"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Studio 60: K&R Part 1

I think there's something particular to Studio 60 fans in that we really, really wanted the show to be good. I'm not a hater. I'm not watching this show and cackling. Yes! Yes! That's right, Mr. Sorkin, make a left turn into a dramatically unsatisfying kidnapping of Tom Jeter's brother! Yes! Now flashback to 2001 for no reason whatsoever! Ah, yes!

That's not what I'm doing. I sit down hoping that the show will be good. I hope this for two reasons: 1) because I'm sticking out the remainder of the episodes and I want to be entertained in that time, and 2) I really, really had high hopes for the show and I hate to be wrong.

So that's why it's with a heavy heart that I must report my dislike of this episode. The second Harriet went down to pray in the opening sequence, I thought the show went off the rails. That, combined with the meaningless (and I mean absolutely meaningless!) flashback, the silly K & R conversation, and the crass Jordan pregnancy scare (more on this in a minute) and I was left with a pretty bad 60 minutes of television.

Let's get the bad over with first:

- Harriet praying. I pray that Harriet and Matt don't talk about religion on the show. Is that irony?

- The flashback. Sorkin can get pretty ham-handed with his "messages," but even I thought the "This war will be over with by dinner time" comments were being laid on a little thick. Yeah, Aaron, I get it, the war has dragged on a lot longer than anyone ever expected. Remember when this was a show about a TV show? I thought the exploration of trying to be funny in the face of war and 9/11 was a particularly rich vein (remember Giuliani and the firefighters at the first new SNL after the attacks? "Can we be funny again?" "Why start now?"). Too bad this was ignored for... I don't even know what the flashback was trying to accomplish!

- Jordan's pregnancy scare. Here's a question for you: when a show is struggling in the ratings and the show within said show is also struggling in the ratings and one of the characters very crassly suggests that the way to save the show within the show is to have someone on that show deal with a pregnancy crisis (as it's an easy way to manipulate the female audience) while those very characters are DEALING WITH A PREGNANCY CRISIS, how are we supposed to care for those characters? I mean, it's almost as if Sorkin is saying to us, "All right, jerks, you're not watching, so here's something that'll make the women weepy." I'd like to believe that it's just an ironic wink, but I really didn't feel that way. I found the whole thing insulting.

- Tom Jeter's brother. I'm sorry, I'm just not buying this. Like the flashback, there's an interesting story about the consequences of political satire ("Mohamed the Thin Skinned Prophet" and how a Muslim extremest group might deal with it) buried underneath about thirty layers of faux-drama. Instead we're treated to Tom Jeter asking angry questions.

Now, all that being said, there was some good stuff tonight. Sorkin's too talented to turn in a complete clunker. So, the good:

- No Simon! I like D.L. Hughley, but let's face it: there's nothing for him to do anymore. His disappearance was the first of the cost-cutting absences that actually improved the show.

- The return of Cal!

- Danny proposing to Jordan. It was romantic and moving and funny all at the same time.

- Danny ribbing the doctor.

- Jack. Last week he was in full-on stereotype mode, this week he's Mr. Sharp-Suited-Super-Shark-With-a-Soul. Not sure why the characterization keeps oscillating, but when Jack Rudolph is good, he's really good.

- In keeping with that, the Matt and Danny and Jack conversation in the flashback was the only part of it that I liked.

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