references “Crazy Christians”: 3
Sketches Referenced: Science Schmience, Commedia Dell’Arte
Sketches Shown: The Nicholas Cage Show, Commedia Dell’Arte, News 60, some golf sketch, a White House press conference sketch, Science Schmience, Pimp My Trike
Pop Culture References: None to speak of
Jordan and Jack (plus Ricky and Ron) observe a Studio 60 focus group. Jordan dislikes focus groups because a) they’re wrong about television shows and b) because, L.A. focus groups consist of unemployed writers and directors, who are unemployed for a reason. Ouch.
The focus group scores are pretty solid, except for one question; is Studio 60 patriotic or unpatriotic. It’s a 50/50 split. Apparently the country is incredibly divided. I can’t imagine living in an America like that. As the meeting wraps up Jordan is transfixed by the image of her mugshot on television. Whoops.
At Studio 60 we see a run-through of a sketch called “Science Schmience” which is about as funny as it sounds. But the thing that stands out the most is that Rob Reiner is hosting this week. Studio 60 exists in a world where Rob Reiner is a “get.” Bewildering.
But on the plus side we get a to see a couple cast members trot out impressions; Alex uses his Ben Stiller to warm up for his Tom Cruise, while Harriet utilizes her Holly Hunter to annoy Matt. It’s refreshing to see that there are indeed talented people on the show who aren’t named “Matt” or “Danny.” Then suddenly the power goes out. Uh oh.
Back in Jack’s office, Jordan explains away her DUI. Furthermore she explains that because of white privilege, she had the offense stricken from her record. Ok, she doesn’t actually say “white privilege” but I think we can all read between the lines. The point is, any record of her DUI shouldn’t exist. Yet it does. Troubling.
In the Studio 60 basement, Ricky and Ron stop by to give Simon some encouraging words about his upcoming duty of co-hosting the news. For some reason Ricky feels the need to explicitly state how important the News is to the show, despite speaking to someone who a) has been on the show for five years and b) is one of the Big 3. It’s an interesting choice. And rather than replying “I know, I’ve been here for five years and I’m one of the Big 3” Simon admits to feeling some pressure. Ricky and Ron then go off to find Matt. Suspense!
Ricky and Ron find Matt, confidently in his office, and question the logic behind Tom (one of the Big 3) overseeing the writing on the News, which is anchored by the other two of the Big 3. Ricky and Ron take it as a personal slight, because that’s usually one their responsibilities. And while it’s a completely reasonable question, it goes unanswered because things devolve into a slurry of grudge. Ricky then offers up that they need to talk to Matt and that Danny will be meeting them soon. Ominous.
Back downstairs Tom and Simon mock Midwestern values, much to the chagrin of Harriet because she’s a (capital C) Christian. Also Crazy Christians comes up. Drink!
Ricky and Ron are stewing silently in Matt’s office when Danny comes in. Ricky and Ron have been tasked with delivering the focus group results, which Danny wants no part of. Things get tense between Danny and Ricky, but Danny finds a moment to hit Ron with a sick burn. Danny really doesn’t want Matt to see the results, but Matt is intrigued and won’t be denied. Act Break!
Matt does indeed read the results and they get under his skin. He’s upset about Jack. He’s upset about history repeating itself. Then Danny and Matt get into it. Danny thinks that Matt is timid about doing political sketches and Matt confesses a bit of fear. Danny leaves, but his words linger as Matt immediately requests political material. Heavy.
The Big 3 are working on the News, with Harriet doing her best to defend Midwest values, when Jeannie comes in with the focus group results. She’s bummed because they didn’t like her sketch from last week. See, actors have feelings too. And the power is out again. Eerie.
Danny asks Cal what the deal with the power is and Cal is completely noncommittal in his response. Danny then retires to his office only to find Jordan there. They bond over their issues with substance/alcohol abuse. And then Jordan does something weird; she wants to make sure that Studio 60 is covering Jordan’s run in the law from 8 years ago. Huh?
That’s right, the president of the network wants to make sure that she’s treated just like anyone else and lampooned on Studio 60 for her transgressions, which took place two presidential elections ago. Sure.
Then things get serious; Danny asks what Studio 60’s ratings need to be this week to keep Jordan out of trouble. She evades the questions in a mildly flirtatious manner. Yeah!
