NBC’s mad as hell, and they’re not gonna take it anymore.
Gone are the days of Seinfeld and Friends and the network’s dominance in the ratings wars. For years the question hasn’t been whether or not NBC would come in behind the other networks, only by how far. Yet oddly enough, in a few cases, those horrible ratings have kind of worked in the audience’s favor. Shows like 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, and Community probably wouldn’t have lasted as long as they have on another network. NBC’s been forced to keep them around because what the hell would they have replaced them with?
Enter Fall 2012. NBC chose to give several of its returning shows reduced orders (30 Rock and Community both got 13-episode pickups. Parenthood got fifteen) while greenlighting a veritable gaggle of new shows, mostly comedies. The thinking behind this is, throw enough up on the wall and something’s got to stick, right? Well, we’ll let you be the judge.
You should know most of these shows already. If you caught any one commercial break during the Olympics you had them all shoved down your throat. And in a few weeks we’ll see how all that advertising paid off.
Uhhhggggg. Really? I mean, NBC has come out with some clunkers in the past, but they gave us 30 Rock! For that reason alone I’d give anything they set in front of me a shot. And what do they squander that goodwill on? A show starring the monkey from Community. Alright, let’s get real folks. I mean, shows like these are easy to make fun of, but there are legitimate reasons why you should hate them. One is that, as the promos have made clear, the show is really planning on getting some mileage out of that monkey. This is setting a dangerous precedent in a television landscape where the rule for networks like NBC is to make a show with as broad appeal as possible. Have we completely forgotten the last 30 years? We left movies like Turner & Hooch, Every Which Way But Loose, and Air Bud? We left those behind for a reason. Another reason is Betsy Sodaro’s character, the nurse Angela. There was something about that joke you’ve seen in the promos where she gets up and starts singing, “Dancing! Dancing like a human!” that just kind of made my soul sad. We should be reaching a little farther for our jokes, and this show just doesn’t. Expect it to be renewed for nine seasons.
My thoughts on Chicago Fire are a little split. What I worry about is that network television is so dependent on the lawyer/cop/doctor trifecta, that it has trouble breaking out of that mold when it’s presented with a show that, while still tangentially related to that world, has a chance to break out and do something different. We see Merle Dandridge as the no-nonsense chief setting her guys straight. And that aspect of the whole thing has a very well-tread feel to it. But, a fire department is not a police department, so there’s an opportunity to explore some new things, or things we don’t see very often on TV, in any case. One thing the show definitely has going for it is Eamonn Walker, who you may remember as Kareem Said on Oz. Walker’s the kind of actor who elevates everything around him, regardless of whether or not the show is great. So I’m interested to see what he does here.
Go On is NBC’s way of telling us that Matthew Perry’s going to be a star, and we’re going to effing like it, because the universe will be damned if Matt LeBlanc is getting more steady work. As you can tell from the promo above, NBC’s trying to infuse Go On with a hefty dose of emotion to show us all that, even though he puts up a tough front, Matt Perry is still a REAL GUY with REAL FEELINGS. The problem is, Matt Perry has been a more or less regular guest in our living rooms for almost two decades, and we know what a smug bastard he can be. Right now, Go On is struggling to find that balance between emotion and waaacky comedy, and I give it maybe a little better than 50/50 odds that it’ll figure it out. The show does co-star Brett Gelman and Seth Morris, which fans of Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang Bang podcast (which I can’t recommend enough) will love. Watch for them if nothing else.
Guys With Kids
You know, Guys With Kids is… Wait. Guys With Kids is kind of funny… The thing about Guys With Kids is… Forget it. I can’t defend this show.
Maybe you guys saw the Emmys a couple of years back when Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst and some other reality TV hosts came out on stage and chuckled for three hours over how they hadn’t prepared any material. It was a train wreck. Guys With Kids is going to be the same thing, except you’ll have Anthony Anderson, Zach Cregger, and Jesse Bradford slapping each other on the back, holding up their baby bjorns and saying, “Can you imagine us at the club, with these, FOR SIX SEASONS?!?” This show will not last, and honestly, I’ll be surprised if it isn’t the first one canceled. You guys saw Outsourced, right? The one people called racist? That was a better show than this.
