Wednesday, March 2, 2011

NBC Sitcom Roundup for 2/24/11

The Office, Season 7 Episode 18 — "Todd Packer"

I've never really been a fan of Todd Packer, even in the "love to hate" kind of way. I like "The Carpet" from way back in season two, which revolves around a Packer prank, but the man himself only really appears in the closing minutes of that episode. Otherwise I find the obnoxious chemistry he brings into Dunder Mifflin more something to be tolerated for the length of time it needs be rather than truly enjoyed. However, the fact that everyone except Michael feels exactly the same way — even generally-annoying-to-others characters like Dwight — helps smooth things over a bit. So while I wasn't a big fan of the scenes centered around this episode's title character, I did like the parts with other people trying to figure out what to do about him, especially Jim and Dwight's subplot and just about any moment with Holly. Erin cheerfully trying to get the ant farm away from Holly before the ants started eating each other was goddamn hilarious.

I also liked seeing Pam sharing story time with someone besides Jim in her B-plot with Andy, Darryl, and going full-on corrupt in her new position as office administrator as one intended good deed quickly ballooned into a web of bribery and deceit. It was like so many "fall to darkness" dramas in film or on HBO, except funny and played out over six or seven minutes. I hope very much that this plot comes up again in the season's final eight episodes, possibly even in relation to the upcoming maneuvering to hire a new boss.

Speaking of which, there's the oliphaunt in the room in regards to the fact that Steve Carell has just a few episodes left as a series regular, but we'll leave that be until The Office returns on March 24th. I have a feeling that I'll be writing a lot more about this show over the next few episodes than any of the others.

Funniest Moment: The entire scene where Jim, Pam, and several others confronted Holly about hiring Packer was perfect start to finish; Meredith starting off too strong, Ryan's botched critique of the government, and especially the exchange between Jim and Holly of "Well, I mean, he humped Michael," followed by "Well, if that's the case, I guess I've gotta be fired too," and everyone's disgusted reactions.

Parks and Recreation, Season 3 Episode 6 — "Indianapolis"

Two fantastic Parks and Recs in row! Although Ron (Effin') Swanson wound up stepping in and taking over comedically as he descended into hunger-induced madness, "Indianapolis" seemed more intended as a Chris Traeger spotlight similar to what "Media Blitz" did for Ben Wyatt, and was reasonably successful in that regard. I said last week that it seemed like they were trying to overinvest us in the extremely new Ann / Chris relationship, but the way this episode revealed that he broke up with her so cheerfully offscreen that she didn't even realize it was a breakup was a clever and funny twist that justified the whole story arc. It was Leslie herself who wound up feeling like a bit of an A-plot tagalong, but Chris, Ann, and Swanson were all expertly served by the Indianapolis trip. I'm curious to see how they intend to keep Chris on the show with him living out there, though. I guess they might have him come back to Pawnee for the Harvest Festival and wind up staying for some reason, but who knows.

Tom and Ben bonding over men's perfume and April and Andy competing for free stuff in Tom's club undeniably felt like B-plots, but they were fun, peppy, and entertaining B-plots, if for no other reasons than that I'd watch Adam Scott read the phone book and that it was nice to see an April and Andy subplot sans romantic drama for the first time in forever. Hopefully they can prove that established and happy TV couples don't have to be boring as we move forward. I'd hate to see them get broken up by misunderstandings and circumstance yet again.

Funniest Moment: I can't pin this down to any one specific moment, but as I mentioned above, every scene of Ron Swanson's steak-craving subplot, from initially discussing his love of Charles Mulligan's Steakhouse to discovering Chris grilling portobello mushrooms to demanding all the bacon and eggs they have at some roadside diner, was perfection and the highlight of the entire Thursday comedy block.

30 Rock, Season 5 Episode 16 — "TGS Hates Women"

This was a pretty damn good, unusually thematically ambitious 30 Rock, taking a legitimate swing at making a statement about the relationship between feminism and comedy. I'll admit that I'm not 100% sure what the episode's final conclusion on the matter was — Abby Flynn's baby talk and skimpy outfits and hypersexualized comedy definitely weren't positively portrayed in the least, but at same time Liz's meddling just wound up making things worse — but there were many moments of truth and sharp satire mixed into the story's specific beats, and Cristin Milioti did a great job as Abby. It was nice to see a show so big on flashy guest stars (and more on that in just one second) give a shot to an up-and-comer. I wouldn't be surprised if Milioti leverages this guest spot into a leading role on another sitcom by next fall.

I also liked Lutz pissing his pants, because deep down inside I'm quite juvenile.

Jack's subplot was an even better bait-and-switch than the revelation of Abby Flynn as Abby Grossman, though. I was kind of bummed that they had cast Chloë Moretz as a giggly, bright-eyed, aggressively cheerful schoolgirl, because that seemed like such a waste of her specific acting skillset, then was delighted (both by the reveal and the fact that I'd been successfully fooled) when she turned out to be conning Jack and was set up as a recurring villain. Hopefully the Kabletown showdown between Jack and Kaylie Hooper is intended as a running story as we enter the final arc of 30 Rock season five.

Funniest Moment: The last scene between Jack and Kaylie was full of great exchanges. "I hate the ocean — it's for tools," followed by "The ocean's awesome and for winners, you're for tools!", plus "And I can always seduce one of your teachers and get her to fail you." "I'd be into that!" "Me too!" Evil Chloë Moretz got way more laughs in two minutes than chipper and enthusiastic Chloë Moretz got the entire rest of the episode put together.

Community, Season 2 Episode 17 — "Intro to Political Science"

I didn't think Community tackled political satire with quite the same grace and comedic verve as it has action movies, zombies, conspiracy thrillers, mob movies, and the mockumentary just last week (especially stacked up against Parks and Recreation, which has government comedy locked down), but "Intro to Political Science" was still a pretty solid, funny little episode. Troy and Abed's impromptu political talk show felt just a little too broad while still being funny in line-to-line moments, but I loved Jeff's cynical, expert politicking before Annie threw him off his game with the audition tape. His "Are you saying Greendale is dirty?" line of attack was a spot-on parody of the popular and equally moronic real-life "Why do you hate America?" argument.

The scene where Jeff and Annie made up didn't do all that much for me, but that may be because I still have November's brilliant "Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design" in mind, one of my favorite episodes of the series and a Jeff / Annie explosion that all future episodes starring the pair will struggle to measure up to. Abed's quasi-romantic subplot with the Secret Service agent was cute, although I have pretty severe doubts it'll ever come up again even if we do get a third season.

Funniest Moment: I'm gonna wimp out and declare a three-way tie between Classic "Wingers" + Ab Mentions + Notches in the intro, "Do you just constantly have your own little side adventures?" "Yep." "...Me too!", and Pierce's vendetta against Vicki.

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

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