This entire season has sort of felt like Michael Scott’s Farewell Tour, but Michael’s endgame really began here. My biggest worry about The Office continuing without Steve Carrell was that the entire thing wouldn’t feel organic. It felt more like Carrell saying he had done about as much as he could with the character and it was time to move on to something else. In interviews, you get the sense that the producers feel the show can go on years yet and are unwilling to admit what Carrell already has. That is, the show’s had a good run, and it’s better to pull out too early than too late. Although, in the case of The Office, “too early” came and went a few years ago.
“Garage Sale” felt a lot like last night’s episode of 30 Rock in that it was stripped down to its bare essentials and focused on only a few main characters — in this case Michael and Holly. Dwight trying to get the best item at the office’s garage sale only through bartering while Andy, Kevin and Darryl made up their own rules to Dallas: The Boardgame were only thrown in to offset the s**t ton of emotion Michael’s proposal to Holly threw in our face. In the end, it was incredibly sweet and probably the highpoint of the season.
The fact that the show is still able to turn out episodes like this takes me to a weird place. When there’s a bad episode, it’s bad. As in, “Why the hell is this show still on the air?” bad. But after an episode like last night’s, I’m willing to look past all that and just remember the good times. It’s like my son who stole my credit cards and drained my savings account so he could start a meth lab. Sure, he ruined my life and I probably won’t be able to retire until I’m 75, but he’s still my son, right?
Kudos to the show for finding a believable out for Michael. Holly’s parents are old and mentally they’re not all there, and before things get too bad she wants to go home to Colorado to be with them. And at this point Michael’s a big enough part of her life that she wants him to come with her. Holly is the woman Michael’s waited his entire life for and for him, quitting his job at Dunder-Mifflin — the job that before he met Holly he was nothing without — for her doesn’t even register as a sacrifice. He wants to do it. It feels real. And while, as a TV show, from this point on it’ll always feel like The Office minus Michael Scott, it’s a believable path for the character to go down. And it’s opening the door for all sorts of guest stars like Will Ferrell, Will Arnett and Ricky Gervais, who’s once again reprising his role as David Brent. Let’s lay some cash down now that we’ll see both him and Arnett interviewing for Michael’s position. Whatever it is, I’m down with it.
If you haven’t seen the episode yet, make sure you have the tissues close by, because even though it’s all evened out with the appropriate laughs (it’s still a comedy), it’s hard to get a little teary at the whole thing. Like I said before, we’ve had some really good times with Michael, and now all that’s coming to an end. It’s a little sad. But it’s good to see the show giving him the sendoff he deserves.
30 Rock is sooo much better than people give it credit for. I’d guess that Parks and Recreation is generally considered to be NBC’s funniest sitcom, but I’d say that 30 Rock is consistently much more subtle and dare I say… smart?
Last night’s episode was a perfect example of just how joke-dense it’s all become. With Tracy still pretending to be in Africa, Jack tells Liz that TGS is going on a forced hiatus, which the rest of the cast and crew take to mean that it’s being canned. While everyone begins making plans for the future, Liz comes to the realization that she has no backup. It’s writing or it’s nothing.
“Plan B” was a little stripped down in that Liz and Jack were the only two characters the episode really focused on. With Tracy out of the picture and Jenna left out of things, we followed Liz as she prepared for life after TGS and Jack feeling buyer’s remorse after purchasing a gay-friendly network called TWINKS (Television With Individuals Naive Kinky Shaved). We caught a few scenes with Kenneth trying to come up with ways to save the show, which included sending sugar cubes to Kabletown to let them know you were sweet on TGS, something to do with “bird internet” and holding up a sign in The Today Show window which read, “Do you have any ideas?” But for the most part it was a constant build up between Jack and Liz, with jokes dropping about every 15-20 seconds. A surprising number of which hit.
And when the show is running on all cylinders, which it was last night, the small jokes are what to watch out for. Whether it’s Jack telling Devon that he was going to Trading Places him right before a homeless black guy walks in and says, “I was just bailed out of prison and they told me to come up here,” or Liz rolling her eyes at a group of L.A. rioters who correct her when, holding up a map, she asks, “How do I get to 1o?” That the show can take these sorts of jokes to tell a story about Liz’s bad luck finding another writing job speaks to what strong comedy chops it has.
The show also goes for the big laughs. Liz’s walk-and-talk with Aaron Sorkin may have been the best thing about “Plan B” (along with his “shut up” when Liz brought up Studio 60). There was a quote Tina Fey gave in an interview before the show went into its second season where she said that they were going to focus less on big-name guest stars. How wrong she was. 30 Rock’s handling of Jon Hamm, John Slattery and Matt Damon are some of the show’s all-time great moments. Not only in how funny they are, but how often their roles play against your expectations.
