Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NBC Sitcom Roundup for 4/14/11

The Office, Season 7 Episode 20 — "Training Day"

I'm always leery when it comes to major celebrities (outside of those already in the main cast) setting foot in Dunder Mifflin. I don't know what it is about the energy of The Office that makes it feel more insular than other big sitcoms in that way, but something always felt just a little off to me when Kathy Bates was on the show, and that applies doubly to Will Ferrell. There's just no way to truly look at Deangelo Vickers and think "Deangelo Vickers" rather than "Will Ferrell." The power of the celebrity overwhelms the character.

But with that said, I absolutely think Ferrell did a good job. His character was a little poorly defined — sometimes he bordered on being a Michael clone (most notably in the cold open), sometimes he seemed like a straightforward everyman (his reaction to Kelly's attempted meet cute), sometimes he showed a darker side ("Drink some soap!") — but within those parameters Ferrell was surprisingly understated and, yes, funny. The writers buckled the hell down and delivered the funniest episode since February's "PDA" last Thursday, giving good moments to Deangelo, of course, but also providing wiggle room for Erin and Andy to slay. The talking head with a shellshocked Andy despondently accepting his new office funnyguy duties was perfection.

The one character who I thought was a bit weakly serviced comedically was Michael himself. "I happen to like the hilarious hijinks that I get myself into" was a great line, and he was involved in both of my personal funniest moments of the episode, but really, Erin was the star of both. The next two weeks might drift towards the maudlin, particularly when it comes to Steve Carell, but hopefully there'll be some bona fide Michael hilarity to accompany that. Let's send him off on a comedic as well as emotional high note, Office!

Funniest Moment: Deangelo's final line was pretty spectacular, but still, Erin's two big scenes — being caught in the middle of Michael and Deangelo's differing phone instructions and trying to shave Michael — trumped it in how long and loud I laughed. I'm glad Ellie Kemper is getting a shot at a real big screen role in Bridesmaids this summer. With a little luck (and faith in the mainstream viewing audience), she could definitely have some degree of legitimate stardom ahead of her.

Parks and Recreation, Season 3 Episode 9 — "Andy and April's Fancy Party"

What a lovely little episode. I mean, I wasn't bellowing with laughter from one end to the other, but this was 22 minutes of blissfully pleasant television. I was just in a good mood after watching. And I give enormous kudos to the writers for springing a key "mythology" episode on us with absolutely no warning whatsoever, in sharp contrast to all the brouhaha surrounding Jim and Pam's wedding on The Office. I don't read spoilers or anything so I had no idea this was the April / Andy wedding episode until they told Leslie in the kitchen, and even then I didn't really expect them to go through with it, but nope! It was legit. Man and wife, baby.

Everything surrounding the wedding was Parks perfection. Ron Swanson and his ex-wife effigies (not to mention his tooth in the cold open); Jerry and his terrible shirt; Tom struggling for best man supremacy; every moment with Chris; and the sullen goth teenager Orin, who makes a great addition to the Parks universe and simply must return in future episodes. And April and Andy themselves, of course. I'm rooting for those two boneheads to make it work.

My one major critique: I'm not feeling the romantic chemistry the show wants me to be feeling between Leslie and Ben. I just get platonic vibes there, no matter how much they try to convince me otherwise. If they kiss I'm worried it'll just freak me out.

Funniest Moment: Not to be confused with my favorite moment, would could be any one of several heartwarming scenes, but the biggest laugh was the animal trainers throwing the dead bird onto the living room floor and then the one going "Okay. Alright, so that one is dead — we know that."

30 Rock, Season 5 Episode 19 — "I Heart Connecticut"

"I Heart Connecticut" was a pretty ho-hum, down-the-middle 30 Rock. I watched, I chuckled, I doubt I'll remember anything about it a few weeks from now. Liz and Kenneth's hunt for Tracy had a few laughs (and one particularly big one, mentioned down below), and it was nice to finally get a solid Tracy scene at the end for the first time in months. Tracy's line about ketchup was hilarious. It seemed like Jack and Jenna's titular Connecticut B-plot was attempting to satirize something, although (outside of torture porn) I'm not entirely sure what. Unusually, I actually thought Pete's subplot was the high point of the episode. There's something I can't say but once or twice a year.

Funniest Moment: This is nowhere near as big a laugh as my funniest Office and Parks moments this week, but Liz telling Kenneth to act normal before getting on webcam with Tracy and Kenneth immediately greeting Tracy with "Hello, I'm a baby!" in a British (?) accent, followed by Liz hissing "What are you doing?!" was wonderfully absurd.

Community, Season 2 Episode 20 — "Competitive Wine Tasting"

Oddly, despite a lot of individual funny moments and three guest stars — Kevin Corrigan, Stephen Tobolowsky, and Michelle Krusiec — who I like a lot, "Competitive Wine Tasting" never quite gelled into a cohesive comedic whole for me. I guess this was due in part to how disconnected every subplot felt from every other subplot and how each was pretty predictable as soon as it got past the setup stage. Pierce's engagement to Wu Mei being exposed as a sham, Abed showing up his professor in the realm of classic sitcom trivia, and Troy having to reveal that his molestation was fake were exactly how you'd expect each subplot to play out, and they did, with little deviation.

Within those limits, however, there were lots of little moments to enjoy. Particularly in Troy and Britta's subplot, with Kevin Corrigan getting a great spotlight, Garrett's traumatic non-childhood memory of playground taunting, and Britta kissing Troy, perhaps the episode's one unexpected twist. I'm curious to see if there'll be any followup on or fallout from that throughout the remainder of the season.

Funniest Moment: God help me, but my biggest laugh was Britta announcing to Pierce's engagement party that Troy was molested. Stephen Tobolowsky opening the drawer wide enough to reveal the pistol before opening it wider to reveal What WAS Happening?: An Analysis of What's Happening was also a perfect sight gag.

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

No comments: