Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Season 1 Episode 13

The Harriet Dinner (1)

Aired Monday 10:00 PM Jan 29, 2007 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (11)

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  • More like a middle chapter than pure set-up

    According to various sources, the previous episode was the first part of a three-episode arc. Now this episode is listed as the first part of a two-episode arc. Someone needs to make up their mind and figure out how they want to promote the current episodes, because this is only leading to confusion among the TV critic community.

    On the other hand, the structure of this episode suggests that it is, in fact, the middle of a three-part story, regardless of how it is referenced. After all, the majority of the plot and character threads are directly dependent on the set-up from the previous episode, and all of those items remain unresolved at the end of the hour. That leaves the episode on somewhat shaky ground, as is the case for most middle chapters.

    The most controversial element of the previous episode had to be Danny’s stalker-esque behavior. Many people objected to his methods and unapologetic manner, while others steadfastly refused to judge it beyond the confines of romanticism. This episode manages to correct some errors and compound others. While Danny recognizes that he stepped over the line, he still acts with an inflated sense of entitlement (which is, to be fair, inherent to his character). Unfortunately, the oldest trick in the romantic comedy book is employed to force Danny and Jordan into a bubble to work things out.

    Now, it doesn’t count as clever just because Sorkin and the writing staff admitted to the fact that they were falling on cliché. It’s a fairly common way to gloss over the lack of originality: point out the cliché in a knowing fashion to make it seem less egregious. I’m hopeful that Sorkin is willing to avoid the most obvious resolution to this particular plot thread, though it is almost certainly going to end with Danny and Jordan in a relationship.

    The only person who seemed to think Danny should stick to his guns was Matt, which is a fairly good sign of his own lack of perspective. Certainly no one would mistake his efforts for anything remotely mature (and he would likely be the first to admit it). It’s good to see him called on his ridiculous antics, even if it was painful to watch. Harriet finally came to the realization that she was aiding and abetting Matt’s jealousy through her own comfort with the behavior, and it was not a pretty sight.

    Of course, this could lead to an interesting change of pace. Danny’s effectiveness is tied to his decisiveness. He’s all in on whatever he does (which, in turn, explains much about his addictive personality). He decided he wanted Jordan, so he went way over the top. He might very well succeed, which would put his universe back in order and make him that much more effective.

    On the other hand, Matt’s creative flow is fueled by his antagonistic relationship with Harriet. He needs to be caught in that obsessive and jealous state to get his job done. It’s not even remotely healthy or sane, but it’s something inherent to the character. Without the hope of winning her affection, Matt doesn’t have that desire to raise the bar. If Harriet really is ready to shut Matt down once and for all, it could have a profound effect.

    All that said, both Matt and Danny have been so open about their respective relationship-fueled neuroses that it’s hard to imagine that anyone would listen to their advice. Yet Tom walks right into the most obvious mistake in the book. Sure, Tom would have sounded like an idiot by telling the truth, absurd as it is, but at least he could have gathered witnesses and support to convince Lucy of his honesty. Now he’s been caught with his pants down (well, not quite yet, but Kim’s working on it rather persistently).

    The remaining material is split between two minor subplots. Cal’s struggle to keep the snake situation under control is very funny, and surprisingly, it originates with an idea that I found quite amusing. The tension between Simon and Darius is far less entertaining. The point that Sorkin is trying to make is largely lost, because Simon is being a complete jerk in the process of making it. One gets the impression that this is an important statement about the minority voice in entertainment, but when it’s buried under all the relationship angst and dominated by a petulant attitude, I fear that message is being lost.