Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Wednesday edition of Better Late than Never. I’m your host and I really don’t have anything witty to say before we get into my thoughts and my mini-review of the episode. I will say, thank you for joining me on this journey. We are four episodes into Studio 60 and I’m loving how witty and fast-paced this series is. The lines of dialogue are crackling and the actors continue to prove their medal with their various characters.
Matthew Perry is on display in “The West Coast Delay,” a breezy but necessary installment of the season. Without further ado, let’s get started.
- “If you really want to mess with someone drop a cruise missile and a couple of tons of Hot Pockets on their ass.” That shouldn’t be as funny as it is, but it is. It’s funny.
- I want to move on, Harriet says, while giving Matt a baseball bat signed by a famous pitcher with his phone number on the end. Pretty sure that’s not how you do it, Harriet. She’s super clueless. I love her. Paulson does really well with this.
- Also, this set is brilliant. Can we just replicate this set for every show whether it’s a backstage set show or not because this set is brilliant? Why does Sorkin always get the really cool sets that feel lived in and well-loved? It’s because he’s that good, isn’t it? Yeah, it is.
- “Are you using a baseball metaphor because it’s Darrin Wells?” “No, but it’s a nice coincidence.” Sorkin’s dialogue snaps back and forth so quickly that little gems sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Let no one say this show wasn’t witty because it was and it’s aided by fantastic delivery from the actors.
- “I’d like one of your boots. That you’re wearing right now and I need you to sign the inside of it ‘call me, baby’ with a comma after me.” I think part of the reason I love Matt so much is because I like to call myself a writer and I see shades of myself in Matt. Not a lot of different shades but a few. I could totally see myself pointing out to someone that a comma needs to go after the word me. Just don’t talk to me about the Oxford comma. There’s where the danger lies.
- Matt is so in love with Harriet that it’s not even funny. He is just stupid enough and clueless enough to not realize it. Both Harriet and Matt are clueless and I need them to not be clueless anymore because four episodes in and I need them to like kiss or something and resolve this ridiculous sexual tension. I swear.
- “I can’t wait for something funny to happen. I have to make something funny happen.” And then Matt proceeds to break a window with a baseball bat. Something tells me those windows weren’t all that great to begin with if they break with a baseball bat. Something also tells me that the old writer, Wes, you know the one who went crazy in the pilot, probably broke many of those windows during his tenure as head writer.
- Timothy Busfield has some of the best one-liners in this episode. Sometimes he blends so well in the background I forget he’s even in the show but then he comes out with these great little micro performances that just bolster the whole thing. Don’t ask me how he does it, but man, he delivers.
- Here is Bradley Whitford, playing another character who doesn’t know how time zones work. I’m sensing a theme here. Is there a bit in The Newsroom or Sports Night that revolves around time zones? If there is, I’m definitely sensing a theme.
- “This is not the comedy we intended when the week began.” What a line to end a show on. What a line and what an image as we leave Simon and Harriet, beleaguered, exhausted, and at their wit’s end. But this is comedy and this is television, and sometimes this is how the world works. It’s a humanizing moment in an otherwise breezy hour of television.
For the past three episodes, Studio 60 has been in full-blown panic and damage control mode. The cast and crew including Danny and Matt have been trying to produce the show in a way that will let them learn from their mistakes but also stay on the air. This is the cutthroat world of network television, but as a viewer binging the show, this episode is such a welcomed reprieve. Yes, the last half of the episode is focused on the issue of copyright and damage control, but the rest of the episode is handled in a breezy, digestible way that lets the characters and the audience breathe for a moment.
That isn’t to say that this episode is character or plot lite. Not by a long shot. In fact, despite how quickly the episode seems to fly by, there is a lot to unpack in this episode and that’s the beauty of a Sorkin ensemble drama. Everyone is doing something and if you blink, you might miss some things.
Christine Lahti joins the cast as a reoccurring guest star and her character, Martha O’Dell, adds a layer of tension since she is a journalist meant to be writing an expose on Matt and Danny. Sorkin handles her in a way that–looking back on it–might be a little sexist, but from my perspective, allows her to be sexy and capable in an effortless way that isn’t afforded to Peet as Jordan. Maybe that’s Lahti being Lahti but I don’t think so. Four episodes in and Jordan isn’t effortless and she might never be effortless but she is beginning to soften around the edges a bit, particularly around Danny.
As I mentioned earlier, though, this is Matt’s episode through and through, and thank goodness for that because so far it’s been everyone else’s time to shine. This episode dives into more of the psychology between Matt and Harriet. These are two deeply different individuals who, obviously, care for each other very much, but are either too clueless or too hampered by personal ego to admit to it. We know about Harriet’s ego. We know she’s talented in both acting and singing. We know very little about Matt’s ego other than he’s an award-winning writer but in this episode, we learn that it’s a bit more deeply rooted than that.
I wouldn’t call Matt’s jealousy childish. Some people might. But here is an incredibly talented man who was dating an incredibly talented woman. Both are in the spotlight. Both are handsome people. But there are always going to be stronger, better, more interesting, and more handsome people out there that Matt feels like Harriet deserves. This is jealousy rooted in perceived character and appearance flaws and Perry hits these notes well while not devolving into overly whiny and pretentious melodrama. In fact, these are perceived flaws that aren’t explicitly mentioned in the script so not only is Perry picking up on these, Sorkin is there backing him up with subtle (and not so subtle) cues. Why Perry has continued to remain typecast as his role in Friends is beyond me. He is so much more than that.
So, when I say this episode, while a bit of a breather, is important, I mean it. Martha’s character is here to stay for a bit, shaking up an already concrete and what feels like a fully established ensemble. Martha and, by extension, Darrin Wells, are here to give us more character beats so we can fall in love with and watch these characters develop into even deeper and fully-formed people. It’s one heck of a ride and I’m glad Sorkin is our pilot because no one else could handle a cast of characters with this much depth and nuance.
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