sam_storyteller: (Default)
sam_storyteller ([personal profile] sam_storyteller) wrote2005-07-12 10:20 am

Nine Six; Studio 60.

Rating: PG-13. This is, I hope, a happy story, but not one I ever hope will come true.
Summary: The worst happens. But you have to laugh. You have to.
Warnings: None.

Also available at AO3.


Cal speaks with his mouth and hands, which is weird for a guy who spends his life talking into mics and pushing buttons. You can see every word on his lips, white flash of teeth, a dynamic look in a fairly ordinary face. His face can be ordinary; it isn't in front of the cameras.

Matt is smoking, unusual but not unheard-of, and Danny isn't there. God only knows if Danny's alive. God only knows if most of Studio Sixty's cast is alive. Can't think that way, but Matt can't help it, he's a pessimist.

Nine point six. Jesus Christ. Half of LA's fallen down -- fallen down, fallen down...

Matt can't help fitting the words to London Bridge, and he hates himself for it because tonight is not about comedy. So instead he concentrates on Cal, who's gathered the tattered remains of Studio Sixty into Matt's office.

Matt looks around. Harrie, thank Christ (probably literally). And Simon and Samantha. Cal says Tom's called in and he's okay but he can't get to the studio. Nobody knows about anyone else. They have two cameramen, a rigger, Suzanne -- does she sleep here? She's always here! -- and Cal. And him.

Nine point six on the Richter although the news such as it is has been saying all day (since the quake at seven-thirty in the morning, what a wakeup call) that nobody uses the Richter Scale for earthquakes anymore. And where did Matt go?

Studio Sixty. Where else?

Which is what he can see on the faces of the others, too. They didn't stay home, they called their loved ones and then came here. Phone calls can get out but nobody can call in; Tom's message came through an emergency contact Cal has in Nevada. Growing up in California they tell you to do that, he told Matt; you have a family member outside the state you can call as a switchboard. Everyone in the cast and crew has the number of Cal's sister in Nevada, she works for the police there, and Cal's been checking in.

"But what do we do?" Harrie asks, sitting quietly in one corner.

"Tell you what I'd do when I was fifteen, stroll down to the shopping mall and help myself," Simon answers, and everyone laughs a little, and Matt puts out his cigarette.

"Well, she's a durable old bird," Cal says, and Matt realises he's talking about the studio. "We're safe here, there's a generator now and plenty of pure water."

"We should go out," Harrie says. "If we have electricity and water and food we should go out and find people who don't."

"It's dark out," Simon says. It gets dark early in the winter and they've been watching the news for hours. The reporters are mostly outside or working from candlelight. "Do you really want to get shot?"

"I want to help -- someone," she answers, but everyone knows Simon's right.

"The most intelligent thing to do is stay put," Cal says. Someone knocks on the open door and Samantha bursts into tears.

"Jeannie," Harrie breathes, and most of the people in the room stand up to greet Jeannie, who looks dazed but okay.

"All my plumbing exploded," she says. "My whole house is full of water. So I went out somewhere to see if I could find...somewhere...and...came here."

Harrie pulls Jeannie over to the couch and seats her between them, between Harrie and Cal, who's looking thoughtful.

"We can go out in the morning. You guys have your cars? We can go out then and find people, maybe get in touch with the Red Cross and set up a refugee station here," he says. "But Simon's right, tonight it's too dangerous."

"No audience for us," Jeannie mutters. Jesus, that's right, it's Friday. They're supposed to do a show in two hours. At least the goddamned timeclock is off. Matt notices for the first time that all the pins rattled out of his corkboard and his carefully plotted show is on the floor. He walks to where they lie in piles and begins picking them up, squaring them away into one pile in the cradle of his fingers. His show. All shook up.

"Well, we have Harrie and Simon and Jeannie, we could do an hour of News Sixty and an hour of Commedia," Cal says. Flash of teeth.

"Somehow I don't think anyone wants to see News Sixty after ten hours of NBS News," Harrie replies.

Matt feels a shiver of sparks down his spine.

"What's the first thing you think, the night after a big quake?" he says suddenly. "You remember Northridge?"

He glances at Harrie. She hesitates.

"You think, I'm really tired of the news," she says, locking eyes with him. "You think, there's nothing new to report, why don't they just show -- "

" -- something else," a new voice interrupts. Jordan McDeere. Holy crap. "The power's out in the offices. I saw a light on over here."

"You were at your office?" Matt asks.

"No sidekick, no computer, I got bored," she says. She's trying to be funny. Jordan isn't, very, as a rule.

