The drop-off from Tom Schlamme’s directorial effort last week is evident from the very first frame. This is “Studio 60” back to the usual grind, and it’s simply not as compelling. It doesn’t help that the episode feels scattershot and disconnected. A number of plot threads are explored in the episode, but there’s never a true sense of cohesion.
The main plot is a follow-up to Matt’s downward spiral in the previous episode. Matt continues to struggle with his muse, especially now that she’s put him in his place and left him for metaphorical dead. Without the tension that comes with Harriet tightly in orbit, Matt is unable to function. It’s starting to become noticeable. If he’s still abusing pills (something not seen in this episode) and his depression remains, it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be able to hide it much longer. After all, Danny is a recovering addict and should know the signs.
His conversation with the sexual harassment lawyer didn’t seem to gel in the way implied by the dialogue. There was certainly a purpose to pushing Matt’s buttons, but it might have been too subtle. The idea, if I understood it correctly, is that Matt was willing to stand up for the sanctity of the writer’s room even when the topic at hand was debauching his soulmate, which in turn makes him a good witness against the claim that the writing room was a hostile work environment. If that was the point, then it was a little obtuse.
The attraction to Matt, of course, fits perfectly within the odd world of “Studio 60”, where sexual harassment lawyers can point out how damaging an office relationship can be to overall effectiveness, yet solicit a date from a future witness for the defense. As good as this might have been for Matt, it makes Harriet’s apparent slide back into his life more complicated. The episode leaves Matt in a precarious emotional situation.
A lot of time was spent on Harriet’s time on set with Luke, and it also hit an odd note for me. Perhaps this is part of the cycle that keeps Matt and Harriet in their eternal struggle, but why would Harriet feel guilty about telling Matt how he acts? His sense of entitlement is disturbing, and they’re simply not good for each other. Yet instead of forcing Matt to get his act together and moving on with Luke, she sabotages her relationship with Luke and comes running back to Matt. Sure, Luke was being a jealous fool, but he’s not playing to co-dependency game.
The Matt/Harriet relationship manages to make Danny and Jordan look sane in comparison. The two of them are still being very cute together, but this episode does suggest that juggling a baby (hopefully in the metaphorical sense) will be harder than they realize. Danny is far too cavalier about the demands that they will face. Any parent can dredge up the war stories from that first child’s early years, when everything was new and incredibly daunting. All the assurances in the world won’t make things easier if Matt can’t get the show out of a tailspin and even more stress hits at the same time as the birth.
This is the last episode to run before the hiatus for “The Black Donnellys”, and apparently it also had the worst ratings for the series’ run to date. Everyone but the core audience is abandoning this ship before it sinks completely, and that’s unfortunate. More unfortunate is the probability that this episode was representative of the series as a whole. It had plenty of promise and potential and interesting characters, but at the end of the day, it just never came together.