The network commissions a focus group, which seems to like the show fine, except for two things: Jeannie's "Commedia dell'arte" sketch (sigh), and Matt's patriotism, or lack thereof. Matt's already been a bit gun-shy about going heavy on the political stuff, considering that's what got him fired last time. Danny just calls him a "pussy boy" and strong-arms him into picking up a newspaper and hitting Donald Rumsfeld where it hurts: the funny bone. Meanwhile, Jeannie's freaked that the focus group hated her, because effing Ricky and Ron decided that undermining the talent would be a great idea, so they showed her the data. The Big Three work on Simon's debut week at the news desk, and Harriet convinces the group to nix a proposed joke about a small-town school canceling a production of The Crucible, because jokes about people who make bread for a living are wrong. I hereby apologize to the fine people at Schwebel's. For everything. Jordan, for her part, has to deal with an eight-year-old (and presumably expunged) D.U.I. arrest becoming public, not to mention an ex-husband's impending tell-all, which will likely include a chapter titled "Dude, I Can't Believe I Got My Wife To Go To A Sex Club!" Happily, for everyone, the show goes off without a hitch, is wildly successful in both the focus group and the overnights, and hugs and dancing ensue, and Danny and Matt have a roll in the sand (finally!). It's a pretty good episode, all told, despite more happy music montages than one can bear. When asked for comment, the bear said "RAAAAAAHR!"
A couple dozen people in a screening room have just been subjected to the latest cutting-edge episode of Studio 60. A besuited man we haven't seen before hits the lights as the monitor goes dark, and he instructs the audience to "put [their] dials away," so you know this is a focus group. Well, that, plus the giant title card a second ago that read "The Focus Group." Suit Guy, by the way, is played by Rob Nagle, who was on Dawson's Creek when Jen and Audrey were the only good things on that show (as opposed to the rest of the series, when no one was the only good thing on the show), and who Sars would like me to tell you is awesome and should get his own C.S.I. franchise at some point; unfortunately, we'll only be seeing him for another three seconds on this show. Nagle wants to talk about the show the focus groupies have just watched. Just an informal chat. Pay no attention to the two executives and two writers behind that one-way mirror. This is just us, shooting the breeze.
Behind the one-way mirror, Jordan, Jack, Ricky, and Ron look on. Jordan, in particular, is staring out into the screening room like a sci-fi ship commander stares out into the great black abyss of space. Some trashily-attired dude is saying he didn't get the "comedy...art" sketch -- which Jordan, even before ol' Jean Jacket there started talking, corrects as "commedia dell'arte." I have to tell you upfront I am already sick to death of commedia friggin dell'arte, I cannot tell you. We're, like, five seconds into the episode. Jack tells Jordan to stuff it with the corrections. God forbid Jean Jacket can't pronounce "Pantalone Bisognosi." ["Especially since not one other person in this whole episode -- and I assume at least a couple of the actors took at least one college-level drama course -- even pronounces the 'e' any of the approximately eight billion times the phrase 'commedia dell'arte' is uttered. It's doubly unfortunate since cd'a is only in the episode to prove how much smarter the people on the show are compared to the dullards who are watching it...and yet they're not smart enough to say it right. It's like if there had been a plot point involving a kabuki sketch and everyone was running around bitching that no one in the audience could appreciate 'KA-boo-KAY.' I'm sorry to go on about it so long, but Jesus, every time it came up it was like nails on a chalkboard to me. 'Commedia dell-arTAY. GAH." -- Wing Chun] Jordan's whining that nobody seems to recognize that it's Italian, and Jack bottom-lines that the guy didn't like it. "He didn't get it!" Jordan fires back. Same fucking difference, lady! Jack's on my side, suggesting that they give America a tutorial on "fifteenth-century Restoration comedy." Of course, Restoration comedy is English and not Italian, because Jack's a philistine, and poor Jordan is all alone in the room. The last smart person on Earth, the poor dear. I wish somebody would tell this show that "smart" and "classy" didn't die in a fucking influenza outbreak in aught-four. There are ways to make intelligent comedy without cloaking it in this false, book-smart idea that classy = period garb and Europe. But anyway, as a handy crib-sheet guide, for the rest of this episode, "commedia dell'arte" will stand for the notion of intelligence on network television, while not getting commedia dell'arte stands for the dunderheaded masses. Got it? Jordan's also pissed that the moderator started off with a question about what the group didn't like. Jordan, in general? Not so much a fan of the focus-group concept. She cites multiple failings of focus-groupping in the past: Seinfeld, Hill Street Blues, All In The Family. Jack notes that they got it right with ER: "Clooney broke the needle." Jordan's like, "Yeah, I need a damn focus group to tell me Clooney's good-looking." In addition, says Jordan, L.A. focus groups are "the most useless," because they're made up of nothing but unemployed writers trying to impress the unseen network executives. Little does Jean Jacket know that biffing the commedia dell'arte comment by talking about a "French clown" is earning him no points with Headmistress Pennyfarthing over here. Jack laments that no other network gets this far up its own ass about being the smartest douche in the room, and Jordan's all "exactly" like it's a badge of honor. Seriously. Commedia dell'arte. Next week can we all learn a lesson about how comedy died with Buster Keaton?