Warren Ellis, who promoted the show before it even premiered and then soured on it, called last week’s episode (“The Option Period”) the best so far. And it was good — better than the two-part “Nevada Day” that came immediately before, which stretched out the Tom-Gets-Arrested plot too slowly. It was great that Jordan McDeere started to unravel a little and I loved the fact that almost the entire writing staff walked out. My approval isn’t based on the fact that Matt hadn’t been using them, mirroring Aaron Sorkin’s reputation for writing everything himself, so much as it was the first aggressive act by Ricky and Ron. Previously, they had just been sitting around. For characters, action is typically better than inaction.
But this week’s episode (“B-12″) was even better. We finally get a sense of writers Darius and Lucy and somebody other than Matt finally gets a sketch on the air. The spit-take scene was very funny and the resulting sketch would probably have been even more so. Mark McKinney, who was brought onto the show to help out with the writing, plays a writer brought onto Studio 60 to help with the writing. His character has some darkness in his past, which resonates with the darkness of a hostage situation that goes terribly wrong, without the script feeling the need to emphasize how he probably feels more deeply the loss of family than anyone else.
Jordan had been a little irritating in episodes since the pilot, because she has always aggressive and upbeat, always doing the right thing, always ready with a quip. Had she no feet of clay? In more recent episodes, we’ve seen the downside of Jordan: she’s delusionally upbeat, she’s a wiseass, she loves to feel morally superior. Having introduced the element of danger for the character, that threat sort of floated for a couple episodes. But we finally saw that her job truly was in jeopardy and that she seemed incapable of saving herself.
Plus, they finally told a story about the perils of live television that worked. In “The West Coast Delay,” right after the live broadcast, the cast thinks they discover a mistake, which has to be corrected for a new West Coast feed three hours later. The whole thing was complicated and it turned out the mistake wasn’t a mistake. In “B-12,” they clearly have to replace a sketch and you see the pressure of coming up with new material.
It’s getting killed by CSI: Miami and it’s the only show on NBC’s Monday schedule which isn’t doing well. It’s taking a lot of flak on the Web, but I’m enjoying watching its development.