I am never particularly interested in the machinations of NBC, as a network they’re usually apt to annoy me or at least bore. Of course, all their faults (or whatever we wish to call them) are all eviscerated on Thursdays when week after week they give us a strong line-up of good old-fashioned (sort of) comedies. The thing is, I never count Community as part of this somewhat impenetrable line-up. It’s not that the show doesn’t have its good points, but I more than often end up missing its episodes. That leaves us with three. There’s the granddaddy of them all, The Office now in its sixth season. The (relatively) new and eccentric Parks & Recreation and the “cool” (I use the word loosely) one 30 Rock. Not to knock at 30 Rock, a show with a number of excellent units, but I’m often nonplussed as to why it usually ends up being the show with the most critically acclaim of the three.
Last night’s episodes for each show, though not the best of the season, perfect encapsulate the merits (and demerits) of each show and I wonder if 30 Rock will be the only getting any Emmy love when summer comes around. Parks & Recreation, I suppose I should admit, made a dubious last year – but I was a believer form the inception. I can’t say it is, but few shows on television are as glee inducing (pun unintended) as the exploits of Leslie Knope and her flawed workmates. Amy Poehler’s Leslie strikes me as a more subtle (but less self-aware) incarnation of Kristin Chenoweth’s Olive. I’m nowhere near as avid a TV lover as some are (here and here) but Poehler constantly does excellent work and is continually ignored. I probably have some sort of chip on my shoulder since her Saturday Night Live alumni Tina Fey manages to be continuously praised for her sometimes good (but often uninspired) work on 30 Rock. I don’t what my issue with Fey is, she’s a good writer – an excellent one even – but I’m never completely willing to believe her as actor, at least not continuously. To throw The Office into the group, each show’s protagonist Leslie, Michael and Liz (and no, Alec Baldwin is not a protagonist on 30 Rock, no matter what those awards say) is an extreme neurotic. Carrell’s Michael often moves between shades of excellence and hilarious (but cringe worthy) moments. Luckily, last night’s episode was more of the former. The thing is, Fey might be playing herself but I’m often feeling as if something’s missing.
Another thing the three shows shake hands on is in their necessity of peculiar supporting characters to balance the scales. Last night’s Office episode played it just right. So often I want to see more of the silly office employees and last night, though it wasn’t as expansive, it was fun. B. J. Novak continues to be one of the best comedic actors on TV with the least lines. Everyone loves Jim and Pam, or Andy and Erin but it’s Ryan and Kelly’s flawed and perverse relationship that I find most hilarious. They’re a bit like Jenna and Tracy on 30 Rock. Yes, they’re not a real couple, but those moments when the two come together to increase their craziness exponentially are some of the most fulfilling. Last night wasn’t one of those, though. I only find Tracy humorous when he’s combated by someone less over-the-top. The thing is Krakowski’s Jenna is not exactly sedate, but the woman has such a talent for holding back that I’m always blissfully aware that Jenna is playing every one in the room as if she’s in a prolonged TV show (pun intended). Like her cross-dressing boyfriend last night? Like she didn’t see that coming. Speaking of seeing things coming, who’d have thought Chris Pratt would be the Everwood actor to go on to biggest success (unless you count Marcia Cross’ guest roles as her being an Everwood alumni, too). Where Parks & Recreations edges in front of its ancestors (by just a smidgen) is that any pairing of the cast could result in comedy. The chemistry between the actors is just that good. It’s always a difficulty thinking how they’ll get Rashida Jones involved in the plot, since she doesn’t work in the office, but it’s always more hit than miss.
Each show had their issues last night, though. I could have done without Don Geiss’ peacock, as the main plot of the evening it felt really dull and when did Pam turn into such a…peppy person. I suppose it’s the baby, but it’s still weird and I wish the writers would examine Leslie's take on Mark and Ann's impending marriage a little more, still each was good in its own rite.
30 Rock, Argus – B–
Best Moment: Jenna kissing her boyfriend (who just happens to be made up like Jenna)
The Office, Body Language – B
Best Moment: Kelly and Ryan trying to sabotage a teenage foe on facebook.
Ryan: Tell her everyone in homeroom thinks she’s fat.
Parks & Recreation, 94 Meetings – B+
Best Moment: Leslie chaining herself to the gate and her ensuing embarrassment. “When a couple get married, two single people die.” It’s classic.
Did you watch any last night? Which impressed you most?