Monday, February 05, 2007

Episode Review: The Harriet Dinner (Part II)

Episode Rating: A-

I liked this episode a lot. Definitely the best episode since the hiatus. In fact there's only one complaint I have with the episode, but that complaint is a major one. But still... an A- with an episode that I have a major complaint about shows that this was a really good episode, at least in my mind.

I like how Danny and Jordan ended up (or at least, ended up so far.) I think their relationship is evolving in a very realistic way. I've been in relationships that developed similair to that. I can just feel the complaints of people who are pissed off that Danny's actions are validated by the fact that Jordan was interested in him all along... but... so? That happens sometimes. Danny knew she was interested in him, and that made his actions less annoying. Plenty of women I know have acted exactly as Jordan did in this episode (albeit for different reasons.) So this episode had the ring of truth. I think Sorkin's greatly improved his writing of relationships, they're less flowery than they were in The West Wing and Sports Nights days, which I enjoy. Anyways, I like Danny and Jordan. I'm really sick of blonde Bradley Whitford. He looks better, younger and cooler with his natural brown hair.

Matt and Harriet? Good stuff. Again, a very realistic seeming relationship. I think less time needs to be spent on them, but I do think their relationship is interesting. That said, I have no desire to see them together anytime soon. I've said it before, I'll say it again, Matthew Perry is doing a fantastic job on this show. He's been great in most things I've seen him in, but Matt Albie is definitely his best acting.

Timothy Busfield remains hilarious. I like that Sorkin's used Cal a great deal in this two-parter, it's something he should really be keeping up. I like that Cal is almost pure comedy. I don't need to see much development with him. We know he's got kids, so presumably he's already married and happy in his personal life and thus that doesn't need exploration... just keep him around to be hilarious and cool.

Okay, Can we be done with the Tao family? Please?? I liked them in this episode, but I'm just kind of... done with them as characters. Especially Kim. They've taken what should have been a one episode character and put her in five. I think they need to move on from the Macau hooplah. Get Jack involved in some other storylines, notably the situation with his wife. They weren't seperated when last we saw her... which was... what... The Wrap-Party? What happened? I'd like it to be something other than the tired old "Oh, I'm married to my job." thing. That's been done too many times on TV and too many times by Sorkin.

Tom and Lucy? Cute. Just keep them cute, is all I ask. Don't muddle them down with heavy shit. I like heavy shit, I like it better than cute. I just don't need it from every couple.

What happened to Jeannie? I saw her today and I was all "Oh, you. What have you even been up to?"

Okay, so now we come to my beef with the episode... the Darius/Simon stuff. Excuse my language but... SIMON NEEDS TO SHUT THE FUCK UP! Darius was so on the right and Simon was so on the wrong it's not even funny. Simon pissed me off greatly during that. (Although I loved him in all non-Darius related scenes. He's great as Tom's wingman.) But the resolution to that storyline pissed me off. Darius really should have punched him in the face, Jesus Christ.

But other than that, as I said. Great episode. Sorkin writes excellent flashback episodes, so I'm anxious to check that out next week. Although... my concern is that it appears Simon's in the flashback for when Matt met Harriet. Yet we know Simon only joined the show in Matt and Danny's final year, 2002. Harriet joined the show (where Matt was already working as a writer) in 1999. So... Simon shouldn't be there. I'm a continuity freak (plot-wise, I don't care when cups are moved) so... I hope I'm not let down.

Comments:
I almost didn't watch this week's episode after my disappointment with part 1. While I agree that this episode was much better, I am done watching this show live for the foreseeable future.

It seems to me like the focus of the show has really changed since the hiatus, from a smart drama with the spice of the tension of developing relationships to a rapidly unraveling jumble of love triangles. Sorry, but it's just getting a little too soapy for me and I don't think relationship writing is Sorkin's strength. I also don't see how this show can persist beyond one season with the cataclysmic rate at which some of these relationships are developing (or devolving).
 
Oh my goodness!! I completely agree with every part of this review! I really am getting annoyed with Simon and that was the only thing that was bad about the episode, and even that didn't really bother me too much because I was just too happy about Danny and Jordan getting together!!
 
How did you get a review up that fast. It was nice to come here after being innundated over at Television Without Pity by the negativity based on misreading at least some of the characters and situations (like so many seemed to think that Jordan gave in to the stalking whereas she was upset with Danny's actions only because she thought Danny was doing it out of pity).

But I do not think the woman with Jack at the Wrap Party was his wife. It seemed to me obvious that she was his mistress (not a casual date but not a wife).
 
