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''Studio 60'': Power plays

On ”Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” everyone gets nervous after a focus group; plus, Harriet shows she has magic powers, and Jordan’s scandalous past is revealed

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Sarah Paulson, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Sarah Paulson: Mitch Haaseth

”Studio 60”: Power plays

A few things we learned about Harriet Hayes this week: She does a wicked Holly Hunter impersonation, she’ll make fun of her coreligionists as long as they earn more than $18,000 a year, and she has enough pull with the Almighty to make the electricity in the Studio 60 auditorium go off and on.

In other words, she’s finally showing herself to be the formidable, funny heroine Studio 60 viewers like me have been hoping for. Similarly, the episode’s emphasis on the solving of backstage crises, the snap of sharp male-female banter, and generous snippets of the on-camera results of everyone’s hard work all suggest that Aaron Sorkin’s show is settling into its groove as an hour-long Sports Night — something many viewers had also been hoping for.

In addition to Harry, other characters are coming into sharper focus (”focus” being the operative word in this episode, titled ”The Focus Group”). We learned that Matt, for all his bravado, is still a little gun-shy about putting overtly political sketches on the air; that Danny is not above some sneaky manipulation (like inserting the question about the show’s patriotism into the focus group’s questionnaire) to help Matt get his nerve back; that Jeannie isn’t just a bimbo to whom Matt turns for extracurricular comfort but also a writer knowledgeable enough about the history of comedy to create a recurring sketch inspired by centuries-old Italian commedia dell’arte; that Jordan has a closetful of skeletons (including an old DUI arrest) and an ex-husband trying to cash in on them with a tell-all book proposal; and that Ron and Ricky aren’t just cowardly weasels and hacky writers, but also…no, wait a minute, that’s pretty much it for those two guys. (Sorry, Evan Handler and Carlos Jacott fans.)

The other issue this week was power, and not just the higher one Harriet prays to or the touch-and-go electrical supply at the studio. Matt is hesitating to assert his, Jordan is trying to hold on to hers, and the other execs at NBS seem to be ceding theirs to a handful of focus-group respondents. Jordan’s week on the public-shame hot seat finally wiped the smirk off Amanda Peet’s face. (I’m sure you’re all relieved.) It was nice to see her finally catch a break when the Friday sketch show outperformed the previous week’s ratings (let’s hope this isn’t a crisis we have to watch Matt, Danny, and Jordan confront every week), though her reaction made me wonder again if something romantic is brewing between her and Danny. ”You look like one of them, but you talk like one of us,” Danny said to her at one point. And then at the after party, she congratulated Matt with a peck on the cheek and Danny with a kiss on the lips. Matt got in one last quip after that, suggesting that things can only go downhill from here, but Danny was still staring off in Jordan’s direction.

Speaking of that after party, I liked the exchange between Simon and an attractive groupie who crashed the event. ”How did you get in?” he asked. ”Look at me,” she replied. Other Sorkin dialogue gems: ”I’d be happy to take shots at the Democrats too if only one of them would say or do something” (Matt to Danny). ”No comedian you admire has ever been afraid of silence” (Danny to Jeannie). And finally, the mantra repeated by both Danny and Jordan throughout the episode: ”Don’t worry about it.”

So, what do you think? Has Matt gotten his mojo back? Will he ever make peace with Ricky and Ron? What else is Jordan keeping secret, and do you want to see her and Danny get together? Ah, whatever, don’t worry about it.