Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip/The Focus Group
The Focus Group is the third episode of the first season of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and the third episode overall. A power failure disrupts the flow of creating the show and both the cast and crew are out of their minds with worry over the focus group findings. Meanwhile, Jordan's credibility is attacked by entertainment tabloids by way of her ex-husband.
Guest Stars: Ayda Field (Jeanie Whatley), Simon Helberg (Alex Dwyer), Wendy Phillips (Shelley), Michael Hyatt (), Lucy Davis (Lucy Kenwright), John Ennis (Denny), Mircea Monroe (Crystal), Rob Nagle ()
Uncredited: Rob Reiner (Himself)
The first episode featuring Matt and Danny as the main executive producers has been screened for a focus group. Behind the glass, while the questionnaire is occurring, Jordan lectures Jack about how lousy focus groups have been in the past with predicting viewer numbers, notably referencing Seinfeld and All in the Family. Also with them are Ricky and Ron, who appear to be acting as Jack's go-between for the show. Although the majority of the test is positive, one question makes Jack nervous, whether or not the show is patriotic. But, before the meeting ends, Jordan sees her mug shot on an entertainment tabloid show on the television.
Back in the studio, the cast and the host for the week, Rob Reiner, are having a run through with one of the sketches, entitled "Science Schmience." In the sketch several devout followers of their various religions face off against "indisputable fact." Among these are an orthodox rabbi, a Taliban member, Tom Cruise and a witch. During the rehearsal, the power suddenly cuts out.
In Jack's office, Jordan explains her mug shot and demands to know how the media got it because her record was cleansed by a judge. While she attempts to cope with her one indiscretion being broadcast on television, the big three attempts to write the first News 60 sketch with Simon and Harriet as the anchors. To make things worse, Ricky and Ron antagonize the three by putting far more pressure onto them than they were aware of because of their anger over being cut out of the News 60 writing process.
The two barge into Matt's office to present him the focus group findings from the previous night. Before Danny gets to Matt's office, the electricity comes back on. When Danny hears that they've come bearing focus data, he demands that they get rid of it and not show anyone for fear of bringing everyone down with useless opinions. Matt takes a look at the data, paying particular attention to the question of patriotism. Danny points out that he's already doing what the network wants; he's not putting political sketches in the show at a decent time because of a problem he had several years ago. After being called a pussyboy by Danny, Matt moves the sketch about Rumsfeld to the second half-hour and decides to focus on writing a good political sketch.
In the basement, the big three continue to fight over the headline of a school pulling The Crucible as the school play because it cast Christians in a bad light. After Harriet pitches an idea about a a blind hunter shooting bears with a silenced rifle, Jeanie interrupts to lament about the focus group hating her sketch. Jeanie punches a cabinet and the power cuts out again. According to Cal, a tree fell on a transformer and the power company doesn't know how to fix it. While heading away from the electricity problem, Danny runs into Jordan in his office, she tells him that she wants them to make fun of her on the show. While she's there, Danny asks her about how many people they need to retain after the blockbuster previous night's ratings. She declines to answer.
The next night, the show goes into Camera Dress mode in order to fine-tune the sketches. Ricky and Ron interrogate Danny as to why they don't have any sketches on the show. He tells them that it's because of an incident four years ago where Ricky insinuated that Matt doesn't speak for the cast and crew or care about the people who were killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Now that President Bush's approval ratings are so low, Danny sees them as taking the easy target with little controversy behind it. During the dress, Jordan's woes continue to build when she learns that her ex-husband is shopping a book around that tells tale of her personal life during the nine months that they were married for.
Just before the show airs, Jeanie tries one more time to get Commedia Dell'arte off the board, but fails when Matt makes a wager that the focus group will pick up one more person at least in the focus group for that episode. If that doesn't happen, he'll give her $10,000 cash. If it does, she'll be forced to wear a t-shirt at the wrap party that says "Matt is my hero" and "Danny thinks Moliere is Italian." What does get cut is the high school play bit in News 60; instead it gets replaced with Harriet's thing about the bears. The show goes on and is shown in a truncated fashion (that is, oddly enough, out of order with the cards on the board).