Yes. The woman in "The Wrap Party" is Jack's wife. I recognize her from the Pilot epsiode. I, too, would like to know what this whole separation thing is about. That could be a really interesting storyline.

Overall, I really liked the episode. Keep your fingers crossed that it gets picked up for Season 2.
 
Spot-on review. Simon needs a beat down and Harriet needs a glass of cold water to the face, but neither one of those things is going to happen and I'm prepared to live with that. I love when two characters are fighting and they're both right, and that's Matt and Harriet all over. I'm really interested in seeing how Harriet reacts to Jordan and Danny, or more specifically to Matt's reaction to Jordan and Danny. If the excuse is still that they work together and he's her boss...

And I totally have to agree about this being Matthew Perry's best work to date. I've loved Matt Albie from the beginning, and yes, it was partially because I've always loved Chandler, but I was in love with Josh too and I was still and always have been a fan of Danny but a fangirl for Matt. And this episode - the botched intro speech and the stuff with Wendy - nearly brought me to tears. He can be a jerk sometimes, self-righteous, whatever, but if Harriet shuts the door on him for good then she's an idiot. Matthew Perry is hysterical and touching and sweet and annoying in all the right doses, and this role is a standout among all the great work (and it's in there, buried in some crappy movies) that he's done in the past. I just love watching him.

Overall, I think this episode did what good episodic TV should do - made me wish for a time machine so I could go forward and see how it all develops a week from now.
 
I'm not a continuity freak but I do understand your concern since it's something I forgot about, regarding the next episode.

But if memory serves...in episode 2, Danny comments how his last season was Simon's first. In that episode, the writer's were also talking to Ricky about their concern regarding stories they heard about when Matt used to write the show. If Matt was a head writer, or THE head writer by the time he and Danny left, wouldn't that mean that he had to have been at Studio 60 for some time before Danny?
 
on second thought, just reread your post and realized you were right and i am wrong
 
RE: "mjc"

You can't have the snappy smart witty drama all the time, you have to develop the characters. The short and sharp stuff gets boring very quickly if you don't build further background on the characters by developing their role.

This means when you go get the sharp snappy dialogue and air of tension it's all the more pronounced. You will feel more connected. You have to feel connected. It's all about development.
 
Chris,

Yes, Yes, Yes, No, &Yes.

Finally one report I can go 99% with you on. Disregarding your continuing references to WW and SC, this episode WAS the first episode I actually laughed through most of the show.

Danny and Jordan are cute, much cuter than Matt and Harriett, which I think bringing in Matt Perry’s main squeeze, Meg Ryan, to be Matt Albie’s new love interest, would make the shows ratings go through the roof. Not sure where the Jennie character came in, but it fit and camera work done to catch Matt’s subtle reactions to the eye candy was very entertaining. Matt Perry still is the anchor character for a great writing staff.

Tom & Lucy, not sure where this one is going. I agree. Lets keep this one in a ‘young pups in love’ mode for awhile.

Cal is rocking the world of comedy as usual. I like the way the real writer of the show is there to write for the Cal character...it is not needed, but does elevate Cal’s character to the front of the shows many sub-plots.

Simon & Darius, come on, calm down, take a powder. This development of a new sub-plot is depicting what actually is going on with black writers in LA right now. We JUST were exposed to Sorkin’s first play at this very interesting issue. So, sit back, Simon’s and Darius will team up to really rock this show with some real good acting and entertainment... plus comedy.

And Jack, Jack, Jack...yes, his character now is truly being exposed to be human as is true in real life...the closing scene with Jack and Tom having a drink and cigars (as disgusting as that is) is just a glimpse of a possible great story developing.

And Kim, ahhhhhhh, yep, the exit of the Tao group. Time to go. It was well written with the story closing line... You speak English? I understand a few words. And what words do you understand? All of them. Great character exit...but I suspect they will be back with some season finale twist to the plot...but yes, time to give them a break.

Great reporting on a great show. Keep them coming and let me know how I can help.
 
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Am I the only one who wasn't enchanted with this episode? It felt like the relationships were being shoved down our throats, and I'm just getting tired of it. Jordanny isn't entertaining to me anymore (never completely was), and Matt/Harriet just need to go away.

Not to mention that the bigger picture I got was that women just really want to get married. It's our sole purpose in life, and BOY! Do we really want it!

I'm holding out hope that next week, we might finally get an understanding as to WHY Matt and Harriet would have ever fallen in love with each other in the first place. Showing is so much better than force feeding down our throats.

On the other hand, Jack's storyline was nice as usual, Cal made me laugh (despite the contrived plot), and Tom and Lucy were still good.
 
