The 4AM Miracle

This is the title of the most recent episode of Studio 60, a show to which I'll give another season's worth of Monday nights if the network will. Certainly it pales in comparison to Aaron Sorkin's early work on The West Wing, and there have been more than a few stumbles in the arc so far, but tonight's episode was, I think, a step in the right direction.

I do so love it when a show waxes literary (especially now that "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader" threatens to melt my TV screen with its stultifying stupidity, and after having seen just today adult humans replying "Asia" and "Amsterdam" when asked to name a country besides "America" that begins with "a"). The episode title, Matt tells his four-person writing team, refers to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's semi-somnambulant composition of "Kubla Khan."

The author thus continued for about three hours in a profound sleep, at least of the external senses, during which time he has the most vivid confidence that he could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things.

Matt is stuck, you see, and seeks a 4:00AM miracle to unstick him. He gets it in the return of Harriet from the clutches of a rival suitor. I am not, generally speaking, a romantic, and even less a romanticist, but there was something deeply appealing to me about Sorkin's use of what even to initiates must have been a fairly esoteric literary reference. I find the continuity reassuring; Sorkin and the world he writes has a bibliography a little in common with the one that shapes my own consciousness. It quite takes me back to my life before the Academy, when I delved into literature to find truth rather than arguments -- flesh and blood instead of wheels and metal.

I realize that it's just a TV show and not (yet) a very good one, but tonight it reminded me, however accidentally, that literature can still be something that happens to us. It does not have to be a thing upon which we merely act. Tonight I hope for restlessness!

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