The New Normal
The New Normal comes to us from the mind of Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee and American Horror Story. So right off the bat you know the show’s going to be all over the place. What’s funny to me is that, as much as this show purports to be about everything that is “different” about the typical American family – or what was different before but is now the “new normal” – the characters are the exact same ones we’ve been seeing on TV for years now. Georgia King is the heart of the show, because she’s blonde and has nice skin. Andrew Rannells is the flamboyant gay guy. Bebe Wood is Lisa Simpson, a young girl much smarter (she’s got GLASSES!) than those around her and so hopelessly out of place. And Ellen Barkin is the borderline racist grandma who gets in all the digs at Democrats and gays (I have this perpetual picture in my head of Ellen Barkin, injecting collagen into her lips and pouring over legends of Juan Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth).
Ryan Murphy seems to be the new JJ Abrams. And I expect that a year or two from now, a majority of the shows on television will be touted as being “created by” or “from the mind of” Ryan Murphy. But, while JJ Abrams gave the world Alias, Lost, and Fringe before Undercovers and Alcatraz, Ryan Murphy looks to have peaked after the first season of Glee.
Did you guys like The Event? Hopefully your favorite part was when it got cancelled after its first season, because I don’t see Revolution turning out any other way. The show takes place in a DYSTOPIAN future, fifteen years after all electronic devices have stopped working for some reason. You shouldn’t spend too much time trying to decipher the whys and wherefores of the show. Just remember that everyone’s really hot, they’re able to keep their clothes clean for some reason, and the main chick fights with arrows and stuff, because The Hunger Games. We’re sorry, Giancarlo Esposito. You deserve better.
I’m actually really looking forward to this one, if for no other reason than it’s the only show this Fall that I’ve actually laughed out loud (a “LOL,” for the internet-savvy) at. I know, the premise is a little hokey. “They’re just a normal family… LIVING IN THE WHITE HOUSE!” But I have seen all five seasons of Highway to Heaven, so I guess I can’t complain. You guys will of course recognize Bill Pullman as the President of the United States (still waiting on confirmation if 1600 Penn is a direct continuation of Independence Day) and Jenna Elfman as the First Lady (makes sense, since Mary McDonnell died in ID4), but it’s probably Josh Gad who you’ll get most excited for. You may have seen Gad during his short run on The Daily Show, but you probably know him now that The Book of Mormon is a thing now. Anyway, aside from the Hannibal Lecter show NBC is premiering early next year, 1600 Penn gets my highest marks.
Coming up next is ABC.
The Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning, so I thought I’d throw my opinion down the bottomless pit of commentary you’ll be hearing over the next day or two. As most people will tell you, the Golden Globes are silly little ragdolls who are involved in all sorts of nonsense, so these sorts of rundowns aren’t good for much beyond bitching at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association about what they left out, and giving them the odd kudos for what they got right. On to the outrage!
Actress in a Supporting Role
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
Evan Rachel Wood, Mildred Pierece
For reasons unknown, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — the shadowy cabal behind the Golden Globes — lumps TV shows and miniseries together in these supporting categories. So there’s not much we can do besides just kind of stare, slack-jawed at what a hodge-podge group they’ve slapped together. We’ve got Kelly MacDonald, who’s done some great work on Boardwalk Empire this season, and then we’ve got Sofia Vergara, who boobs and Colombia. And, um… what was I saying? Jessica Lange is kind of an interesting choice. Although I’d argue that the girl from American Horror Story with Down syndrome is doing just as good a job as she is, maybe even better.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Paul Giamatti, Too Big to Fail
Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce
Tim Robbins, Cinema Verite
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Was Paul Giamatti in Too Big to Fail? I don’t remember him. Anyway, I’m happy to see Peter Dinklage getting all this recognition for his role on Game of Thrones, but I’d happily trade him for Aaron Paul. And instead of sticking the guys from Modern Family in these categories every year, why don’t we spread the love to people like Zachary Knighton or Adam Pally from Happy Endings, which is seriously showing up its fellow ABC comedy in the funny department this season.