"Hey Cally," Matt says, "How many people would you need to put on a show?"

Cal cuts his eyes away to Suzanne.

"Fixed lights, two cameras, no FX, Suzanne and the camera guys and I can do it," he says, and nobody points out can should be could if they're being hypothetical.

"There's no way -- " Jeannie says, but Jordan cuts in.

"Do it," she tells them. "Can you be ready at eight?"

"Can you get us on the air?" Cal asks. Matt shivers and the cards in his hands are red-hot. He looks down at them. He'll have to cut News Sixty, that's just tasteless, and the others all have to be ruthlessly checked to make sure there's nothing offensive about California or natural disasters -- thank god they scrapped the Katrina Redecorating Service sketch -- and anything with more than four people in it -- and anything with more than one dude, though Jeannie's really good at drag...

Suddenly the room is full of life. Cal grabs Suzanne, literally grabs her, and drags the tech crew out of the office, up to the grid to start focusing lights. Jeannie and Samantha bolt for the dressing rooms. Simon and Jordan are out the door on some other mission.

"Help me," Matt says desperately to Harrie. "I've got to cut the show. MCDEERE!"

"WHAT?" Jordan calls from the stage. She's headed for the exit, probably to arrange for them to break into the signal.

"We're cutting to an hour, that's all we can do," he says, leaning over the railing.

"On it," she answers. Simon follows her.

"Where are you going?"

"There's half a dozen people next door. AUDIENCE!" she calls as they disappear.

"I'll echo-mic 'em, make it sound like three dozen," Cal shouts from the grid.

"Help you?" Harrie asks. Matt begins pinning cards back on the board.

"News breaks every fifteen minutes, we'll have Simon give real news. So we need one segment fifteen and three segment tens. Commedia's in, Bad Comedy Club is in -- can you do Footballrobics with Simon?"

"Matt -- " Harrie ignores him. Matt throws another card back on the board. "Matt!"

"What? No, don't do Fooballrobics, Samantha can do that so you can do Martha Stewart Dying..."

"Matt, are we really going to do a show?" she asks. He looks at her. He thought she might be shocked, after all people are dead or dying and they're going to do sketch comedy?

But she's not. She looks like she's about to cry, which is how he feels, but mostly she looks hopeful.

Yeah. Let's get out there and abort reality for an hour. Show the fuckers a nine six isn't going to stop us. Nevermind that the fuckers he has in mind are the tectonic plates under the ground, grinding up against each other and leveling whole cities.

"Is Martha Stewart Dying going to be too tasteless?" he asks, and Harrie throws her arms around his neck.


There are twenty lights, all focused on one stage. They won't have time to change sets except when Simon's doing the Real News in tunnel one, so there's just two couches, a coffee table, a desk on one side, a couple of bean bags in the back, and a shitload of props in a bin on one side. Jordan managed to find fifteen people and Cal put a boom over them with permanent echo effect so they have live laughter. Their one rigger has been converted to running cue-cards, and the two cameramen are in place. Jordan's sitting in the audience. Cal's in his booth, all's right with the world.

"Is anyone going to watch?" Matt asks Cal, leaning over his shoulder.

"Well, anyone with a battery-operated television, and forty-nine other states," Cal replies. "We're breaking in across the country. You're forty-five short on the opening segment."

"I'm a little talk," Matt says.

"Matt Albie's national debut. Lucky you," Cal answers. "Going in two."

"Two," Suzanne echoes.

Matt leaves the booth and walks slowly down to the stage.

"You guys are on your own tonight," he says to the cameramen.

"Danny'll be okay," one of them blurts.

"Sure," Matt answers. "Listen, where should I stand so that I don't look like a shiny moron?"

They point to a spot on the floor. Matt stands there. Cal on the godmic that broadcasts over the entire theatre.

"Going in five, four, three," two and one are unspoken. Red lights on the cameras. Matt coughs.

"This is Studio Sixty," he says, "And we're coming to you live from Hollywood, California. With me in the studio tonight is about half our cast and five crewmembers. You've been watching the news all day and we -- we thought we'd give you a break. Simon Stiles -- you know Simon -- he'll be reporting real news every fifteen minutes, if we have anything new to report. We're going to be on the air for the next hour, all over the country. 'Cause we're still here."

He pauses. This is totally unprofessional, but then what isn't tonight?

"I'm gonna let the cast come out in a minute and start their first sketch, which was a lot funnier when I wrote it before an earthquake leveled part of California this morning. We hope you laugh anyway. We're going to try. If the rest of you guys are out there -- any of the cast, any of the crew -- Danny, if you're out there -- come on home, okay?"

