Another stellar episode moves everyone closer together.
For the most part, workplace sitcoms used to be warmhearted and jovial, populated by basically decent people who tolerated their co-workers’ quirks because they had true fondness for each other. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “Cheers”, “Taxi” – the list goes on. Eventually, the mediocre shows descended into cloying sentimentality, opening the way for the post-modern comedies of today. Don’t get me wrong; I am a fan of the “30 Rock”/”Archer” model, but there was definitely a space waiting to be filled. “Parks and Recreation” is filling it up beautifully.
The humor is certainly outrageous, with escalating nonsense as the flu wipes out nearly everyone in Pawnee. April turns the full force of her truculent personality on Ann, as punishment for kissing Andy. Leslie spends the first half of the show in complete denial of her illness, and the second half high as a kite on cold medicine (“Good evening everyone, I’m Leslie Monster, and this is Nightline”). And most delightfully, “human microchip” Chris is infected with the flu (aka “a grain of sand”), thus becoming a fallible human being for the first time.
But underneath all the craziness, there are real stakes and real feelings, and everyone draws on his or her best nature. Despite being sick as a dog, Leslie knocks her Harvest Festival pitch out of the park, evoking a slew of sports metaphors and homemade chicken soup from an obviously enamored Ben. Putting aside his vow not to get involved with others’ personal lives, Ron steers Andy to April’s bedside at the hospital. Ann sternly reminds April that Andy is a nice guy and deserves forgiveness for his minor transgression.
Really, it’s just a pleasure to spend time with all of these people; the belly laughs are a nice bonus.
- It’s good that Tom can prove his worth to the department while still being kind of a jackass.
- “I didn’t know what to bring you, so I just got some magazines and lipstick. Woman stuff.”
- April = aggressively mean and apathetic. The whole package, according to Ron.
- The third Claritin is always the charm.
- “Leslie, I typed your symptoms into the computer, and you might have network connectivity problems.”
- “What are you doing?” “Cartwheels. Am I not doing them?”
- “Before I joined, they were just three old white dudes quietly boiling in hot water.”
- “This floor is my friend.”
- “Stop. Pooping.”
A more pedestrian episode still shows flashes of absurd humor.
Maybe this is as close as “Community” will get to an afterschool special vibe. All of the stories either felt familiar (making fun of every school’s overly-earnest anti-drug agitprop) or downright recycled (Jeff sending flirtatious texts on Britta’s phone to someone who turns out to be her teenage nephew). Pierce and Annie got to bond about their difficult parents. And the ending actually reached for something almost heart-warming. If most of it fell short, the whole cast committed to the emotional beats and even to the climactic group hug (right after Jeff awesomely pushed Chang out of his arms).
Putting together Annie and Pierce was actually fairly clever. She is the youngest in the group, the most optimistic and hopeful, while he is a sad, old, misogynistic man. It was rather touching to see them connect in this way, even if the main plotline ultimately fizzled out, and the surrounding jokes felt forced and perfunctory. But there is still plenty of residual good will for the Greendale gang to carry me through the more undistinguished episodes.
- Bees, “cool” cats, a green crayon. Now I really want to see this play in real life.
- “You don’t count, Britta. You don’t respond to anything appropriately.”
- “As you can see from my outfit, I already have plans. So, off to the Airport Ramada!”
- “Remember, the most important thing is to have fun. The second most important thing is to know all your lines and all your blocking and not mess up a single thing. Actually, flip those?”
- “He sent her an emotipenis.”
- “Well, that answers my question. Jeff Winger is sexy even in a coffin.”
- “We just created 50 potential meth-heads, and the least we can do is hit the reset button and get that number down to the national average.”
Finally, Michael Scott meets David Brent
Well, folks, it finally happened.
Ricky Gervais, fresh off his controversial turn as host of the Golden Globes, made a brief, but memorable cameo on Thursday night's episode of "The Office." Was the scene worth all the hype? Check it out for yourself:
What did you think?
Tune in tonight for Ricky Gervais' triumphant turn on the show he created -- plus, Will Ferrell on tap!
To freshen your memory, American "Office" exec producer Paul Lieberstein did warn that tonight's run-in is "a little more than if you blink, you'll miss it, but if you don't set your TiVo right, you'll miss it," so set those DVRs with that extra few minutes option.
And in other "Office" news, Lieberstein and the producers have scored a major coup, landing comedian Will Ferrell for a four-episode arc to start before Carell departs (which will happen before the end of season seven, as reported here before), but end once he's gone as a sort of bridge for fans.