Actress in a Comedy
Laura Dern, Enlightened
Zooey Deschanel, The New Girl
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Laura Linney, The Big C
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
My family keeps asking me if I’m watching The New Girl, so I’m thinking of faking my death and moving to Europe. Listen, if Tina Fey wins this one for the rest of 30 Rock’s run, I’d be perfectly happy. And having her in this category is a sort of universal constant, like the tides or Michele Bachmann’s facelift. The HFPA gets big ups for nominating Amy Poehler, which may be the most consistently funny comedy we’ve seen these past few years. However, their kudos are kind of canceled out with the addition of Laura Linney, who is not funny, and never has been. The contention that The Big C is a comedy is one of the greatest lies ever perpetrated on the American people.
Actor in a Comedy
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
David Duchovny, Californication
Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory
Thomas Jane, Hung
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
Again, Baldwin’s nomination reminds me that there is a God and that he loves us. But the addition of Johnny Galecki reminds me that there is also great evil in the world — on the level of Sauron or Voldemort — and that that evil watched The Big Bang Theory. Like The New Girl, this is a show I’m morally opposed to. Does anyone else feel like LeBlanc is a dark horse for the sake of having a dark horse in the race? Has anyone ever seen Episodes? Can we confirm that this is, in fact, a real TV show?
Best Television Series – Comedy Or Musical
This category may be the show’s single biggest mess. Modern Family is a good show, despite the fact that I’ve found it becoming a bit derivative (of itself, of all shows) these past couple of years. But The New Girl? Glee?! Although I suppose having Glee nominated in a comedy category — and yes, that’s why it’s here, not because it’s a musical — is some weird meta joke in and of itself.
Actor in a Drama
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Kelsey Grammer, Boss
Jeremy Irons, The Borgias
Damian Lewis, Homeland
Steve Buscemi and Bryan Cranston sitting atop this category is as it should be. As is the absence of Michael C. Hall. There’s a lot of talent crowding the field here — it’s nice to see Homeland and The Borgias getting some recognition — and you have to consider the return of our blessed Kelsey Grammer, so I see it as wide open.
Actress in a Drama
Claire Danes, Homeland
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Madeline Stowe, Revenge
Callie Thorne, Necessary Roughness
Homeland may be the best new show this season, so Claire Danes winning for her role as Temple Grandin seems like a lock. But award shows seem to have some strange fascination with Julianna Margulies, so her pulling off some sort of upset isn’t a completely inconceivable possibility. I was happy to see Mireille Enos pop up here, despite the fact that The Killing finale almost gave me an aneurysm. She won’t win, but her role in the show deserves to be recognized.
American Horror Story
Game of Thrones
Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Homeland, all great shows. Do Boss or American Horror Story belong here over shows like Breaking Bad (which exists on a level with other great shows, like Breaking Bad and the AMC drama Breaking Bad)? Probably not, but three out of five ain’t bad. And considering Lange’s nomination for supporting actress, I imagine that, along with The New Girl, the HFPA sees American Horror Story as one of this year’s Shiny New Things.
Why do we watch the Golden Globes? For Scarlett Johansson and her hot dresses. It definitely isn’t because they’re the end all and be all of what’s good on television. I’m not even sure you could accuse them of snubbing good shows, since at times they seem to be so completely unaware of them. It is what it is. Watch the show. Enjoy Ricky Gervais pretending like he’s so above the Hollywood fray, and we’ll see you all again next year.
Community has always been a show I’ve had problems with. I’ve talked a lot about how, when it first airs, a show takes a few weeks to find its voice, find what it’s good at. That wasn’t really the case with Community. In a few weeks it had become almost a completely different show. Definitely not what NBC had been advertising for months and months. In the beginning, you could see this turning into the next Friends — something like what Happy Endings has done — but it quickly veered off in a completely different direction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it was with no small amount of disappointment that I noticed the direction Community seemed to be moving in was right up its own ass.
Meta. Self-referential. Call it whatever you want, but as it went on, the show seemed to become more and more pleased with itself and the stories it was telling. Patting itself on the back every now and then wasn’t completely unwarranted. Some episodes — “Modern Warfare” — were kind of fantastic. Others — “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” — began to remind me of one, long Family Guy cutaway and really forced me to ask the question, “Do I even like any of these characters?”**
(**We may be better off asking if these people are characters at all, or just vehicles for the show’s writers to make pop culture references (could this show even exist without Abed?). They never seem to learn anything. That in and of itself isn’t bad. The characters on Seinfeld and Always Sunny never learn anything, either. But at least those shows are unapologetic about it. On Community, we see the group go through some problem, fight and argue, eventually realize their mistake, make up and come together, and next week we’re right back at square one. I think it says something when Pierce, arguably the show’s least likeable character, feels more rounded out than Jeff.)
