Better Late Than Never: 10 Random Thoughts On Studio 60 Episode Two

Credit: NBC

Hello again and welcome back to Better Late Than Never. We are back with episode two of Aaron Sorkin’s dramedy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I love this episode. I think there are so many great moments in this episode that culminate in a strong, genre-breaking ending that challenges where Studio 60 has been and where it could be going. The ending also proves just how intelligent Sorkin is and how he crafts his witty wordplay to be both thought-provoking and humorous. I love it all.

So, without further ado, let’s get into “The Cold Open” and see just how witty the humor is and how ballsy the characters are.

  1. Sorkin does like his press conferences which is obvious as this episode starts with one. They all feel the same, you know, sharp, witty, with a woman in complete control of the proceedings. Jordan is no CJ Cregg but I like how she does command the journalists and tries to infuse her own brand of snark to the proceedings. You know, Jordan almost feels like Jennifer Lawrence, if Jennifer Lawrence was trying to run a television studio. That seems weird to type, but that’s what we’re going for. 
  2.  Danny is immediately impressed with Jordan. Should’ve seen that coming. I do like how he just sort of gravitates toward her, even though he doesn’t trust her, or at least he says he doesn’t trust her. 
  3. “Ten days ago, I tested positive for cocaine and the insurance company won’t bond me until I have 18 months of clean tests. So, I won’t be directing movies for a couple of years.” “Well, that was nice while it lasted.” All the members of the press just are flabbergasted that Danny admitted to testing positive for cocaine. Man, you have to give him credit, though. That took a lot of guts to admit to it and control the story on his own. No one can say he isn’t ballsy and man does Whitford deliver here. 
  4. “Did I raise the bar high?” “Yes.” “Sorry. Clear it.” Two episodes in and I still don’t like how brash Jordan feels. I go back to my thoughts on the first episode when I say that it feels like Sorkin was writing Jordan in an effort to appease his critics about feminism and women representation in The West Wing so poor Jordan continues to feel a bit pushy. But, I have to admit, I do like her confidence in Matt and Danny, despite the atrocious press conference that just happened. 
  5. “So it knows.” “Don’t endow the clock with special powers.” Matt and Danny are their own brand of hilariously brilliant and comically stupid. It’s a great dichotomy and it makes them feel even more real. Like real people and not characters in a show. 
  6. “Yeah, I’m gonna go in with you for a second. Put ‘em at ease.” And he proceeds to do the opposite of putting them at ease. Sorkin’s done this move before only with John Spencer as Leo McGarry in pretty much every big block of cheese day episode of The West Wing. So I love this little callback he does here. People who haven’t seen The West Wing probably won’t make the connection, people who have probably won’t either, but it’s fantastic and it makes me both happy and sad. I miss John Spencer.
  7. “At his house. He bought a machine.” And a hush falls over the crowd. Awkward with Jeanie and Harriet. 
  8. A possible tender moment between the two most argumentative characters in the history of my watching TV is destroyed by Matt and his need to put his work ahead of reconciliation with Harriet and oh my god it’s so annoying. I can’t handle it. Harriet and Matt are without a doubt the most infuriating ship ever. 
  9. “It was W.S. Gilbert.” “We’ll be the very model of a modern network TV show.” “We hope that you don’t mind our producer was caught doing blow.” Another ballsy move by Danny and something he wouldn’t have been able to do if he hadn’t spilled the beans and controlled the story of his cocaine relapse by himself. It was a gutsy move and it paid off. (Also, does Sorkin just really like Gilbert and Sullivan because this is the second TV show he’s worked that into and I love it.)
  10. I love this ending. It’s such a solid ending. Sorkin was still finding the beats but this is him at his wittiest and borrowing ideas from himself, but that’s not the point. The point is, he did what he did and the song was sparkling and intelligent and that’s what makes Sorkin great is his intellectual humor.

I think I like this episode better than I like the pilot and I’ve seen the pilot multiple times in the span of six months. Don’t ask me why; I just always find myself coming back to it. For me “The Cold Open” really explains and solidifies what this show is about. Structurally, it doesn’t take very many risks. In fact, a lot of the beats feel familiar, especially if you’ve seen The West Wing as I note above in my thoughts, but I think that’s why I love this episode so much. It’s like coming home but with new characters and new situations. I realize that might sound a little weird, but I think that’s why I like Studio 60 so much so far. It feels like The West Wing only not as political.

I do love the character development in this episode. Harriet and Jordan are pushed aside a bit in favor of Matt and Danny, but in this instance, I think it works better because this episode is Danny and Matt’s defining moment. It’s a do or die moment for them. Are they going to choke on the expectations thrust upon them? Will Danny’s revelation sink them before they even have a chance to get off the ground? These are questions that need to be answered and in order to do that some characters have to get shuffled around in the process and Sorkin handles it with ease.

Danny is really the character to watch in this episode. Matt has some good character moments, mostly in regards to his feeling inadequate and feeling like he doesn’t have the time to craft a good show, but they’re still important to understanding who Matt is. As for Danny, he’s pretty much the star of this episode. He comes clean about his addiction, has to prove himself to not only Matt–who knows he can handle the job–but he has to prove himself anew to an unfamiliar writer’s room, Cal, NBS brass, including Jack and Jordan, and the cast who is reeling from the revelation that he is a recovering addict. This is huge for him and there he is, letting Matt write a cold open that mentions him and pokes fun at him. That just points to a bit of underlying strength hiding underneath the fear and uncertainty.

Of course, Whitford continues to prove that he’s one of the most versatile character actors out there right now. Every single Emmy award and nomination he’s accrued over the years are so well deserved and while I might be overhyping him this episode, it’s Whitford’s subtle nuance that makes him someone so intriguing to watch, especially as Danny. I love his delivery and his comedic timing is perfection. I just love Whitford and Whitford as Danny, okay? I can’t help it. He does such a good job here.

“The Cold Open” solidifies Sorkin’s wit and brand of humor as well as proves that Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry are fantastic and deserve more credit. I can’t wait to continue the show. Join me Friday for episode three.

Shelby Arnold
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