Better Late Than Never: 10 Random Thoughts on Studio 60 Episode 15

Credit: NBC

It’s Monday everyone and we are on episode 15 of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. A lot of things have happened in the past few episodes, namely, Harriet and Matt have finally gone their separate ways after what feels like years of being connected and on again and off again. However, it’s important to point out that while it might feel like a death knell in the Harriet/Matt saga, I don’t think it’s entirely the end. Harriet and Matt have an undeniable chemistry and not only that, their relationship feels like the kind of relationship that will never truly be over. Whether that’s the case, or not, is something we’ve yet to see. Maybe we will soon.

So, without further ado, here are my ten thoughts on “The Friday Night Slaughter,” a flashback episode which shows Luke, Matt, and Harriet’s beginning as well as shows Matt in the depths of despair. Buckle up, folks. It’s a bit of a sad one.

  1. And once again, we are in a very thinly veiled metaphor that is punctuated by a song that perfectly encapsulates just how lost Matt is. It’s Thursday night. It’s after the Catholics in Media dinner. The stage appears to have been fixed, but Matt’s broken heart is anything but fixed. This is going to be one hell of an episode, isn’t it? I’m going to cry a little, aren’t I? I think the answer to both of those questions is yes. 
  2. Oh, I like how the first flashback we get in the show has this hand-held, shaky-cam effect. That was nice. I also like how the camera swung wildly between off-kilter angled shots and normal shots. Coupled with the present-day Matt taking pills (something he vehemently protested six years ago), it indicates that he’s not sober nor is he in his right mind. I love when directors play tricks with the camera to mirror the minds of our characters. It’s so nice. 
  3. Now I know why I like these flashbacks so far. They remind me a lot of how ER looks, which doesn’t make sense because John Wells doesn’t executive produce this show. I still like it all the same. 
  4. I’m pretty sure the costume directors for this show just decided to copy Matthew Perry’s look as Chandler in Friends for these flashbacks. I kind of dig it, but at the same time, can we maybe get Perry away from Friends? I feel like the poor guy’s just been typecast this whole time because of him. He’s more than that. 
  5. “It was the delicate fronds that got my attention.” I don’t know whether to laugh at Matt’s poor attempts at flirting or to cringe. I think I’m going to do both. But at the same time, Matt has always been a bit prickly, hasn’t he been? Always a little off-kilter. You can’t be too sure if he’s being sincere or if he isn’t. Now I see why Harriet was so mad at him and continues to be mad at him.
  6. And the first thing Matt does is offend her by attacking her religion and the fact she’s a Christian. Oh boy. Matt’s never changed, has he? This is bad on so many different levels. 
  7. Now I understand the animosity between Luke and Matt. I didn’t realize that Luke also started at Studio 60. This is all starting to make sense now. I don’t like any of it because it hurts my Harriet/Matt shipping heart, but it’s making sense. I love how Sorkin gives us bread crumbs that don’t make a whole lot of sense until he finally reveals everything and it’s a brilliant ah-ha moment. 
  8. Wait a second. The singer, Diana Valdes mentioned something about her hallucinating while she’s high on drugs and drunk. Is that what this whole flashback is? Is it all a dream? Because I thought Matt and Harriet broke at the same time. Plus, this Tim character just showing up out of nowhere, and then neither Danny nor Cal remembering him makes absolutely no sense. Now, come to think of it, was Luke really a writer before he was a director? Sorkin, what are you doing to me? I’m so confused. 
  9. Yup. Everything has been a dream and it absolutely hurts my heart. When are Harriet and Matt going to put everything aside and just be together? (But also it hasn’t been a dream? Are some parts dreams and other parts not so much? I’m still confused. I don’t know what’s going on.) 
  10. Tim Batale = Matt Albie. Aaron Sorkin, you bloody genius. I swear, he’s starting to punch me in the gut every episode ending and I love it. 

I’m a sucker for directors who use visual cues and visual filmmaking to get the audience into the mind of their characters. I also like writers who write stories that narratively get into the mind of their characters. Thomas Schlamme and Aaron Sorkin did just that with “The Friday Night Slaughter.” There were so many interesting and familiar visual cues that I’ve seen in other movies that all signify just how unstable Matt is right now. And we know Matt is unstable because of his drug use. Diana Valdez, the guest singer for that Friday’s show, even tells him his pupils are dilated and he needs to take care of that.

Beyond that, though, I only touch on one cue that director Schlamme used in the episode and that was the shaky-cam effect he used as he transitioned into the first flashback of the episode. This is Matt’s second year on the show. He’s young. He’s green. He meets Harriet Hayes and he is immediately smitten with her. So is Luke, the director of the movie Harriet’s currently in. However, that’s not entirely important, as I’m not even sure what’s real and what’s not real in these flashback scenes. What I do know is that Schlamme used the shaky-cam and the tilted angle shots to let the audience know that Matt is not in his right mind during these flashbacks.

This is a filmmaking technique that’s used multiple times in the episode. Coupled with Sorkin’s script, the audience doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not and Sorkin doesn’t reveal much, but he reveals just enough that you start questioning your own sanity. I wasn’t aware that Luke began as a writer on the show and that Luke wrote Harriet’s first sketch. Luke mentions to Matt that he (meaning Matt) always wrote it better in a scene in the present day. Diana Valdez, that singer for the show, however, makes a case for the fallacy of the situation by saying that while she was high she would full-on hallucinate things that she would swear were real. While we don’t see Matt pop one of Diana’s pills until the end of the episode, we do see him popping what looks like his pain pills from the beginning of the show. (Remember, he had Vicodin and pain pills because of having back surgery.) No doubt those are the same pills he’s taking in this episode.

Sorkin also throws another hint into the story that makes it seem like nothing we’ve seen is real. Tim Batale. I was not expecting that revelation until it hit me at the end of the episode. The writer that had a drug problem and was fired by Wes turns out to be a figment of Matt’s imagination, a hallucination that Diana warned us about so early in the episode. Not only that, Tim Batale is an anagram of Matt Albie. This entire episode is an exercise in what’s real and what’s not as we delve deeper into Matt’s psyche and deeper into his burgeoning drug addiction. It could’ve been really easy for Sorkin to tell us about Matt’s growing addiction (we’ve seen Sorkin handle addiction in this way before), but instead, this time, both Sorkin and Schlamme decide to show the addiction and how this break up has affected Matt and it works so very well in every way possible.

I loved this episode. I liked Sorkin’s concept. I like how it was written and how I still don’t know if the flashbacks are real. I know some of it is, but I don’t know about all of it and I love that kind of storytelling. Sorkin does it well and I wish he would do more with this style of storytelling. I think he really excels in this and that this is part of his many strengths.

Shelby Arnold
Hop On In

One comment

  1. I found this episode haunted me the first time I saw it (a number of years ago). It didn’t hit me the same way this time (I guess my writer’s brain added a few layers over the years), but I still rate it as an awesome episode, and one of the best from Arron Sorkin — and that’s saying something.

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