That question popped up again with this season’s “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux,” which spent half an hour riffing on Hearts of Darkness. It was around the time we see Dean Pelton huddled in his office, smearing ash on his face that I realized the show, and particularly this episode, wasn’t even trying to be a sitcom anymore. Community had transformed into some bizarre piece of performance art. It had turned into the conversation we have with that group of friends we see only once a year, who are all back in town for the Holidays, or a friend’s wedding. Sitcom structure and a 30-minute runtime do not necessarily a comedy make. A gangstered out Senor Chang marching into the study room and shooting up the place in “Modern Warfare” isn’t inherently funny. It’s a callback to John Woo movies, and the setting makes it funny. I felt like we saw a lot of the same in “Regional Holiday Music.” Many of the show’s swipes at Glee didn’t really strike me as jokes, but the writers’ own problems with the show they were just making a part of tonight’s narrative.
Does any of this make sense? I hope not. I’m really trying to make it as difficult as possible to follow.
If I force myself to take any enjoyment I might be getting out of the show and throw it out the window, to be as analytical as I can, this is what I get. If I turn all that off, I do enjoy the show. This season more than last, for some reason. And I liked tonight’s episode. I thought the things it had to say about Glee were funny, even if it was just a slightly repackaged conversation I keep having with my wife. I loved Mr. Rad (played by SNL’s Taram Killam), Pierce’s confusion at what regionals were, and Annie’s slutty Santa song to Jeff that quickly devolved into infant babbling. And after an episode like “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux,” which really had me wondering what the hell the show was up to, I thought it was a good note for the show to go out on. I say go out because we don’t know how long it’s going to be before Community comes back, now that NBC has yanked it off its mid-season schedule. Hopefully by the time it comes back, I’ll have had an Ebeneezer Scrooge-esque change of heart that’ll let me enjoy the show more than I am now. Because right now, it’s kind of turned into the Newt Gingrich of sitcoms. It can’t help but let everyone know why it’s better than they are.
This recession is tough for everyone, you guys. All over the country, people are having to tighten their belts, cut back and pinch pennies to make ends meet. It’s been a hard pill to swallow, but we’re all learning how to do more with less.
Take the writers on The Office, for example. On this week’s episode, they were able to take one, single joke and stretch it out so that it lasted the entire half-hour. Pretty impressive, considering the spot they’re in. I mean, the show’s been on the air for eight years! How many more jokes are they suppose to write? Like good little squirrels, they’re saving up for the harsh winter (read, the next 4-5 seasons we’re sure to get of the show).
The thing is, dragging a joke out, and then dragging it out, and then dragging it out some more isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Shows like Family Guy do it quite often and sometime it really works for them. The problem with “Mrs. California” was that it not only took a joke, but an uncomfortable joke, and dragged like a dead raccoon that got caught underneath my car.
When Robert California runs into the office saying that his wife’s going to be walking in any second, that he promised her a job in the office and “under no circumstances” could that be allowed to happen, Andy’s forced to find a way to let her down easy. And he does, only to have Robert push back, and push back, and push back again. Eventually Andy gives her a job, gets chewed out by Robert, and now has to find a way to get her — the “her” here is Maura Tierney, who in a perfect world was never replaced by Lauren Graham on Parenthood — to quit.
There comes a point here when you realize that Andy really is a poor sap, and so very different from the character we were introduced to in season 3. Because he’s always going to be trying to get his dad to like him, never does it cross his mind to scream out, “What the f**k is wrong with you, Robert California?” If he doesn’t want his wife to work there, he should have never promised her the job. And now that I think of it, what exactly is the problem with Mrs. California working in the office in the first place? This isn’t a Jim and Pam thing. Robert doesn’t work there so they wouldn’t be seeing each other every day. And when he does come in, he what, sticks himself in the conference room with a few papers and his cell phone for a few hours?
And Andy as a character being effectively neutered wasn’t even the worst part. No, the worst part of the episode was the fact that Mrs. California didn’t seem to have a single negative quality. She came in, she was nice and polite. When Andy runs around telling everyone to act like a jerk she even says she understands. So when we see Oscar and Kevin and Phyllis trying to push her out of the group, the whole thing gets a little painful to watch.
