The Office, Season 7 Episode 14 — "The Seminar"
Definitely not as good as last week's "Ultimatum," with nondescript stories across the board, although I'm not surprised to see them starting to give Andy more A-plots. With Steve Carell gone, depending on who they get to play the new boss (or whether they even hire a new actor rather than literally promoting from within), Ed Helms is gonna be the biggest star on the show, so for better or worse this episode is probably a harbinger of things to come. I found Andy's seminar a little dry on its own but I did enjoy the specific individual speeches by Kevin, Creed, and Kelly.
Jim's subplot wasn't worth too much. Forcing Jim out of his own office because of an ex-childhood friend's awkward presence was a good idea for a story, but it fizzled out into a bit of an anticlimax and kind of had the feel of someone telling you a long joke then forgetting the punchline.
And while, as previously established, I'm very happy to have Holly back on the show, doesn't it feel like they're rushing through her story with alarming speed? I figured she and Michael would eventually get back together, but I didn't expect she would be broken up with A.J. within two episodes after being together for, what, two years? That's so fast it almost reflects poorly on her character, like she has no will to commit to anything. Hopefully it means they're just giving themselves more time to approach she and Michael's reunion with a bit more subtlety.
I was also worried that they were going to wimp out and make Gabe lovable at the end by having him let Erin watch WALL·E after all, and I was glad they stuck with unlikable guns. Nice surprise.
Funniest Moment: I think the funniest part may have been Kevin breaking down, sweating and shaking, then vomiting in front of the seminar attendees after running a couple laps around a small room, but the best part was obviously Michael Scott and David Brent colliding at the beginning. I mean, it had nothing to do with anything and was logically suspect (why the fuck was David in Scranton, Pennsylvania?), but it was an awesome — nay, essential thing to get out the way before Michael's final departure from the show.
Parks and Recreation, Season 3 Episode 2 — "Flu Season"
First off, great Ron Swanson episode this week, including two particularly great Swansonisms in "I'm not interested in caring about people" and "I'm surrounded by a lot of women in this department. And that includes the men."
However, I was a bit iffier on Leslie. First off, although this is more a criticism of makeup than comedy, they should have put a little more effort into making Amy Poehler look convincingly sick at the beginning, make her look more sweaty or clammy or something. It just kind of came across a little strange how she just looked like Amy Poehler but everyone was constantly like "whoa, you look awful! Are you sick?!" I also really didn't like the way they had her start arbitrarily babbling in her delirium; it just felt like wackiness for the sake of wackiness, something that tends not to work too well in these mockumentary sitcoms (outside of Creed on The Office, anyway). But I do like the way she and Ben are gradually learning to work together.
And while the unfolding of the Ann / April / Andy love triangle subplot was pretty obvious and predictable, I still liked it. Jim and Pam's flirting subplots in the early days of The Office tended towards predictability too and that's one of the best TV romances of all time, right? I also wonder if Andy's temporary stint as Ron's secretary may lead to his increased prominence in the main office. Already he's the character who has evolved most from the pathetic slob we saw in the pilot, and a true government job would be a perfect way to bring him full circle.
Funniest Moment: "Stop. Pooping." was pretty obviously the funniest moment of the entire comedy night.
30 Rock, Season 5 Episode 12 — "Operation Righteous Cowboy Lightning"
Holy crap, where'd this episode come from? This was not only absolutely hilarious, it's probably my favorite episode of the entire fifth season of 30 Rock so far, maybe even the fourth and fifth combined. Sure, some of my 30 Rock pet peeves were still present — the three main stories were all completely disconnected and they shoehorned in some reason for Jane Krakowski to sing for the billionth time — but damn if I wasn't laughing my ass off for twenty-two minutes. This was some peak Rock right here.
Jack's story was the slowest to build up outside of Robert De Niro's surprise cameo (not sure what exactly to say about it other than that he was briefly in there, and it was pretty funny), but it came to a wonderfully unexpected and beautifully absurdist culmination with the Mel Gibson revelation. Around the point of "The Holocaust never happened!" I was actually rather surprised to see them tearing into a major Hollywood player with such abandon, but man did I laugh. Lutz's story was equally funny — perhaps because having a full Lutz story is so incredibly rare that the formula of it hasn't worn thin the way Kenneth and Jenna have. His fourth-wall-breaking "I don't really have a car!" into the mirror was hilariously bizarre.
But the episode's highlight was definitely Liz and Tracy in what I'm almost positive is the single best use of Tracy all season, specifically because it treated him as an actual character rather than a goofy joke machine, while still surrounding him with plenty of quality jokes. Seeing five years of Liz's frustration come bubbling to the surface and all laid out was interesting, funny, and satisfying on a character level, and, although this may be hoping for a little too much from such a continuity-light show, I hope that maybe we can see a smidgen more mutual respect between Liz and Tracy moving forward.
Funniest Moment: Lots of hilarious bits to choose from, but I'd say that Liz and Tracy's "Uptown Girl" singing duel was what brought the episode to the next level. "And also let me say that Liz is a ho!"
Community, Season 2 Episode 13 — "Celebrity Pharmacology"
I found "Celebrity Pharmacology" to be a little light on comedy by Community standards — especially Shirley and Chang's subplot, which, outside of Chang's intentionally botched performance as "Drugs" for the children, contained almost nothing in the way of a joke — but I still liked it a lot largely because of the way it took us into the psychology and backstories of Annie and Pierce. I'm almost positive that Annie being estranged and financially cut off from her parents is new information which gives a much darker spin to her (until now largely mentioned for humor) drug addiction backstory, and outside of Abed's dorm no episode of the show has taken us into a character's home in such an intimate way before. Pierce's daddy issues were also interesting, and the way his need for approval came out through wrecking Annie's play was pretty amusing in a sad kind of way.
The B-plot with Jeff accidentally sexting Britta's nephew as Britta was damn funny in its conception and buildup but didn't really come to that much of a comedic climax. I guess I was kind of hoping it would take things into slightly more twisted territory when Britta reentered the story, but she never really did. However, one particularly hilarious scene with Abed that I'll mention below probably justified the whole story anyway.
One thing I'm not in love with is the gay jokes with Dean Pelton, "Jeff Winger is sexy even in a coffin!" and whatnot. The Dean's dalmatian fetish last season was funny because, one, it was rather subtle until the season finale, and two, well, that's obviously incredibly bizarre, and the gay jokes with Tobias in Arrested Development were funny not because he was a gay man but rather because he was a gay man in denial to himself and everyone else. But just throwing out "Dean Pelton is GAY!" as if we're supposed to laugh and laugh and laugh strikes me as a little uncomfortably homophobic.
Funniest Moment: Close call between two. The little girl hugging Pierce while going "I love you, Drugs!" as the show cut to commercial was absolutely brilliant, but for whatever reason I think I probably laughed harder at Abed's utterly blank expression staring at Jeff as Jeff tried to work his way out of the sexting hole he'd dug himself into. Danny Pudi can do more without dialogue than most comedic actors can with.
Weekly Power Rankings: 1. 30 Rock 2. Community 3. Parks and Recreation 4. The Office