OK, everyone is allowed to have an off-night, but when your show consistently tanks in the ratings and each week is getting worse, you can't really afford to have an off night.
Last night's episode of Studio 60 was off. Clearly off. It was as if they used their second string writers to step up and come up with some creative elements that can spin the show into better ratings. So they dragged out the race card and the heartstring pulling card and a few other little things that had me wondering what they were thinking when they put this together.
First off, there is a drunk Jordan. I don't think they ever really said she was drunk, but she was bouncing around the place, bumping into things, trying to make friends and basically acting like she lost about 200 points off her IQ in one fell swoop. It was overly-comical, was out of character and did nothing to progress the story other than to throw in a few comical pratt-fall humor.
Then, Danny tries to take Matt's mind off of Harriet by introducing him to three cliche bimbos. Of course, the bimbos want to be stars in TV but don't know the first thing about Hollywood. Listen: The most successful women in the business got that way by pretending to be the dizzy push-up bra stereotype. They weren't really that way. Even if you don't work in the business, most people know what a producer does. "So you're a writer, what is that exactly?" My god! Why Matt didn't just walk away at that point is beyond me.
Then you've got Simon demanding more black writers on the show, stating that Matt doesn't know how to write for a black person. Off we go to the Improv to watch one truly terrible black stereotype (the hood rat), followed by another terrible black stereotype (the black nerd activist). Why cant black people be portrayed with the same variety as white people? Why are all black people on television either a Yale/Harvard graduate or a thug from South Central? Ironic that a plot line that discusses the fact that a white writer cant write for black people is probably written poorly by a white person with the same problem. Life imitating art.
Then you've got the heartstring pulling card by bringing in a confused old man who wanders the halls mumbling the names of former blacklisted writers who used to work on Studio 60. Ah! The elder personality steps in and will help Matt and Danny to shape the show to the way it was in the old days. Does that mean we are going to see more slapstick? Great. Still, its good to see Eli Wallach get work nowadays. I know he's done hundreds of films and TV shows, but to me he will forever be the weasily Don Altobello from the Godfather trilogy.
And then you have Tom Jeter's character showing his parents around the studio and building the back story of the history of the fictional theater. Why couldn't NBC just use an existing building? Why go through all that effort to steal bits and pieces of real history to make a make-believe place more appealing? And what's with Tom's parents? They are in their late 50's and they've never heard of Abbott and Costello? This was just too hard to believe. "Who's on First" is an absolute classic of comedy and anyone who grew up in the 40's would at least have some idea of the routine. Ridiculous.
As Studio 60 continues to slump in the ratings, it seems clear that most of the fly-over states really don't care about the backstage goings on of a fictional sketch comedy. And with writing like this, I don't suspect the numbers to be any better.
UPDATE: Just how bad were those numbers for S60? Well according to The Hollywood Reporter, the show got a 3.2/8, with 7.7 million viewers, in the Nielsen overnights, losing the 10pm title to CSI: Miami (17.5 million, 5.9/15). That's a big OUCH.