But… things weren’t all bad. No, around this black cloud I was able to spot the faintest of silver linings, which came in the form of Dwight’s gym. And no, it wasn’t his medieval Amish gym filled with rocks and gravel buckets. It was his conversation with Daryl, asking if his “start out slow” mentality was the same one he brought to a plate of buffalo wings. And Dwight’s promise to turn to turn Daryl into LeBron James, who we learned is really named…
“… LeJean Brames.”
But we were forced to chew through quite a bit before getting to that one particular nugget. If this is what the show’s become, it’s going to be a cold, long winter.
Oh, The Office. I want to keep loving you, but you’re making it so hard. Looking back, there have been so many good moments we’ve shared. The child-like innocence of Michael when he would turn everything to shit but redeem himself in the end. The occasional moments that provided a bit of human-like softness to characters like Dwight or Stanley. The bat-shit crazy interactions with Creed. Those were good times! However, lately, it’s been hard to figure out just why I continue to tune in every week. Why I keep giving you more and more chances to redeem yourself.
I think part of what keeps me coming back is hope. The same hope that all those celebrities talk about these days to show us that they’re “down with Barack”; the hope that things will get better. But it’s been nearly two months and things haven’t changed. Eight episodes is more than enough time to get your shit together and set up some arcs to carry the season (or even the series). Instead, this season has stumbled forward with the central problem being that Andy simply doesn’t feel as though he’s accepted by his peers as manager. And that simply isn’t enough.
In this week’s installment, “Gettysburg”, Andy sets out on another quest to prove he can lead and motivate the people of Dunder Mifflin/Sabre by teaching them that business can be compared to war. He, along with half of the office, set out on a field-trip to the Gettysburg battlegrounds. While Andy, Jim, Dwight, Oscar, Darrell, Erin, Phyllis, Creed and Gabe are out of the office, the rest of the staff meet with Robert California to brainstorm on a new “game changer” for the company. What a wacky premise!
I’m about to lose my shit on the problems with The Office as a whole, so I’ll start with some points on just this week’s episode.
The Good: The Big Mac Idea.
The Bad: What a mess of a story. Did Andy really think that a field trip with half of the office would finally gain him some credibility? How many more episodes are we going to have to suffer through before Andy finally slips back into his rage-filled ways and let’s the office know that, while they may not all agree with his management style, he is their manager? Yes he went to anger management, but he’s still got his demons.
Robert California appears to have taken on the role of the new Creed. Creed with power. Creed with power and the fear of his employees. Given that the beginning of this season set up that Robert was a bit of a “mind wizard”, how is he bested by Kevin. Remember a couple of seasons back when Holly thought he was retarded. Come on.
The episode simply felt like a waste of time. Nothing was pushed forward, no character development, no purpose. Hopefully the mini pep-talk that Jim gave Andy in the last 2 minutes will be the final push needed to move this show along.
Right. Now with that’s out of the way, let’s get down to ass tacks. Brass tacks? Ass tacks.
There’s no more drama between anyone in the cast. Sure, The Office is a comedy, but what kept many people interested were the dramatic arcs between different characters. The JAM love story. Will they get together? That was awesome story telling. Michael’s choice between Jan and Carol, and the atrocious relationship he got himself into. Dwight and his desire to lead his co-workers. Even Ryan and his on-again, off-again relationship with Kelly that is now, off-again? It’s all gone. Jim and Pam are together, Michael is gone and happy with Holly, and Dwight appears to be content with the fact that things won’t change. Pretty much every character seems to have slumped down into a Toby-like funk. The actors themselves seem to simply dial-in for their occasional one-liner, and that’s that.
I was really hoping that when Steve Carrell left, The Office would carry on without him. Of course, there would be a bit of a mourning period, but things would settle and get back on track. Unfortunately, it has become clear that the sting of losing him did not just damage the characters of The Office, it damaged everyone involved with it as a whole. Damage that I fear may be permanent.
“We open on a typical day at Greendale, only the students all look happy, and you can’t smell that smell.”
Say what you will about “Remedial Chaos Theory,” but I thought this episode was the best this season, maybe one of the best ever. Or maybe I’m just prematurely mourning the impending loss of this brilliantly funny show. Why, NBC, why?
