|Spoiler Alert: This is the last scene in the episode.|
There’s a fun game Un Gajje and I play when we revisit old tv shows; we comment on how relevant things are. When I showed him The Ben Stiller Show, we laughed about how very nineties the show was. And we joke about how every issue in The West Wing has been resolved.
I am not kidding with you when I say that despite being almost eight years old, this episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is almost topical. Seriously.
The episode is called The Wrap Party.
Host & Musical Guest: Lauren Graham & Sting (This episode takes place immediately following the previous episode)
# of references “Crazy Christians”: Zero
Sketches Referenced: Zip
Sketches Shown: None
For a reason that’s not 100% clear Studio 60 opts to have their wrap party in the actual studio. We know it’s not normal because Cal mentions “the last time” a wrap party was held in the studio as he warns the crew to wrap everything up.
All of the storylines in the episode are pretty much given equal weight. Tom’s story centers on his parents coming to visit from Ohio. He gives them a tour of Studio 60 detailing the history of the building and it’s importance in the landscape of entertainment. It’s the type of information that would make sense if Tom Jeter had worked his way up from NBS page to one of The Big 3, but there’s no indication that that’s the case.
As you may have guessed Tom’s parents are slightly aloof. When meeting Simon, Tom’s mom blurts out that her husband got a crush on Halle Berry after seeing the latest James Bond flick. Simon chides Tom for barely tolerating his own parents, because they work for a living. The Jeters are so square that they’ve never heard of “Who’s On First.”
Really wrap your head around that. In the year 2006, there’s a middle class white couple in Ohio that is completely unfamiliar with Who’s On First. They aren’t first generation Americans. English is their first and presumably only language, yet they’ve managed to live, oh let’s say 50 years without every coming into contact with one of the most famous comedy routines in American history.
Since they’ve never heard of Who’s On First, they clearly don’t have an appreciation for what Tom does for a living. To make matters worse, their younger son is in Afghanistan, so clearly Tom is wasting his life by not doing anything important. Things are tense for a second, but eventually Tom heeds Simon’s advice and cuts his Ma and Pa Jeter some slack. And it also comes out that Tom actually bought the body armor that his brother’s team is wearing in Afghanistan. Because he’s so charitable he also gives his parents a vinyl copy of Who’s On First, because they haven’t adopted to CDs, which were in decline in 2006.
A more evenhanded story involves Cal coming to the aid of an elderly man (the recently departed Eli Wallach) about to be escorted off the premises by security. The man is holding a picture he took off of the wall of the prestigious Studio 60 (remember Tom Jeter’s story?) Cal calms him down and tries to decipher his gibberish rantings.
Cal, with the help of Danny figure out that his gibberish contains references to Sid Caesar and The Hollywood Ten. Eventually it’s revealed that the gentleman Eli Weinraub, not only served in WWII, but he also wrote for The Philco Comedy Hour and got one sketch on before he was blacklisted. Cal introduces Eli to Danny and Matt who then pepper him with questions and ruminate about how television remains the same.
Matt also plays an important part in another story. Simon wants more diversity in the writer’s room. Matt objects out of ego; he takes umbrage to the idea that he needs support. Simon convinces him to check out a Black comic on the rise out from New York, that someone told him about.
It’s a disastrous set because Willie Wills is the type of comic who traffics in the most clichéd race based comedy imaginable. It’s slightly unbelievable that anyone who knows Simon would recommend that he checked out Willie Wills act. It might have worked better, and underscored Simon’s point, had the recommendation come from the writer’s room. But it didn’t.
We’re then treated to Simon’s tragic back story; he grew up in South Central and the only reason he’s got his fancy new house by the Hollywood sign is because some of his neighborhood buddies wouldn’t let him accompany them on a retaliation attack. They all received stiff sentences and he got a second chance.
Just when you think Matt and Simon are going to leave the club empty handed they stumble across a young Black comic trying out some material at the open mic event. They like his voice and think that he needs some mentoring. So they hire him. That young comic is Darius Hawthorne, played by Columbus Short.
You know, the Columbus Short who was recently let go from Scandal because of his habit of beating people up and getting drunk and sometimes getting drunk and beating people up.
Well, here he is at a simpler time. He and Simon share a scene where Simon pulls a very masculine move and puts Darius in his place. It’s a scene that’s clearly written by a white man, because the same effect could have been accomplished with a pair of looks and knowing head nods. Earlier in the episode Simon points out to Matt that there’s a language that Matt’s not fluent in, and that point is unintentionally illustrated with that button.
Other things happen in the episode too. Danny tries to hook Matt up with some vapid young women, Harriet finds out that her athlete beau isn’t all that great, Jordan tries to both hide from Jack and make friends, Lauren Graham swallows her pride and Jack picks a fight with Danny over Jordan acquiring Nations.
But sadly, there’s no mention of Crazy Christians.