I was surprised that Darius didn't stand up for himself more to Simon in this episode. And although the Kim thing was grating on my nerves, I have to say that it was good to see Tom being such a gentleman about it. I got the impression that if it was Simon whom Kim was lusting for, he may not have been so honorable.
 
Still waiting for them to do a show about the backstage drama of Studio 60...the best scene in this regard was Danny and Cal figuring out this misstep cost $235,000...but the STORY should have been they were 24 hours from air, should be doing rehearsals for moving sets and cameras and there is no stage (and not so much finished sketches either).

I have tried to never compare this show with "the other" but the Danny/Jordan thing didn't work for me because Whitford didn't show any emotion in his face or eyes, and you know he can from that other thing. TOTALLY agree with you about the blonde too! For a while the scenes were so dark it didn't make sense why they bothered to dye it, but now that it's obvious I keep waiting for the hyena laugh from Billy Madison.
 
I thought it was a great finish to the two-parter. Cal in wig-out mode was funny and Jordan doing the magic tricks was somewhat of a turn-on. Simon wasn't all that bad in this episode although I am glad Darius was ready to sock him one.

I do wish that we escape the love triangles. There's three relationships going on now (four if you count whatever Jack is up to). That's an awful lot to be shuffling through. I'm probably in the minority but I want more behind-the-scenes S60 stuff.
 
Oh, cut Simon some slack. From his point of view he is right. He wants Darius to do the Black comedy because that is what he was brought in to do. Do the black comedy, do it well, and then move on to other things. This is how Darius did it...he did the black comedy well and now he is outside of that genre as he has the honor of hosting the news.

I thought the parallel between Matt/Harriet and Cal/Animals was lame. I'm surprised no one commented on it yet. Cal tries to cover up what is going on and the more lies he tells, and the more quick fixes he tries to work it out, nothing works, and he just keeps making more nad more mistakes until it blows up in his face and he has to tear the whole thing up. I was ok with the parallel for most of the ep even though it was kind of forced down our throats, until the last scene where Matt is watching the workers take axes to the floor. WE GET IT ALREADY! This show is supposed to have the most educated audience on television, you don't have to hit us over the head with subtext.
 
Sloth, I'm with you. The parallel could have been so much better, and it DID make a good point. However, it was pushed too far, and, ugh. Has everyone forgotten that we're the educated viewers? We GET symbolism, and I'd venture to say that we LIKE it--a lot. But, when it's so obvious, it's not fun. There's no challenge. No thinking involved.
 
Love the Blog... LOVED the episode.. I'm from Canada so it kills me waiting a day to see what you thought...
 
Oh, YES! to ditching the blonde hair, and PLEASE--tell Wardrobe to quit putting Bradley in turtlenecks--with those, the hair, and the glasses, he reminds me of my grad school drama/tap teacher, and it's freaking me out. And besides, it's California, not NYC!

Good comments--keep up the good work.
 
RE Sloth:
This is how Darius did it...he did the black comedy well and now he is outside of that genre as he has the honor of hosting the news.

Yeah- maybe that's true but two things
1) That is NOT what Simon was saying. Simon was saying that real writers always want the assignment no matter what it is. Real writers will jump at each and every chance they get reagrdless of why or how it cames to them.
And 2) I'm sorry but that is just crap. He has to slog through the 'black' comedy until he can have the 'honor' of something better? So Lucy should be slogging through the 'female' comedy until she can rise above as well? If you follow that ill-logic you end up automatically segregating people in exactly the way Darius didn't want! Simon's point was that Darius needed to be colorblind and take every opportunity/Darius' point was that he didn't want to get pigeonholed. I just hoped it won't be dropped as the 'black' sub-plot. The story isn't over.
 
I cracked up in the scene with Matt and that boot girl after the Harriet Dinner. Chandler, excuse me, Matt lights up a cigarette, she puts it out and he immediately lights anotherone. This is right out of th Friends-Playbook. Great.
 
I loved the episode but do agree that they need to let Brad go brown once more. His light locks do make him look older. For the most part, his hair is so light it looks gray to me thus making him look alot older than he is.
 
I don't think that Matt was headwriter when he left the show. He was in the room and became kind of a star writer but was not the head writer at that time. Danny was a segment producer during this time and not an executive producer which was Wes's job.
 
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Just found out that TV3 in Ireland are beginning to show Studio 60 this Thursday with the first 2 episodes! Can't wait!
 
any of you guys would know where to find the script or subtitles of the 14? it's untracable :(
a hard show to understand for a non english.
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