Thursday, February 17, 2011

NBC Sitcom Roundup for 2/10/11

The Office, Season 7 Episode 16 — "PDA"

I'm on record as thinking that Michael and Holly's romance is wildly rushed (out of necessity, of course, since Carell has less than ten episodes left; I'm reminded of Gandalf declaring that "Three hundred lives of men I have walked this earth and now I have no time!" — The Office has moved along with such a relaxed, luxurious pace for six years now, advancing stories one centimeter at a time, that it's jarring to see it blitzing through so much plot in a few episodes), but in spite of that this episode is exactly what I was hoping for when Amy Ryan rejoined the cast in December. The only thing better than Carell and Ryan's chemistry is letting the rest of the office be disgusted by Carell and Ryan's chemistry, and this was a damn funny episode thanks to that. I loved Oscar's quiet irritation at Michael and Holly. It's easy to overlook how key Oscar is to the office's comedic rhythm, and I'm sure I'm not the first person to point out the irony that the show's most consistent straight man is its one gay man.

As for the B-plots, while I wasn't feeling Jim and Pam being drunk at first, it took a much funnier turn when they started trying to have sex in the office, especially Ryan offering them his closet with quiet, slightly sad resignation. Andy and Erin I'm iffier on as I always have been — I blame how unfathomably stupid they spent the first part of this season writing Erin — but I do like Ed Helms and Ellie Kemper, so if this subplot is gonna be moving forward at least I can enjoy watching the actors work.

Funniest Moment: Dwight rattling off a surprisingly long list of everyone who's had intercourse in the office was hysterical, as was Kevin saying "I agree, this is nasty!" about Michael and Holly's not-touching PDA and "Better luck next time, pal!" to Oscar. But as far as my biggest laugh of the entire episode I would actually have to go with the standalone cold open with Darryl and Pam. A single tear rolling down a man's cheek is easy comedy, but it's also damn effective comedy.

Parks and Recreation, Season 3 Episode 4 — "Ron & Tammy: Part Two"

I feel kind of the same way about this episode's A-plot as I do about Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest or any number of superhero sequels: it didn't really do anything that the first "Ron and Tammy" didn't over a year ago. I mean, maybe it wackied things up a little and threw in a fight scene between Tom and Tammy, but I for one still strongly prefer the power plays of the original and the way it brought Leslie in more effectively.

However, I did enjoy the B-plot with April and Chris. Pairing the show's most dour character with its most blindingly chipper makes for a great combo, and it's just nice in general to see April sharing a story with someone other than Andy (even if Andy still gets the story and episode's best line; see funniest moment below). And although I don't for one moment believe that April is going to be moving to Indianapolis (not for more than a short arc, anyway), Chris' job offer at the end was a clever way to throw half the cast into temporary chaos.

I also liked Ben this week, specifically Leslie's reaction to Ben recommending calzones. Or the cop's reaction to Ben recommending calzones. Ben is a much, much better straight man than Mark Brendanawicz ever was, mostly because Adam Scott is a great damn actor (not to mention that him and Megan Mullally in the same episode make this a Party Down reunion). I'm still not sure how I feel about him and Leslie as romantic interests, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Funniest Moment: "She didn't do that, that, was, uh, I think—sounds like it was Macklin's call."

30 Rock, Season 5 Episode 14 — "Double-Edged Sword"

This was a cute little episode, funny, with lots of great one-liners, and the somewhat parallel structure of Liz and Jack's vacations gone bad was clever. As is often the case, all stories outside of Liz and Jack failed to resonate in the least (except Pete's anecdote about his grandfather's German uniform, anyway), but the main plots were more than enough to pick up the slack from the few minutes they didn't fill. Watching Liz's plane slowly deteriorate into madness was quite amusing, and I especially loved Jack and Avery going on a jingoism-fuelled hitchhiking road trip so she could have their baby in the States (kudos to the show both for avoiding every single "birth episode" cliche and for making the pregnancy, which was confirmed in the episode "I Do Do" on May 20th, actually last the correct amount of time).

Solid guest spots this week too. Matt Damon was offered more opportunity to be legitimately funny than any of his appearances as Carol to date, and it was nice to see John Cho even if he didn't do all that much. They really might as well just add Elizabeth Banks as a regular at this point.

Funniest Moment: This may be random, but for some reason Matt Damon's line "We say half an hour to control the herds of walking mozzarella sticks who think that $300 and a photo ID gives them the right to fly through the air like one of the Guardian Owls of legend!" made me laugh hardest. Partially because of its innate absurdity, partially because I just watched Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole literally a couple days before seeing the episode. Yay for coincidence!

Community, Season 2 Episode 15 — "Early 21st Century Romanticism"

This was a pretty average, down-the-middle Community, which is to say that it was securely the funniest sitcom of the night by a wide margin. The combination of Jeff, Chang, and Duncan was hilarious (especially once the party got started), while Troy and Abed gave us an amusing and even slightly touching twist on the "two friends fighting over the same girl" subplot. Britta's non-homophobic subplot was a good use of Britta's absurd side, something we haven't seen in several months, and I admire the show for taking the lesbian kiss episode cliche and making it as aggressively un-erotic as possible. Annie and Britta actually kissing would have been erotic, sure, but at the same time I'm glad they didn't do it because that would been pandering on a level beneath such a good show. Also, I can't be the only one who wouldn't mind seeing Annie's new friend (whose name I didn't even catch) again. She was pretty funny.

The only part I was a little iffy on was Pierce's drug subplot, both because characters being high is some of the most generic sitcommery out there (and Community already did it much funnier, also with Pierce, in season one's Halloween episode "Introduction to Statistics") and because Andy Dick kinda skeeves me out. However, Dick did give us the line "If doctors are so smart, why are there millions of 'em?", a notion to ponder.

Overall, a very solid episode, although not quite as good as last year's Valentine's special "Communication Studies." Hard to top that Breakfast Club dance.

Funniest Moment: All of the biggest laughs came from quick, throwaway jokes in Jeff and Chang's storyline — Chang destroying Jeff's lamp with the nunchucks, Jeff's reaction to Chang using his toothbrush, and of course the exchange "Where're the white women at!" "No! There are no white women here, Leonard!"

Weekly Power Rankings: 1. Community 2. The Office 3. 30 Rock 4. Parks and Recreation

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