First thing's first: Allison Janney shows up as the show's guest host, which is worth half a letter grade all on its own. Danny apparently acted like a dickhead in labor negotiations (I know, right?) and now the propmasters (and cue card guys, and maybe the sound guys?) are on strike. But that's just the beginning! There's also a bomb threat, due to an impending sketch about Mohammed, and, perhaps even more importantly, Simon's girlfriend who we've neither seen nor heard about just dumped him! Which leads him on an episode-long journey to finding out that he's a womanizer. So Danny's out in the parking lot being "diplomatic" with the protesters and Matt is off somewhere doing writerly things, and they're both offscreen for the entire episode (as is Jordan), which is great for reasons even beyond the fact that they're both annoying. For one thing, we finally get a look at fact that the rest of the cast is as fed up with the Matt/Harriet push/pull as the viewing audience would have been if anyone watched this show. They tell Harriet that they don't have a problem if she and Matt date, so long as they shut up about it. The bomb threat turns out to have been phoned in by some troublemaking white stoner kids, which teaches Cal a sober lesson about not assuming that Muslims would be the ones upset about a Mohammed sketch. So the prop-less show has gone pear-shaped, which gives Allison Janney many opportunities to be hilarious, not to mention the subject of countless meta references. By the end of the show, Allison's ready to flip, but Cal is able to convince her of the joy of television, even if the show is a disaster. Did you hear that? Even if the show is a disaster! It's either a mea culpa or an instruction that you should shut up and be grateful you get to watch any TV at all.
Previously on Studio 60, Matt and Danny came here to save us all from bad television, but we all soon realized that, as far as bad television was concerned, the call was coming from inside the house on that one. So after the show shown up by high school football players and Milo Ventimiglia, it was decided that it was really, all along, a romantic dramedy about four of the least likeable people on TV. And when that didn't work, it went away. Well, now it's back! Back on Thursday nights where it was always destined to be! In closer proximity to the infinitely superior 30 Rock! For six more weeks! At which point it will be well and truly cancelled!
We open this already remarkably short episode -- 36 minutes; its like the producers want this over with as quickly as we do -- with a quick-fire montage of the "highlights" of the first sixteen episodes, which include such memorable moments as decapitated plastic babies, "The Nicolas Cage Show," the Ladysmith Black Mongongo sketch, Dolphin Girl, the fake Pussycat Dolls, naked Harriet, Tom dressed as a lobster, Cal breaking the conference room table with a coconut, Nazi Santa, Matt and Danny waxing historical about the studio, the New Orleans Jazz Musicians who are really great, I swear, stop emailing me, Sting, Lauren Graham, Felicity Huffman, and the spit-take sketch. I guess that was supposed to remind us of all the hilarious good times we've shared with this show. Although, if that was the plan, I have to question including not one, but two callbacks to "Pimp My Trike."
As the title card reads, "The Disaster Show," and we all start doing the mental math necessary to determine whether this episode was in the can before or after everyone realized they were working on a dead show walking, we transition into the usual Breathtakingly Long And Showy Tracking Shot. The Studio 60 band is rocking out on a balcony while, below, everyone is frantically running around in preparation for the live show. We follow a PA with a basket of very plastic-looking flowers into the guest host's dressing room, where we find Allison Janney (Allison Janney!) bickering with Cal (C.J. and Danny!) about something being an impending "catastrophe." He tries to assuage her fears by telling her that at least she'll "have a story to tell." We don't know what this means yet, but "at least you'll have a story to tell" is never a good sign. Allison races to follow Cal out of her room, yelling that she's about to be "guest host of a catastrophic calamity!" And it's right here where we settle on the fact that yes, this was filmed once everyone knew this show was circling the drain. The meta references don't get any subtler from here on out. Cal kisses her on the cheek (C.J. and Danny! Sorry, I'm not the one getting all squee! about this, but I feel an obligation to reflect the opinion of the forum posters just this once) and tells her she'll be great and she'll be a hit on the talk shows after this.