Home. Studio Sixty. Come on home.

"Go easy on us tonight," he finishes. "So -- Live, from Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip, it's Friday Night in Hollywood."

And he walks off, and Harriet swans on in a blonde wig and a pants suit.

"Hi, I'm Martha Stewart," she says, a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. "And this is Martha Stewart Dying..."


"You know what the nice thing is about all the phones being out?" Jordan asks, eating ritz crackers out of a bag. She and Matt went and beat the shit out of the vending machine and got snacks for everyone. Onstage, Simon's reporting that there's nothing new to report. They've moved back to the booth, because the audience is laughing almost hysterically loud, and they're not needed there. "Jack Rudolph can't call me."

"You could get fired for putting us on the air over the news," Matt observes.

"People need this," she says. He takes a cracker. They're little sandwiches, fake cheese between two crackers. They taste so normal.

"We needed this," he says.

"I know."

"You say that a lot."

"I know."

He smiles sidelong at her. "Thank you."

"Bad news," Cal says. Onstage, Commedia is being committed. "We're going to run five minutes short."

"I've thrown everything I can at the stage. There aren't any more sketches we can do," Matt says.

"Let's have Jeannie do a striptease," Jordan suggests. Matt sniggers, to his own surprise.

"More news?" he suggests.

"There isn't any, and anyway we're going to flip back to normal news. We can do that five minutes early..." Cal shrugs. No flash of teeth now -- Cal hates the idea of an incomplete hour. It rubs everyone in television the wrong way.

"Got any ideas?" Matt says desperately.

Silence for a moment, then Cal frowns.

"Yeah, I think so," he says. He takes off the headset. "You're in charge," he says to Suzanne, who makes a small mewling nervous noise but shifts over to his chair.

"Where's he going?" Matt asks, leaning over to see the stage above the cameras.

"Onstage, I think," Jordan replies. Matt stares.

Jeannie flounces off and Simon mugs a face -- he's a great partner in the Commedia sketches. The cameramen turn to focus on Cal as he takes the stage, much to the surprise of the actors in the wings.

"Thanks for watching tonight," he says, spreading his hands. There's Cal -- face, words, hands. "My name's Cal Shanley, I run the booth at Studio Sixty. Usually it's not this hard," he adds, and the audience chuckles. "We're five minutes short, and we could switch you back to the news, but'm here. 'Cause I'm an eternal optimist, working in a business full of pessimists, and tonight the whole state is like this studio. We're all afraid, we all think the worst, but in ten years we'll have picked life up again, and this quake'll be one of those things, you know. Where were you when the nine-six hit. Sitting at dinner or around a bar, people are going to tell stories. And I know this. I wasn't here for Northridge but I was up north when the eighty-nine quake hit, the World Series Quake we called it."

"He's a natural," Matt says, watching Cal work the cameras.

"He's been using them all his life," Suzanne says from across the room. Matt glances at her. "He knows what people behind them want to see."

Cal's telling some story about where he was when the World Series Quake hit and having to go camp out in the backyard with his neighbours and their kids. Matt leaves the booth and goes down again, standing next to the railing on the audience seating.

"So his kids started to sing this song they'd heard on a cartoon show, you know, LA town is falling down, hit the ground, quakes all round, we don't let it bother us, we're Californian -- " Cal stops, rubs the bridge of his nose, takes a deep breath. "And we started to cry of course, because we were scared out of our minds and we wanted to know if our friends and families were safe. But then we started to laugh, because -- you've got to."

Matt looks at Harrie and Simon, standing together in the wings, and Jeannie and Samantha sitting in the audience now.

"You just have to laugh," Cal says, and now he's pleading. "Jesus, you have to laugh. If you haven't got laughter you've got nothing. That's why we're here. That's why we do what we do."

He pauses. Thirty seconds.

"Listen, if you're trying to get to your family and you can't, if you know someone is out here and you can't, for god's sake, call the Placerburg police department in Nevada, my sister works there. She's gonna kill me for this," he adds to Harrie. "But Placerburg's a quiet place, a nice place -- they can handle the phone calls. I'll give you the number. Leave a message. Tell your family you're okay."

He says the number slowly and clearly, three or four times.

Matt wonders if Danny's out there scrambling for a pen.

And a hand touches his shoulder.

"Danny," Matt says, and turns and grabs Danny and god, it's never felt so good to do something so totally girly in public. Danny's got hold of his shoulder and Cal's saying something behind him and then the lights dim and Suzanne comes over the Godmic.

