Studio 60: Warm-up act
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Last week's episode was about 15 minutes of plot and 35 minutes of characters telling each other what happened in that 15 minutes of plot. (I'm figuring about 10 minutes of commercials.) Included in the 15 minutes was a scene in which Steven Weber's character, network suit Jack Rudolph, tells Amanda Peet's too cute for a Network President Jordan that a sketch has to be cut from---what the hell is the name of the show within a show anyway? Jordan's thinking she needs to placate Jack because his ego's bruised from her outmaneuvering him on a previous episode. She goes to Brad Whitford's laid-back, recently drug-rehabbed producer Danny and tells him Jack is going to order him to cut the skit. She asks Danny to cave, but not without a fight. She wants him to put up a fuss first so that Jack will feel he's won a tough one. Danny's cool with this because he's already decided to cut the sketch. It isn't funny.
Few mintues later, Jack and Danny are alone and Jack tells Danny to cut the sketch, and Danny says...
Just like that. No fake outrage. No pretend argument. He just shrugs and says, fine. He completely goes back on his promise to Jordan to put up a fight. Not only that, but he tells Jack that the sketch was already on its way out.
Which infuriates Jack.
He's so angry at having the decision taken out of his hands, and at not being able to feel like he's Danny's boss, that he immediate one-eighties and orders Danny to put the skit back in the show.
Danny refuses and they fight about that.
I liked this because of what it says about the extent of Jack's and Danny's egos, particularly Danny's, since he comes across as a very modest, very laid back guy, almost a go along to get along type. But he has as big an ego as anyone, including Jack.
Ego's probably the wrong word for what he has. It's a professional's pride. He won't put up with any suits, not even Jordan, making the creative decisions for his show. What's more he wants it known that he's making those decisions himself and he makes them for the right reasons.
The sketch has to go. It's going to go. Danny's already made up his mind. So what does it matter if he lets Jack think the decision to can the sketch was his?
It matters to Danny because Jack's making the decision for craven business reasons. Jack thinks the sketch will rile the wrong people, sponsors and the office of standards and practices. Danny wants the sketch thrown out because it's not working. It's a case of opportunism and principle being on the same side for once but Danny insists on principle getting the credit.
What was good about this is that it was never explained. There was no expository speech later in which Danny or Jack tells us what happened in that scene. For once, Aaron Sorkin, who has too often felt the need to explain everything, lets the actors do the work and leaves it up to the audience to figure it out on their own.
Tonight's episode will probably start with Jack or Danny giving a speech detailing what Danny just did.
But maybe not. Maybe Sorkin will leave well enough alone.
There's another interesting side effect of Sorkin's restraint. We don't know that what I said was going on in Danny's head was what was going on in Danny's head. I'm guessing. I could be wrong. Danny's already shown that he is a master of reverse psychology. It's how he manipulates Matt Perry's character. We might find out tonight that Danny wants the sketch back in the show and he's tricked Jack into "ordering" him to do what he wants to do anyway.
A variation on the old Bugs Bunny-Daffy Duck argument.
Daffy: It's rabbit season!
Bugs: Duck season.
Daffy: Rabbit season!
Bugs: Duck season.
Daffy: Rabbit season!
Bugs: Rabbit season.
Daffy: Duck season!
Bugs: Suit yourself, doc. It's duck season.
Daffy: You said it. It's duck season!
And Elmer Fudd blasts Daffy away.