Flash forward to the dress rehearsal, “Science Schmience” not only made it this far, but it hasn’t gotten any funnier and is seemingly longer. Danny seems fine with it though, when Ricky and Ron approach him to complain that they’ve got nothing in this week’s show. After some rehashing of the bad blood between Danny & Matt and Ricky and Ron, we get to the origin of the feud; Matt defended Bill Maher post 9/11 and Ricky distanced himself (and Studio 60) from Matt’s comments. Revealing.
Jack visits Jordan’s office with an apology for the shareholders that Jordan needs to sign off on. Jordan isn’t a fan of being in the tabloid spotlight when Jack drops a bombshell; Jordan’s ex husband, whom she was married to for nine months when she was 25, is shopping a tell-all book. Jordan shows a glimpse of vulnerability. She’s a mix of shock, fear and betrayal. But she composes herself and hides behind a glib tongue. Jack doesn’t press her, but tells her she’s a got a meeting with NBS lawyers to rundown everything that might be in that book. Before he leaves she poses the same question about retention numbers that Danny asked her. His response 90% of the audience or she’s gone. Gulp.
In Matt’s office Danny does his best to persuade Matt to let Ricky and Ron off the hook. Matt thinks they’re hacks. Danny is worried about Matt burning out, something Ricky mentioned. Fortunately Jeannie comes in request that Matt take her sketch off the show because it’s not connecting with audiences. Matt bets her $10k that the sketch will grow an audience. She’s struck by how much he believes in her sketch. Sidebar.
So, we know that Ricky & Ron make $15k per episode. We also know that generally talent makes more than writers. Also, Jeannie has been on Studio 60 for nine years. I think it’s safe to say she makes more than $10k per episode. Right?
As if to underscore my math, the next scene shows that Harriet has won over both Tom and Simon in regards to the joke about Midwestern Values. She asks Matt why they’re making fun of people in a town where “the average income is $18,000 a year or roughly the same thing I’ll be paid to perform this show tonight.” We’ve got to believe that Jeannie is making comparable money, right? Also “Crazy Christians” comes up again. Drink.
After the preshow prayer huddle, we learn that Gwen Stefani is the this week’s musical guest, we get a glimpse of sketches like The Nicholas Cage Show, Commedia Dell’Arte, News 60, some golf sketch, a White House press conference sketch, Science Schmience (which based on all of the parts seen, must be the longest sketch ever and might still be going on to this day) and Pimp My Trike. Given those sketches, there’s no way Studio 60 is retaining 90% of last week’s audience. Burn!
At the wrap party, Simon gets hit on by an attractive blonde and eventually pawns her off on Tom. In case you weren’t already aware this show takes place in 2006, Jordan is waiting for the numbers for the show to be faxed to her when Danny walks in. Danny points out how responsible his cocaine abuse was compared to Jordan’s completely reckless DUI and he commends her for standing up for Crazy Christians. Drink.
Matt is quietly sulking when Harriet tries to cheer him up with her Holly Hunter impression. If at first you don’t succeed. Then she and Matt start talking about focus groups, when it dawns on Matt that Danny put the patriotic questions in the questionnaire and he did it so Matt would get his mojo back. There’s a bit of gay panic before the two buddies rejoin the party proper. Hilarious?
Jordan finally gets the numbers, but not before Jack arrives and plays with her nerves a bit. The good news is that Studio 60 got a 19 share, retained 109% of last week’s audience and did a 3.1 in the demo. On a Friday night, at 11:30. Sure.
As Jordan spreads the good news, the cast rejoices, Ricky and Ron pout, Matt leaves the party early because he knows that things can only get worse from this point on. Deep.
My Take: Apart from Matt's $10k bet, which seems to little to impress someone on a show, where one of the stars makes $18k a week and it's executive producers make $15k a week, there wasn't really too much glaringly off this week.
Ok, that's a lie. Rob Reiner as host? Come on! At least Betty White was experiencing a bonafide pop cultural resurgence when she hosted SNL, how can you explain Rob Reiner hosting Studio 60 in 2006?
The scene with Jack confronting Jordan about her ex was very well acted. Peet played Jordan as vulnerable, but not weak. She really thread the needle there.
Lastly, we're three episode in and I'm already tired of Crazy Christians. There's still 19 episode to go? Oy vey.