Of all the overused plot elements in the history of storytelling, the “baby plot” has the worst reputation. While pregnancy can be mined endlessly for dramatic purposes, the addition of a baby to a story tends to result in severe limitations. More than one series has been killed by a “baby plot” as a result. “Alias” is the most obvious example in recent memory, but there are countless others.
Considering how much “Studio 60” has struggled to find the right balance since the pilot, it’s hard to understand why they would choose to incorporate Amanda Peet’s pregnancy into the series. While one could argue that the series is already sitting in “lame duck” status and that Aaron Sorkin is running with the “one year to live” idea mentioned by Jordan in the previous episode, there’s little reason to make the situation that much worse.
Sorkin also risks annoying the audience by using a tired writing trick to make it happen. He makes Jordan live through cliché after cliché, but to cover it, he has Jordan note that she’s living up to those clichés. It doesn’t really work, and the whole situation just feels rushed and sloppy. Are we to believe that Jordan’s growing lack of fire and focus is some kind of hormonal issue? Wouldn’t that be just a bit insulting?
If that had been the only disappointing aspect of the episode, it would have been easy to overlook. Unfortunately, a number of items fell flat. While the B-12 shot connection might have been subtle, it was run into the ground during the bit between Matt and Danny. Matt’s idea about “Spit Take Theatre” was just plain silly, even if it was a last minute attempt to salvage the show. In fact, none of the sketches were more than mildly amusing. (Though the reference to Union, NJ made me smile…was that a shout-out, Mr. Sorkin?)
There’s also the running gag of Harriet’s inability to tell a simple joke. Sorkin has struggled since the beginning to place Harriet on a comedic pedestal, with every script being about how influential and funny she is. So why can’t this “genius comedienne” tell a simple joke? Harriet does not come across as someone with overflowing talent, and this has hampered the suspension of disbelief in the success of the show.
There were some positive aspects of the episode. Nearly everything related to the writing staff and the visiting guru was spot on, especially the choice application of “metaphor”. The structure of the show was a lot of fun, slowly revealing the context of the scenes from the teaser over the course of the episode. And any amount of Jack seems to be a highlight. But the bulk of the episode missed the mark.
(As a sidenote: I also have a new podcast associated with my various reviews called “Velocity TV”. Current episodes cover “Studio 60”, so it might be something of interest. Go to http://velocitytv.libsyn.com if you want to listen!)