Better Late Than Never: 10 Random Thoughts On Studio 60 Episode 11

Credit: NBC

Welcome to Tuesday and another installment of Better Late Than Never.  I’ve been sick all weekend which is why this post is late and I apologize.

We have hit the halfway point of the season and things aren’t looking great. It’s a Christmas show, but there’s less than perfect Christmas joy in this episode as Matt tries to get the spirit up, much to everyone’s chagrin. There’s a whole lot of shredded coconuts to simulate fake snow (something that I didn’t think was a thing, but apparently it is?) and Matt and Danny both make big declarations that I don’t think I saw coming. Needless to say, a lot of things happened in this episode and I’m here for it.

You know the drill. Here are my thoughts. Mini-review to follow.

  1. First off, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as awkward and endearing as Danny sitting in a women’s clinic with Jordan, reading a magazine on pregnancy and talking about needing to “stick a needle about a foot long into your prenatal girth.” I’m grateful to get more Danny but this is cringe and hilarious. 
  2. Oh and then it gets even more awkward learning that the father is the dude that ratted Danny out on the drug test 12 weeks ago. Danny’s right, though. There’s like 8 million different kinds of birth control. I can almost guarantee that the dude is one of those guys who never gloves it up for various reasons we won’t get into in an entertainment setting. 
  3. “What are you? Linus?” I was going to make that joke, but they made it first and I’m okay with that. It’s a good joke and it never gets old. 
  4. “I’m the Miracle on the Sunset Strip and you’re the other guys.” You know, Matt’s right. How is he the only Jewish man who’s bringing Christmas spirit? Like… how is that a thing? Good question. I don’t know. But for now, can we comment, very briefly, on the fact that Bradley Whitford holds phones in the most adorable manner in the world? No? Is it just me and my best friend who thinks that? Probably, but we’re pointing it out now. 
  5. Okay, but really, I say this a lot but I like Jack and Jordan in a really strange way and I’m not sure why. He’s an asshole and misogynist but at least he was being sincere about Jordan and the baby and that’s a kudos from me. 
  6. “Jesus was born in North Africa. How come in paintings it always looks like he’s one of the Bee Gees?” There are some very good questions being posed in this episode and I’m only 13 minutes in. 
  7. Tom and Simon fighting (friendly fighting, mind) over Lucy is one of the cutest things I think I’ve seen in this show so far. They are adorable and I love their friendly rivalry.
  8. MATT, FOR GOD’S SAKE, KISS HER. HARRIET, FOR GOD’S SAKE, KISS HIM. I can’t with these idiots. I swear. 
  9. Can I just say I love the juxtaposition of Jack and the FCC plight with the Christmas show being put on in the next building over? It’s exactly the kind of thing Sorkin does. Also, with everyone fighting over the origins of Christmas, it doesn’t feel like Christmas and when do Sorkin’s Christmas episodes ever feel like Christmas? It’s all set dressing, let’s be real. 
  10. OH MY GOD THANK YOU. About dang time. Just saying. Is that my last thought? Yes, it is, because it’s worth it. 
  11. BONUS: Just kidding. This whole bit with Ed Asner and Steven Webber is great. It was less than five minutes long and it just gave me all sorts of warm fuzzies. Yes, Jack isn’t the greatest, but he has his morality and that’s nice. 
  12. BONUS: I don’t care what anyone says, Danny is the best man in this show, hands down. What he did with the out of work musicians from New Orleans was beautiful. 

I don’t have a lot to say about this episode. Like every Sorkin Christmas episode, “The Christmas Show” accomplishes a lot more than just Christmas. In fact, like every Sorkin Christmas episode, Christmas in this episode is just a bit of window dressing to introduce some humorous exchanges in the middle of an episode full of levity and dueling ideologies as well as a storyline that is the very opposite of Christmas cheer.

Now that I’ve said Christmas far too many times in a paragraph, here are the two things I enjoyed in this episode. One, Danny and Jordan, and two, the FCC fight. While we’ve gotten a whole lot of character development from all the other characters in the show, and we keep getting more from Jordan now that she’s pregnant, Danny has been short-shifted. Not anymore, he isn’t. While some of Danny’s motivations are attributed to Jordan’s pregnancy, and that feels like a typical trope employed by writers of male/female dynamics, at least Jordan isn’t dead which is how some writers would handle Danny’s development. Or at least, that’s how some would handle it if this were a movie and not a TV show.

Danny is a carer, which is a stark contrast to someone like Matt who seems to be partially (or wholeheartedly) driven by pettiness and jealousy. While we get some glimpses of Danny’s jealousy when he finds out who fathered Jordan’s baby, he would rather help Jordan than dwell on the deadbeat dad who isn’t supporting her. Though, he does make a few digs at the dad when the doctor comes in, just so the doctor knows how much of a crap person this “father” is. It’s nice to see that from Danny who hasn’t been anything but a bit of a one-note character since the beginning. We know he’s a recovering addict and that makes him seem more compassionate in some avenues, as we saw when Jordan was arrested for DUI and he makes a speech about driving while drunk and how when he’s high, he’s only hurting himself and no one else.

But the problem I have with this whole arc for the moment is that in the end, Danny basically corners Jordan and says, in fewer words, that he’s not going to stop pursuing Jordan until she accepts his love. That worries me. That is in direct violation of Jordan’s rights as a woman, as a woman who can say no, and it directly violates what we know about Danny so far. Or at least, it does for me as a viewer. I’m interested to see how it’ll play out and see if Danny is uber pushy about things or if he’ll let Jordan be Jordan. I’m thinking it’ll be the former.

As for the FCC fight, this also gives the audience an opportunity to witness Jack and more of his character development. Before, I bemoaned Jack as being a misogynistic neanderthal with a power complex, but there is more to him than that. He, surprisingly, has a moral compass, and it’s on full display as the FCC fight takes center stage. But there’s more to the FCC fight than just learning more about Jack. Sticking the FCC fight in the middle of a Christmas episode is such a classic Sorkin move. In The West Wing, each Christmas episode has something grander and more poignant and important to say. In season one, it was about homeless veterans. In season two, it was about PTSD and mental health. In season three, it was about addiction. I could go on. In “The Christmas Show,” it is about censorship and the perception of American soldiers following the events of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan.

Censorship is a hot button topic at the moment and watching this episode reminded me that Sorkin was always ahead of his time. Sometimes his writing could be heavy-handed–see “Isaac & Ishmael” in season 3 of The West Wing–but, for the most part, if he had something to say, he would say it in a way that made his message accessible and easy to digest. That’s “The Christmas Show,” and I’m grateful that he didn’t lose that from The West Wing because the Christmas episodes of The West Wing are some of my favorite episodes because of how they deal with the messages. Sorkin did a great job here. Was it an Emmy winning episode? No, but it’s quintessentially Sorkin and I appreciate that.

Shelby Arnold
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