Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Season 1 Episode 15

The Friday Night Slaughter

Aired Monday 10:00 PM Feb 12, 2007 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (16)

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  • A powerful exploration of depression and addiction

    According to several sources, “Studio 60” is leaving the air earlier than intended to allow “The Black Donnellys” to start at the end of the sweeps period. This is in response to the continued loss of viewers since the slight surge in ratings at the beginning of the year. Unlike some of the other series on NBC hitting a mid-season hiatus, “Studio 60” is in a dangerous limbo. If “Studio 60” was a hospital patient, the doctor would be advising the family to gather together at this point.

    This is unfortunate, because the series has always held so much potential. Nearly two-thirds of the way into the season, however, it’s hard not to wonder if that potential was squandered. For a good chunk of the fall, the series was hammered for being a thinly-veiled version of Sorkin’s life and a mouthpiece for anti-Christian ranting. This was followed by a plot thread for Danny and Jordan that left a sizable chunk of the remaining audience turned off by the implications. At this point, it hardly matters if the allegations and interpretations were fair or not; the effect has already done the damage.

    And so it goes that this episode, a mesmerizing study of a character suffering from self-inflicted depression and escalating drug addiction, garnered the lowest viewer totals in series history. It would be easy to point to the grim subject matter as the culprit, but the ratings for this episode are more a response to “The Harriet Dinner: Part II” and the sweeps episodes of “CSI: Miami”. Some viewers chose not to return based on the Danny/Jordan relationship (if online discussion is any indication) and some viewers are jumping to safer waters.

    What they missed was a classic Sorkin/Schlamme collaboration. The tone of this episode was much more in line with the pilot than some of the more recent episodes. That’s not to say that the direction was lacking in those installments; it’s more of an indication that Schlamme has a style that lends itself very well to Sorkin’s vision.

    In many ways, this episode is the flip side to “The West Coast Delay”, which was another atmospheric treat (and equally unappreciated). Both episodes inhabited a darkly romantic space that was reflective of Matt’s emotional state. The structure of this episode was fluid and dreamy, often slightly disjointed, suggestive of Matt’s mental state under the influence of the pain medication.

    Critics will no doubt charge Sorkin with mining Matthew Perry’s history with addiction to painkillers to compensate for a lack of original thinking. Then again, it is a time-honored practice of good television writers to use an actor’s personal life as grist for the character exploration mill. After all, it allows the actor to mine genuine emotional and psychological knowledge to give the performance authenticity. Perry should be given a great deal of respect for this episode.

    Matt Albie is not the only character living in an unusual state of mind. After all the hand-wringing over the past few episodes, Danny and Jordan seem to be living in that ecstatic haze that comes with fresh and somewhat secret love. It’s a bit jarring at first, but after reflection, it feels more like the calm before the storm. Over time, one would expect all the issues surrounding the relationship to come crashing down on their shoulders.

    Thanks to the various flashbacks, giving important context to the love triangle between Matt, Luke, and Harriet, there were some opportunities to look into the history of Studio 60. It’s actually hard to imagine how Matt won Harriet over, considering where he started. But it does serve as a good reminder of how Matt’s pursuit of Harriet led to creative inspiration, which in turn reinforces the effect that this latest break will have on his ability to run the show. One can only hope that the series manages to stay on the air long enough to explore this fertile ground.