At the wrap party after the show, Jack gets the ratings and focus group data which is faxed to Jordan. Before she can get the details to Matt and Danny, Matt realizes that it was Danny who put the patriotism question into the focus group in order to force Matt to reconcile with Ricky and Ron. The two get into a fight on the beach, but quit when they realize how awkward it looks to the casual observer. While they attempt to play it cool, Jordan spreads the word that they retained 100% of their past audience, plus a full 9% above that. Unfortunately, Matt realizes that the only way they can go from this point is down.
- "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" by Gerry Goffin and Carole King: The ending montage is played over the song "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" written by famed pop music composers Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The song was first recorded by The Shirelles in 1960, but the song has been recorded several times since by varying artists including Cher. The version used in this episode is a 1978 cover from Dave Mason.
- The host for this week's episode of Studio 60 is famed director and actor Rob Reiner. Reiner actually appears in the episode as himself and in at least one sketch (Science Schmience). The musical guest, who isn't seen, is Gwen Stefani. Stefani is the singer for the ska/pop/reggae/dub band, No Doubt. She released a solo album in 2004 and, at the airing of this episode, planned to release a second solo album in late 2006.
- The cards on the board schedule the show's sketches as follows (in chronological order):
- Presidential Address
- RR Monologue
- Comm. 1
- Science Schmience
- Jamacian Me Crazy
- Comm. 2
- News 60
- Comm. 3
- Gwen Stefani
- Comm. 4
- The Nicolas Cage Show
- Commedia Dell'arte
- Comm. 5
- Fox News Meltdown
- DGA Awards
- Comm. 6
- Gwen Stefani
- Comm. 7
- Pimp My Trike
- Bedroom Diaries
- Turtle Shop
- Extremely Hard Copy
- Comm. 8
- Good Nights
The colors seem to indicate writers for the sketches, yellow certainly being Matt. Special segments like musical performances and the news are marked in red and purple, respectively, while unmovable elements like the monologue and commercials are marked in white.
- Jordan: Jordan was married to a man named Ryan Mulrooney for nine months. When he tried to get her to go with him to a club where people watch other people have sex, she realized that she was married to a "slug" and divorced him. He is now attempting to shop a book around about their personal life in order to make a quick buck off her notoriety.
- Look Closely: In the Commedia Dell'arte sketch, Simon can be seen wearing an apron that says "Shangri-Latté" on it.
Behind the Scenes
Allusions and References
- Merrily We Roll Along: Jack quotes a line from a Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim based on an existing play by George Kaufman. The play and musical are about a bitter, jaded Broadway composer named Franklin Shepard whose outlook on life drives his friends away. The full line is: It's called flowers wilt, It's called apples rot, It's called thieves get rich and saints get shot, It's called God don't answer prayers a lot."
- Jack: Thieves get rich and saints get shot and God don't answer prayers a lot.
- Bill Maher: Bill Maher is a political commentator and former host of Politically Incorrect, a late night political roundtable series in which a panel of several guests and Maher discuss the issues of the day. Shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York, Maher made this comment on his show: "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly." The controversy created by this remark eventually let to advertisers pulling their funding, media companies like Sinclair Broadcast Group dropping the show completely and the ultimate cancellation of the series by ABC.
- Danny: Bill Maher. He made a politically incorrect observation on his own show, helpfully titled "Politically Incorrect," and the sky fell down on him.
- Harriet: God loves me and hates the both of you.
Simon: Prove it.
(The lights suddenly power on and Simon quickly sits down.)
Simon: Okay, seriously, I'm scared out of my mind.
Tom: Yeah, that was strange.
Harriet: Alright, moving on...
- Matt: And, by the way, I'd be willing to take shots at the democrats too, if only they would say or do something.
- Jeanie: It's not the fault of the focus data, Simon. You've got to catch the ball when you ask for it.
Simon: You make more than your share of catches around here.
(Jeanie punches a locker door and the power cuts out again.)
Harriet: I don't know what to tell you guys. Either God's a little sweet on me today, he doesn't like Simon at all or Jeanie, he disapproves of you sleeping with my ex-boyfriend.
Tom: She's kidding.
Harriet: I am, baby. It's because he doesn't like Simon at all.
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