The cold open set up was strong, but the real action started almost immediately after the credits stopped rolling.
“Where’s my script girl?”
That dialogue pattern is so similar to another critically lauded, under-appreciated, cancelled-too-soon but soon-to-be-resurrected-on-Netflix series. And we’re letting another one go. For shame, people. FOR SHAME.
This episode was nonstop – the overarching story built up in a steady but believable way, and all along the journey, there were moments of pure gold, from Jeff’s impersonation of the dean to the dean’s attempt to get Shirley to play the happy/threatening (aka sassy) black woman. And the moments were always born out of the characters – like Jeff going the extra mile to avoid helping and Britta and Troy’s awkward hugging exchange, punctuated by “if you get this wrong one more time, I’m segregating the school!”
Dean Pelton just got more and more hysterical as he dragged more characters into his sick, twisted world. It was so awesome to see Gary again as the microscope who wasn’t taking advantage of the motion sensor technology – the dean was right, that was clearly a frog who can’t get out of a box!
Even the final collapse was driven by genuine character insight as Britta the licensed psychology major helped Annie overcome her Stockholm syndrome and the rest of the cast realized that yes, the dean really had gone insane.
Watching these characters dissolve through the lens of Abed’s documentary was just such a fun framing device, and having seen neither Heart of Darkness nor Apocalypse Now, I know there were levels to the story I missed out on. But even so, I loved this episode despite the saccharine everything-works-out-okay-because-we-all-pitched-in ending.
Plus, Luis Guzman. I loved him in IMDB too.
You’ve all heard “Firework” by Katy Perry, right? Well, scratch that. Remember “Firework” by Katy Perry? You should. For a few months there radio stations were hellbent on shoving that song down the throats of every man, woman and child in the country (among other places, like Eastern Europe, where that sh*t never gets old). Whenever that song comes on my ears do this weird thing where they bleed, so I’m kind of predisposed to not like it. But even if I hadn’t suffered through that song hundreds of times in the car — my radio only gets one station and can’t turn off in this scenario — I’d still hate it. Because as annoying as Katy Perry and her lyrics can be, she’s still hot. And that’s something no neon wig or bad lyric is ever going to cover up. So I have a hard time when a woman with looks like hers takes it upon herself to tell the less-attractive, downtrodden masses that everything’s okay. Just, like, let it all hang out, and you’ll be beautiful or something! I also have a problem when incredibly attractive women on TV shows spend an entire episode moping around worried that the sky is falling because it turns out there are other attractive women in the world and HOW CAN THEY COMPETE?
I had to watch this episode a few times before the fact that nothing happens in it actually sunk in. On the one hand we’ve got Pam’s replacement, Cathy, who’s attractive (although not in a Katy Perry, pardon my bosoms sort of way) and kind of has this indy sensibility to her, who’s going to be sitting right next to Jim for however long Pam’s on maternity leave. On the other hand, we’ve got Andy, Daryl and Kevin, who’ve all taken to getting together and jamming out in the warehouse during their lunch breaks. And I guess this is an episode or something.
The way I see it, the entire episode was built around a single joke: Dwight grabbing Jim’s crotch. It was an easy joke to make, and I laughed at Dwight’s comment to Pam about grabbing her husband’s soft penis for nothing despite myself. I say that the entire episode was built around this because this was the only moderately funny moment in the entire half hour. Pam thinks Jim is attracted to Cathy, but he never cops to it — not even to the documentary crew — so the entire thing comes off as a nonstarter. And at the culmination of all this, at the Walgreen’s or wherever, we find that Jim’s got high blood pressure and if he died that would really suck! Don’t forget Cece’s toothbrush! What?
Any enjoyment I may have taken from all of this was quickly put to bed with Pam’s constant, “Say it! Say it! SAY IT!” And when Jim looked at the camera and admitted to feeling something toward a coworker that he hadn’t felt in years, right when I thought things might be taking an interesting turn, Jim makes a joke about Dwight grabbing his crotch.