"We're off air," she says. Wait for it; wait; wait; Danny still in his arms, breathing hard against his shoulder, gripping the back of his neck like he's going to disappear otherwise. Harrie's there too, suddenly, arms around both men and her cheek pressed against Danny's bent head.

Say the words, Suzanne, say the words Cal always says --

"Good show, guys," she says. "We're square for time. Same time next week."


Author's Note: The worst rumour I ever heard about the eighty-nine quake was that the third deck of the Giants Stadium had collapsed. It wasn't true, we found that out eventually, but plenty was. And when I heard that I would have given anything to see something I could laugh at.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 02:31 am (UTC)(link)
Whew. I don't even watch the show, but whew. And wow.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:59 am (UTC)(link)
I'm glad it was readable -- there are so many characters in the ensemble that I was concerned even people who watch the show wouldn't be able to match up all the names!

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 02:32 am (UTC)(link)


I just.


Cal. Matt and Danny. Simon. I just. God.

Home. Studio Sixty. Come on home.

That would be the point where I started tearing up.

I'm with you, I hope it never happens, but....brilliant.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 04:10 pm (UTC)(link)

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 02:43 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, God, I can totally see this happening...and Matt's final little heartsick plea to all of them, but especially Danny, to come home...oh, my little heart has broken.

And I love that Suzanne's there. We Heart Suzanne.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:58 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, the "come on home" moment was my favourite part of writing it :D

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 02:44 am (UTC)(link)
Holy frak, that's brilliant.

I don't even have anything else to say. That was just brilliant.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 02:50 am (UTC)(link)
I was seven, all of four months in CA when the '89 quake hit. I remember running out of the daycare center with the ground moving under my feet and getting all the way across the blacktop to dig my fingers into the field before realizing that it had stopped. I remember that almost nothing happened at our house, because we'd barely started unpacking. Mostly, though, I remember how orderly the drive home was. I've never seen Californians on a highway drive so considerately--it was like everyone wanted to make sure everyone else got home safe.

This was a lovely story--thanks for writing it.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 02:51 am (UTC)(link)
I was living in Oakland during the '89 earthquake. I don't recall hearing that particular rumor about Candlestick Park, but I do recall my stepmom telling me years later that someone, between the time that the Bay Bridge collapsed and the time they got it up and running again, put a statue of a troll somewhere under the road bit. So, supposedly the Bay Bridge has a troll that lives under it. Funny.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:58 am (UTC)(link)
That's AWESOME! I never heard that!

Did you hear the one about the scuba divers who saw lava flow underwater during the quake?

(no subject)

[identity profile] - 2006-10-25 12:18 (UTC) - Expand

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:01 am (UTC)(link)
Jesus, Sam.


+10 points cos I'm going to California in December.


[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:03 am (UTC)(link)
Jesus. This almost made me cry.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:11 am (UTC)(link)
Wow, Sam. Wow. The voices were spot-on, and you just totally put me THERE. I can't think of any more constructive way to say it; you wrote the moment of grace that comes out of horror to a tee.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:57 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you! I'm glad the voices seemed "on", 'cause there wasn't much dialogue which is where Sorkin normally comes out.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:24 am (UTC)(link)
I haven't seen this show, and know nearly nothing about it.

When Matt first saw Danny, I started crying so hard I couldn't breathe. Okay, so I'm still a little drunk, but still...

As I sit here in the shadow of Mt. Rainier...

You make my world a better place.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:56 am (UTC)(link)
*pets* thank you. (And I love your icon).

I really liked the Matt-Danny moment. I felt bad about the "something so girly" remark because it's so NON dramatic, but that's very in the spirit of the show, alas...
ext_2208: image of romaine brooks self-portrait, text "Lila Futuransky" (Transport for LA...)

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:31 am (UTC)(link)
I've never seen Studio 60, but that was amazing. Very spirit of the Blitz.

Also a little scary for me personally... I moved to LA three months ago, not quite immune to the fear of the apocalypse yet. :)

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:55 am (UTC)(link)
Hey, at least there's no yearly earthquake SEASON like in the south with hurricanes!

