Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NBC Sitcom Roundup for 2/17/11

The Office, Season 7 Episode 17 — "Threat Level Midnight"

Well, accuse this Office of anything you wish, so long as it isn't of being a generic Office episode. What's kind of funny about this sitcom block is that, although I'm sure it wasn't planned, it feels like Community and The Office swapped gimmicks, with The Office doing a high concept film genre parody while Community turned to mockumentary. Big difference being that when Community does its genre parodies they actually take place in-universe, while The Office, a show set in a not-entirely-but-much-more realistic world, did it with a film within the show.

This created some difficulty for the writers in how to make Threat Level Midnight (the film, not the episode) exactly bad enough that it felt like a real, unintentionally bad movie and not a knowing swing at so-bad-it's-goodness. Some moments definitely crossed over the latter line, namely the coin flipping scene and especially Todd Packer going "if doing the Scarn is gay, then I'm the biggest queer on earth!", something that made no sense for Michael to be angry at Jim for laughing at because it's obviously, patently absurd.

There were lots of other bits I enjoyed though, including just about every moment with Jim's Goldenface, seeing Karen again, Stanley's voiceover, the revelation of the president being evil, Michael and Dwight's conflicting interpretations of Samuel being a robot, and the very first scene of the episode. And as for the out-of-movie scenes, there isn't all that much to say. It was nice (if a bit unbelievable after ten years of work) that Michael came around to enjoying his movie in its proper, terrible light with his officemates, and Michael and Holly were cute enough as always.

Funniest Moment: My favorite bits were those that actually seemed believable as being written by Michael Scott to be badass when they were really just awkward and made the audience visibly uncomfortable, namely Goldenface saying "then I'm gonna dig up Scarn's dead wife and I'm gonna hump her real good," and especially Michael strangling Oscar with the American flag.

Parks and Recreation, Season 3 Episode 5 — "Media Blitz"

I loved "Media Blitz." It's easily the best Parks of the third season to date, thanks almost entirely to Adam Scott, who owned the episode from the starting gun. His stammering and staring at the floor and horrific attempts at charm in his interviews were goddamn hilarious. I loved the spot-on parody of shitty morning radio shows with all the fart sound effects, always starring two hyper-"manly" douchebags, and it was great how disgusted Ben was at the whole affair (and that Tom loved it, because of course he would). But the final interview with Joan Callamezzo was better still. The line "Why does everyone in this town use AltaVista? Is it 1997?!" confirmed that, while I still mourn the late, great Party Down, Adam Scott has landed on his feet on a show that knows how to use his talents.

I liked seeing Andy and April finally reconcile and I'm glad the show didn't stretch that out any longer than they needed to, although I'm surprised to say that I'm arguably liking Andy's evolving friendship with Ron Swanson even more. Andy is one of the most nicely-evolved characters on television from his first appearance, transitioning from mooching, disgusting slob to goodhearted and hardworking government employee without a single missed beat or jarring leap. Ann and Chris I'm more apathetic on, because their relationship is too new to really invest in to the degree they're asking of us, but that was only one little blemish on a great episode.

Funniest Moment: Ben Wyatt — Human Disaster

30 Rock, Season 5 Episode 15 — "It's Never Too Late for Now"

This was a wildly nondescript 30 Rock. Well, okay, maybe that's not entirely true. It was missing Tracy, for one thing (as will the next episode or two as Tracy Morgan was recovering from a kidney transplant during filming), and it also had a dedicated Frank / Pete storyline, something that happens maybe, I dunno, once every couple seasons. But comedically speaking it was sparse, with almost all of the laughs coming from individual lines in conversations between Liz and Jack ("What is business school?"). The whole Agatha Christie parody at the end, while probably seeming wickedly clever and irreverent in the writers room, wound up just feeling tacked-on and awkward.

Funniest Moment: Probably Jack's reaction to "I can fit Emily Dickinson's whole head in my mouth!" right before the show cut to opening titles. A throwaway moment, but what the hey, I laughed.

Community, Season 2 Episode 16 — "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking"

Holy crap this was a good episode. I mean even by Community standards. As I mentioned above, it was coincidentally doing Office-style mockumentary the exact same night The Office was doing elaborate genre parody, but I thought Community wore The Office's clothes a lot better than vice versa. Jeff shouting "Don't you dare intercut this with footage of me freaking out!" at Abed, intercut with footage of him freaking out, was arguably a more hilarious use of true documentary filmmaking than anything The Office has done in years, not to mention Shirley shooting her own talking head and Abed commenting on the generic documentary montage ending technique while simultaneously using it.

Pierce's psychological tests for Jeff, Shirley, and Britta were all clever and did a great job diving into each character's neuroses and personal insecurities. That's a big part of why Community is so much better than 30 Rock (not just today, but even in Rock's prime): it treats its characters as complex people rather just joke machines tweaked to fit any given moment and punchline. But this episode didn't want for laughs in the least either, thanks mostly to Troy and LeVar Burton's absofuckinglutely hilarious B-plot. Donald Glover is going to fly high in the world of comedy, and unlike so many others who have he completely deserves it. Annie had a smaller part than the rest of the group, although "Are they... Holocaust diamonds?" was priceless.

Hoping Jeff's father shows up before the end of the season. It seems essential at this point.

Funniest Moment: "Set phasers to love me!"

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

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