Now, I know most of you would never buy a Jim/Cathy work wife/husband sort of situation (and I wouldn’t either, that’s not Jim) but Jim flirting with Cathy and something brewing there I’d absolutely buy. Not because it’s a natural place for the characters to go, but because The Office pulled us along for years with Jim and Pam’s will-they-won’t-they relationship, and now that they’re together, the drama’s got to come from somewhere. And shows like Grey’s Anatomy have conditioned me to expect it to come absurd plot twists and nutty relationships like that. I’ll just say that the second Pam turns into a lesbian, I’m done with this show for good. Maybe. We’ll see where it goes.
The episode’s B-story wasn’t even really worth the name. “The time we spent with other people” would be more apt. When Robert California (and what a waste of a guest spot that was) finds Andy, Kevin and Daryl playing in the warehouse, he mentions he used to be in a band himself. And when he invites his old music buddies to drop by and jam, Kevin and the Zits get pushed out, AND THEN– Wait, there is no “and then.” That’s it. They realize they’re friends and that they liked playing music together. I imagine they knew that at the beginning of the episode as well.
This was far and away the weakest episode in what I’ve generally considered to be a better than (post-season 5) average season. And there’s a part of me that blames that on Andy not being as effective a character the show could rally around as Michael was. But there’s a bigger part of me that says the writers just need to give us plots that go somewhere.
I loved this week’s cold open – you’re never too old or too mature for a good dick joke; they’re always funny. From there, it was downhill. Maybe I’m getting more cynical in my old age, but the “valuable lesson” episodes are my least favorite – that’s what drives me crazy on Community, but fortunately on that show, it’s usually only a minute or two.
The Office, however, is like a slightly funny and moderately edgy afternoon special every single week. This week, Andy learns to be proud of himself because his great job has led him to great friends and not let his parents’ judgment affect him anymore.
Wank. Wank. Snoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooze.
More funny, fewer life lessons please. It was mostly just awkward and uncomfortable. Even the things that were amusing in this episode were pretty weak… like the Google street view of Dwight on the seesaw with Mose. It was funny for a second, but I’m not going to think about it again like I will some of the one-off jokes in this week’s Community (chop busted, fellow adult, chop busted).
Since the beginning, the best chemistry in this show has been between Jim and Dwight. When they are messing with each other, there’s rarely a miss. I am especially fond of the long cons Jim pulls – the faxes from future Dwight, the slow addition of quarters to Dwight’s phone… so, I loved that Jim took the initiative to write a book for the sole purpose of setting Dwight up. The writers got a lot of good gags out of that, including the closing sequence (Dwight having to call out Jim’s name repeatedly and in answer to the question: Who is the best salesman in the office?) which I really enjoyed.
But at this point in its run, The Office is like the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner – it’s expected and satisfying, but it’s nothing special. Closing thoughts:
As further evidence of my Andy-is-essentially-a-replacement-for-Michael-Scott theory, when Andy is explaining the garden party, and Daryl says he can bring the barbecue – watch Andy’s reaction – it’s CLASSIC Michael Scott.
Funniest line in this week’s show: “The pewter package has the least amount of goats… it’s not no goats, it’s still 10-12 goats, depending on the goats’ availability.” But then, Robert California goes and kills the goat joke. Is the fact that he dismissed the idea as ridiculous supposed to be funny? Or was it just a set up for the less-funny exotic meats joke? I think it would’ve been funnier if he’d let the goat thing stand, and I still don’t feel like James Spader/Robert California has hit his stride in The Office yet. Overall – disappointing.
P.S. Josh Groban as a guest star was a total waste and utterly forgettable
This episode is getting a lot of hype, so I tried to go into it without expectations. Was it a funny episode? Yes. Was it clever? Yes. Was it original? Yes. Was it a little repetitive? Yes.
I get that the repetition was a necessary evil to carry out the concept, but it got a little old, and truthfully, it infringed on the amount of original content we actually got out of this episode. But that’s a very minor quibble, because the show made up for it in so many ways. I’m not sure an episode like this lends itself to traditional evaluation. So, instead, I’m going to address the concept as a whole, and then highlight a few of the funniest moments.
So, the theory is that there are six different timelines and the outcomes vary widely depending on who leaves the apartment to go get the pizza. Only a show like Community – that has already established that it acknowledges itself as a half-hour television situational comedy – could pull off a stunt like this. There are only a handful of shows that can do the stunt episode effectively (NewsRadio comes to mind), but Community has exactly the right combination of history, tone, and audience to make it work.