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:40 am (UTC)(link)
That' You know the thing about comments? Everyone else is saying the exact same thing I'm saying, but that doesn't matter, because I have to say something. I have to let you know that you did something worth saying the exact same thing about. I just watched last night's episode, just an hour ago, and--wow. Okay. It just works. Thank you. Everyone says it, but everyone needs to.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:55 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you :)

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:52 am (UTC)(link)
I'm completely wordless.
You have totally out-Sorkined Sorkin.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 03:54 am (UTC)(link)
*makes another notch on the bedpost*


(no subject)

[identity profile] - 2006-10-25 04:00 (UTC) - Expand

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 04:00 am (UTC)(link)
I don't even watch the show, but damn. That was really amazing.

Never lived through and earthquake either but I still empathize. Frankly, what this really reminds me of is what I felt on 9-11. I was 17, living in DC and all these crazy rumors were flying around (White House on fire, bomb threats at the State Department). 2 family members worked less than a mile from the Pentagon, cell phones weren't working cause all the towers were so busy... you just wanted people to come home. This really struck that chord in me.

Well done.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 04:04 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah. Well, it's a very similar predicament. The world goes off-kilter and you want your family around.

On 9-11 I actually got on my bike and rode in to school though I knew classes would be cancelled. I needed to be where my loved ones were, and I couldn't go to Texas, clearly, so I went to my theatre family.
florahart: (love this)

[personal profile] florahart 2006-10-25 04:04 am (UTC)(link)
Okay, now I'm trying to not let my husband become aware I'm over here crying because I would have to explain why. Happily, he's pretty oblivious pretty often. Heh.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 04:35 am (UTC)(link)
Now, when I saw the link, I knew it was going to be good.

But damn, I didn't expect this story to move me to tears. You've captured them, better than anyone else has so far. Just, Wow.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 04:57 am (UTC)(link)
I think...I think the greatest letdown of this is that it is fanfic. Because I'm another one who can just barely put the actors' faces with the character names, and you've got me all choked up. This story doesn't need any background, it doesn't the crutch of someone else's creation. This is beautiful and heart-wrenching all on its own. Amazing.
ext_41718: (lands end benches)

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 05:01 am (UTC)(link)
I was about four when the 89' earthquake hit the bay area. It was weird--the manager at the daycare I was at totaly broke down, but I didn't even notice because I was on the bars, untill the aftershock hit and I was at home at dinner. To this day, the UC Berkley stadium has a crack going through it from the fault line. I think it's at the 50 yard line? Not sure.

But thank you for evoking this all so well.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 05:03 am (UTC)(link)
Beautifully done. Two things: you might be interested in posting a link to [ profile] studio60_fic, and Cal's last name is Shanley, no "d."

Enjoyed this very much.

[identity profile] 2006-11-02 02:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks for catching that -- I thought "shandling" was a little too famous to be Cal's surname...

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 05:19 am (UTC)(link)
This is simply incredible, and brings back such memories. I had just come back to LA from a trip up to Oakland a week before the '89 quake hit. As a child, it was so strange seeing places I had just remembered going, one of the freeways for instance, all of a sudden not existing anymore. I rode out the Northridge quake, though. It seemed to go on forever. Praise the Lord for our little battery-powered TV, is all I have to say. ;) This is such a lovely look into the Studio 60 family. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. ::Memories::

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 05:26 am (UTC)(link)
.....Reading this made me want Danny/Matt/Harrie OT3. DAMN YOU!

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 05:53 am (UTC)(link)
ext_27009: (Default)

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 06:29 am (UTC)(link)
I was sent here by sopdetly. She said that anyone on her flist had to come read this, so I did. I've been in Africa for three months and I have no idea what Studio 60 even is (though I've seen it on my flist a lot lately).

This fic was incredibly moving, heartwarming, well written and just good.

I'm going to find out what Studio 60 is. And, I'm going to keep watching you for more fic.

Thank you....

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 07:11 am (UTC)(link)
Goddamn. You did good, kid.

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 07:21 am (UTC)(link)
I love Cal. I love how you write Cal. Power to the techies!

[identity profile] 2006-10-25 07:28 am (UTC)(link)
This is awesome. Much love for Cal. :)

But... 9.6 is... a little unbelievable. The Richter scale is kind of... logarithmic. I want to say Northridge and Loma Prieta were 6-point-something or 7-point-something-low. It could happen, but I think 9.6 would be one of the biggest earthquakes ever measured, if not the the biggest. (Er, wikipedia claims the biggest was 9.5 for the 1960 Chile earthquake.)

Sorry. Undergrad seismology major. :) You can go visit my old prof at Northwestern -- he's the biggest dear child ever, and his french accent and general french-ness are priceless, especially given that he's lived here for at least 40 years. (Dude, even when you're not talking about it, you make me miss Chicago. ;) )

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