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Friday, February 13, 2009

30 Rock Soars as The Office Stumbles

It's been a light week of television watching for me, with most of my Monday shows being pre-empted by our Commander in Change and the lack of viable programming on Tuesday and Wednesday nights (I've never gotten into Lost and I refuse to watch reality TV.) So I was looking forward with more than the usual relish to my favorite hour of television, The Office and 30 Rock.

Last night's 30 Rock was outstanding, following last week's brilliance I think it's fair to say that all the hand-wringing over this season's weaker than normal start was premature. I had been a critic of Salma Hayek's performance as Elisa, but in the last two weeks she has really shined. I especially liked her chiding Jack, "You're not one of those convenience Catholics who only goes to church on Sundays, are you?" And of course, the scene in the church leading up to the quote which serves as this post's title was very funny.

Liz Lemon's date with Dr. Baird (Mad Men's Jon Hamm) was also very well-done. I like the idea of Liz meeting a man who's even worse of a screw-up than she is, which is really saying something, since last week's episode featured her accidentally drugging Dr. Baird with rohypnol.

The great thing about 30 Rock is that the show can have episodes where the third plotline, which in other shows is often non-existent or just a blase throwaway, is the funniest of them all. Last night's episode featured Kenneth the Page falling in dumb love (literally, as he was so struck he couldn't speak) with a blind intern. Always willing to help out, Tracy decided to act as a Cyrano de Bergerac for Kenneth, complete with nonsense Southern homestyle expressions and a faked romantic dinner, where he forces Jenna to impersonate Michael McDonald. Again, this was the third plot.

I haven't been nearly as critical of The Office as many of my friends who watch it. Many people are starting to hate Dwight (something I covered in my last post about the show) and think the show has completely lost it. Unfortunately, last night's episode provided these people with plenty of ammunition.

The Office is a bit like watching Pedro Martinez pitch for the Mets. While he's out there on the mound (on TV) you can't but remember the spectacular performances (17 K's in a one-hitter, Diversity Day) but you know that those are going to be fewer and farther between. The Super Bowl episode felt, even as I was watching it, like the result of a tremendous amount of effort. It felt special, whereas those kinds of episodes were commonplace in the earlier seasons.

When Pedro pitches now, he can't break 88 on the radar gun, he walks a bunch of hitters and it seems like he always gives up 2 runs in the first inning before he settles down a bit. He never really goes past 6 innings anymore, and if he throws a five-inning shutout you catch yourself getting really excited before you realize how lame that is really. Pedro's been one of my favorite pitchers to watch for a long time (even when he was with the Red Sox) but even I think it would be a mistake for the Mets to sign him for anything resembling big money.

Last night's Office featured only one plotline that really had any comic promise, that of Angela leaving her nanny cam on her cats all day, allowing Kevin and Oscar to see how truly crazy she is. The other stuff all fell flat. Jim and Dwight failing at throwing a Birthday Party for Kelly? That's a big Eh. I couldn't even watch Michael Scott interviewing Holly's new boyfriend or Pam's attempt at giving the lecture. And if I was supposed to find Pam reading the letter for Michael touching, I didn't.

I can't believe NBC is putting a second show by The Office producers on the air. If they don't have any sustainable ideas for a successful franchise, what makes them think they can expand with any success?


  1. Well, it was supposed to be an Office spin-off at first, so the change is probably for the better. A lot of it has to do with the writers, and I think that the problem with the Office is that the promise is only sustainable for so long before you need to throw ridiculous premises that don't fit with the original intent of the show (see seasons 4 and part of this season).

  2. Tired of bad TV?