But more than the concept, I think the magic of this episode was in the performances – specifically, those of Donald Glover and Danny Pudi. From the moment the door to their apartment opened, they were hitting on all cylinders. Every movement and syllable was deliberate and perfectly timed. I think that the showrunners knew they’d have to hit every detail and really elevate the show to make this gimmick come off as more than a gimmick, and they were successful. It was like I was watching that one performance of a live theater production – the one where everyone is on, everything runs smoothly, there are no missed cues or faulty props – everything is just perfect. And you just can’t have more than one of those – something always fails to rise to the level except for that one time. This was that one time for Community.
It also helped that some of the scenarios and dialogue in the vignettes were just hilarious. Here are some of the best:
- “Indiana Jones and the apartment of perpetual virginity.”
- When Jeff tries to bail on the gang to go the “Single Malt Platinum Booze and Billiards” club, which was in actuality, designed just for him.
- Britta telling Abed that he isn’t dignified, then morphing into a gorilla and singing “Me so hungy! Me so hungy!”
- “Real mahogany bunk beds.”
- “Time flies when you’re baking!” “No it doesn’t!” (the expression on Troy’s face really made this one for me)
- “I demand to be housewarmed!”
- Post-burned-larynx Troy: “Clearly you don’t understand anything about defeating trolls.”
- “Chop busted, fellow adult, chop busted.”
- “Ropes? Vines? Let him finish!”
- Britta: “Shirley, don’t you think you’ve had enough?” Shirley: “Of you.”
- Watching Jeff smack his head on the ceiling fan was funny every time… same with him cutting Britta off as she starts to wail to “Roxanne.”
P.S. One additional minor quibble: I wish the baking addiction had been more clearly established in previous episodes. Yes, we know Shirley is the mom of the group and that she likes to bake, but the degree to which the group was fed up with her “addiction” hadn’t really been made apparent until they needed it for a plot point in this episode…. How very “The Office” of you, Community writers.
I don’t know if I’m just tired or grumpy or feeling let down after watching some really new, fresh, interesting television (American Horror Story – check it out), but I was just not impressed with this week’s NBC Thursday night lineup. Granted, I haven’t watched Parks and Recreation yet and will not be watching Whitney, but still.
This was an okay episode of The Office. It was mediocre. It was all right. Fine. Decent. But it wasn’t anything to write home about – or much to write a blog about, for that matter.
My favorite scene was between Ryan and Pam when Pam covered for Erin at the front desk. Ryan remains a fun character because he’s used so sparingly. He’s rarely integral to the plot and can just pop up whenever they have a good line for him.
And actually, when I look back at my notes, I am a little surprised by the number of lines and scenarios that I did think were funny; maybe I was just underwhelmed by the premise. Certainly, Daryl’s downer attitude didn’t make for the most lighthearted episode, but even the lottery fantasies weren’t that compelling or amusing.
One of the other quality scenes was Andy explaining to Darryl why he didn’t get the manager job and showing us again just how similar to Michael Andy really is – there’s a hidden intelligence (I mean, c’mon, he did go to Cornell!) underneath the naiveté. It wasn’t necessarily funny, but it was a good scene.
So what was funny?
- Old school Jim manipulating Dwight. And you can tell time has passed for these characters because Dwight almost resists the bait – on some level, he knows he’s being played by Jim like he has been so many times before, but he just can’t resist.
- Andy’s Mr. T voice: “I feel sympathy for the jerks who have to listen to this all day.”
- When Andy asked Oscar to name the most jacked guy in town, “like, your wildest fantasy guy,” I love that Oscar isn’t even fazed anymore… he just deadpans: “bulk or definition?”
- Kevin: “Good old Kevin… he’ll do anything! Well… I won’t do a good job!”
- Dwight on the old warehouse staff: “Theirs is a more physical intelligence… like baboons or elephants.” Please be aware that from now on, I will be referring to certain people as physically intelligent.
- Andy to the warehouse job candidates: “Does anyone get distracted easily by bubble wrap?” It’s not sophisticated comedy, but bubble wrap is always funny. Also… why would a paper distributor need bubble wrap? What needs to be protected, exactly?
- Masters in Warehouse Sciences
P.S. What happened to the dog???? And James Spader?