Turns out Ferrell offered himself up for the gig, since he's a fan and a pal to Carell, his costar in "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy." Ferrell's other TV gigs since he departed "Saturday Night Live" in 2002 have included "30 Rock" and HBO's "Eastbound and Down," on which he also serves as producer.
So what did Lieberstein have to say about this new development? Always gracious, he noted that "We are proud to continue 'The Office' tradition of discovering famous talent, and we hope that once America gets a good look at Will, they’ll see what we see, tremendous raw sexuality."
Might Will Ferrell's "Office" stint have you sticking around once Carell is gone?
Too much meta-commentary mars a weaker episode of ‘Cougar Town’
Am I sensing a pattern? There seems to be a concerted effort by the folks behind ‘Cougar Town’ to explicitly address all of the complaints from viewers who dislike this show. Last week, the plot revolved around Laurie’s complete lack of boundaries and all-around dimwittedness. Tonight, Jules has to acknowledge that she is the bossiest and most controlling mother/friend/hide-and-seeker in the Cul-de-Sac Crew. There was even a blatantly transparent exchange between Jules and the now useless Barb about the show’s original scenario (“When are people going to understand that’s not who I am anymore? What do I have to do - change my name?”).
Here’s the thing though – those people aren’t watching the show now. I really do appreciate the writers addressing the basic obnoxiousness of these people, but keeping the self-awareness at this height will get old pretty quick. And the explanations and excuses just get in the way of the silliness. And Penny Can. Nothing should get in the way of Penny Can.
Still, the different pairings of the gang were enjoyable, and there was some genuinely sweet stuff, particularly between Bobby (“Beef”) and Laurie (“Bubbles”). I’ll just consider this episode was a ‘friend test’ and look forward to next week’s, particularly since it will be the last one before Monica makes room for Chandler’s new sitcom “Mr. Sunshine”. Boo.
- Courtney Cox is wearing the prettiest dark blue tank tops.
- A healthy dose of Neighbor Tom in this one. Fun Tom fact: Wears a retainer. Fun Tom non-fact: Has a cat named Snowball
- Things that are never not funny: Actors doing spot-on imitations of fellow actors. Last week on Parks & Rec, Rashida Jones did an excellent Rob Lowe. Tonight, Josh Hopkins channeled Dan Byrd (“Hey I’m moody and sarcastic, and I’m home for the tenth straight weekend because I don’t know how college works.”) Yes, I know - more meta-commentary.
- “Get pillows and wine.”
- New variations: Sissy Can and Moving Target Penny Can. Also, ‘throwing copper’.
- “Man, those are some BIG grapes!”
- “So, we should all go hide in the shower and watch my babysitter pee?”
A sharper focus on supporting characters brings more depth to ‘Lights Out’
What viable options are out there for retired fighters? So far, ‘Lights Out’ has exposed us to the sought-after (possible commentating gigs on ESPN), the demeaning (selling autographed souvenirs on HSN) and the dangerous (hired thug for local loan shark). In this episode, there was a new option: respectable. It’s clear that Patrick recognizes Omar’s talent, and he is able to communicate the stark realities of his title shot more articulately than his father or brother can. Being a trainer, a teacher, a mentor – these things are options for Patrick. But of course, they can’t keep him or his family living in the style to which they have become accustomed. Nor will it allow him to do what he really loves: hitting people.
The highlights of the episode belonged to Pablo Schreiber as Johnny Leary. He brings new meaning to the word “hustler” - BS’ing his way around Omar and his friends, seducing the receptionist into favoring him with information, promising Barry Word everything but his first-born child to secure Omar’s place in the fight. And he may be a liar but he’s no hypocrite, as shown by his hilariously direct “It’s not blow, it’s meth” in response to Patrick’s outrage regarding Omar’s drug use.
It’s not clear what Johnny had to officially promise him in order to get Omar the title shot, but Barry Word is clearly operating on a level far above everyone else. Super smooth and charismatic, he’s thinking about moves beyond the next moves. Anybody that uses “Fred Sanford” as his hotel alias is fine with me. More Reg E. Cathey please.
And then there’s Omar. Callow, obnoxious, showboating Omar the Armenian Avenger (I can’t really get used to these ridiculous boxing nicknames). His destiny was clearly to get cocky and to get knocked out, and it will be intriguing to see where he goes from here. Will the loss break him (at least for a while) or make him more determined to become an unstoppable champ? Can Lights get through to him with more hard-earned wisdom? Or will the former champ be too occupied with his mounting money troubles to help him? Good stuff for the future.