The latest run of Studio 60 is perhaps the saddest thing on TV this year. You’re watching a dying show that knows it’s dying and has no hope to see another year, presents some of the best written and acted drama in the 2006-7 season, trying to prove that its cancellation was a mistake.
This week’s episode continues from where we left off, just after Simon’s rant against the press and the people of America. He’s dealing with Jack Rudolph who demands that he issues a public apology. Simon, being Simon, refuses to do so and we have an almost hour-long standoff between the two. Each of them presents a valid case, as Jack stands for the business side and Simon for the morals. But it’s really about Jack.
One of my favorite things about the recent episodes and it’s something that started even before the hiatus, was the humanizing of Jack Rudolph. He may be obnoxious at times but he’s not as evil as he was presented when the show started. Yes, he’s a hard-ass, but he’s no longer the bad guy. We know what Sorkin thinks of today’s TV and network execs and at first Jack Rudolph was supposed to represent them (And Steven Webber is perfectly capable of playing the villain in a suit) but as the show progressed he became more likeable. It became clear when he took on the FCC (And even before that, when he secretly let Danny know Jordan’s faith is uncertain) and now he is almost the perfect network guy he knows what’s right artistically, he knows what’s right business-wise and tries to walk between the drops in order to get the perfect compromise between two sides. When the FCC tried to mess with the news he wouldn’t budge an inch because he knew that nothing should compromise the integrity and directness of news coverage. This time though, it’s different. It’s not about the integrity of the network; it’s about a stupid statement made by a comedian that could bring down the network’s flagship show if not handled properly.
The discussion between Simon and Jack takes us back, again, to 2001 and the Carl Rove in Hollywood. We learn that Jack kept his word six years ago and put the sketch on the air, after the sponsors didn’t object. But when the backlash began (As the sage Harriet warned Matt) he asked them to apologize and of course they refused. This week’s flashback ends with Jack calling Wes, and it should bring us back to the start of the series, when they mentioned how Wes didn’t stand up to Matt and Danny when jack fired them. We know Wes had no standing with the network in 2007, but I guess he lost his power back in 2001. Jack was more of an a-hole back them deliberately acting like he can’t tell who’s Matt and who’s Danny, but like I said, Weber’s more than capable of playing that part.
This week continued to follow Tom’s brother in Afghanistan as his situation takes a turn for the worse and Tom starts to explore the option of buying his freedom. James LeSure is doing a fantastic job as Captain Boyle and while Tom may not appreciated it, Boyle is actually the only thing keeping him sane and collected in this situation. He knows just when to antagonize Tom and when to let go. We also had a scene of Harriet trying to teach Danny how to pray but this only served to hit Sorkin’s point that the religious right doesn’t know what he’s doing. Having Harriet admit that Danny made a good point showed one of Sorkin’s weaknesses he never knew how to write a believable sympathetic right-wing character. Back on The West Wing Ainsley Hayes was the only character resembling a likeable Republican. Only when John Wells took over we had some “good” right-wingers like Glen Allen Walken and Arnold Vinick.
Next week’s will be Studio 60‘s swan song. With all the references between 2001 and 2007 made in recent episodes, I stand by my theory that the last episode may see the cancellation of the sketch show. Another option is that Jack will fire Simon ((after Simon told him to either do it or shut up) which will cause a walkout of his fellow cast members. I just don’t see a happy ending next week. There’s a strong chance I’m wrong here, but that’s how I see it. In any case, it’s gonna be sad.