It’s hard for me to not turn this review into a Greatest Hits list from last night. And the fact that I remember all the little jokes about as well as I do Jack and Liz’s individual storylines, well, I consider it a win for the show. With only a handful of episodes left, the show is getting ready to wrap up the best season it’s had in a few years. I’m glad that both The Office and Parks and Rec are coming back next season, but it just wouldn’t be the same without 30 Rock.
I’ll give anything a shot, so over the past few days I’ve been catching up on NBC’s The Event. I’m automatically weary of any show that smugly assumes it’s going to be the next Lost. I have to be. The television battlefield is littered with the bloated carcasses of shows like FlashForward and Heroes; shows that in the beginning promised greatness, but delivered only unanswered questions, contrived plot devices, bad acting and Hayden Panattiere. So, taking TV’s track record with these sorts of shows in the past, plus the so-so reviews The Event has been getting, I’ll watch, but with reservations. But after the first ten episodes, I have to say I kind of like it. And I don’t. Know. Why.
With the exception of the time jumps, the pilot isn’t too shabby. And the time jumps here don’t work not because they’re flashbacks and shows tend to use them in all the wrong ways, but because there’s no rhyme or reason to them. Here, we learn a little more about this character’s backstory. There, some aspect of the overall plot is fleshed out a bit. In the next one, well, that one was thrown in just for the hell of it. In Lost, which I think owns the patent on flashbacks now, they were used not only to flesh out the characters, but also to show how they were all connected, which would later become an important theme in the show. There was a cohesiveness to it where in The Event it’s just a gimmick. This seems to be a problem the showrunners have recognized and backed off from — at least to a certain degree — as they’ve been used less and less in subsequent episodes. And that’s good. That means that the show’s learning from its mistakes, and in the chance it gets a second season (it won’t), it could eventually shape up into something pretty good.
But there are still a lot of problems the show has to overcome in addition to the flashbacks. The Event is a perfect example of why no one should ever use the President of the United States as a character (unless that person is Aaron Sorkin). We forget that the president is the leader of the free world, and as such he has cereal business to attend to. In The West Wing, the show was about government, so the president was able to attend to such matters. The Event isn’t about that, it’s about aliens who used to live on Earth but were forced off and are coming back now — I think. I don’t really know. Anyway, it isn’t about government. That means the only things we see the president doing relate directly to the show. We see him interrogating aliens. We see him in a hospital, being shown victims of an alien plague. We see him keeping company only with the Director of National Intelligence, who had been covering up the aliens for years before the president got involved. I mean, doesn’t he have anything else to do? Fundraisers or speeches or taking pictures with women’s basketball teams? There has to be something. At least I assume so. I’ve seen the president on TV, and he’s always doing stuff. But on the show he feels more like a police chief than anything else. And when you add that to the character’s general lack of depth, there’s just nothing believable there.
Lack of depth is something most of the characters suffer from. The only character who generally gets any sort of emotional response from me is Sophia, and that’s only because of how much I hate her. The writers have tried hard, getting us to care about these characters. But the only one they’ve only half-succeeded with is Jason Ritter, and I think that’s most because he’s a genuinely good actor and seems like a nice guy. Other things the writers have thrown in there to make the characters more relatable, more human, are downright laughable. Vicky was a cold and calculating government assassin, until the day her superiors asked her to ASSASSINATE A BABY! Really? Other characters are so singular-minded they quickly become parodies of themselves. If I hear the president or Sophia talk one more time about saving innocent lives, or Željko Ivanek talk the danger posed by everything to the security of the United States I think I’m going to put my fist through a wall.
I obviously have big problems with the show. So why am I still watching? As of last night, twelve episodes have aired, and that’s a time commitment. Despite its shortcomings, I think this may be the best of the post-Lost shows. Part of that may be because I’ve been able to sit down and watch one right after another. I truly believe that since Lost and Battlestar Galactica have come and gone, audience’s patience for shows with huge, sprawling mythologies may have run out. They want all the answers right then and there, which obviously isn’t going to happen, not while you’re watching the show live and especially not with a show like The Event. There’s so much packed into every episode, it seems almost as if every five or so is a season. And rather than asking questions that require answers and payoff, the show’s still trying to figure out where it’s going. Which, if reviews and ratings mean anything, is straight to a “Complete Series” DVD.