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Thursday Comedy: "The Office," "30 Rock," "Parks and Recreation"

By admin Published: April 10, 2009

The Emmy magazine cover notwithstanding, I'd say the Thursday comedy was about 60-40 good, and the other 40 wasn't entirely awful. ...

Definitely on the plus side were the two episodes of "The Office," which nicely continued the Michael Scott Paper Company saga as well as including Jim's ongoing discomfort with a boss who does not get him any more than he can figure out the new boss. The Dwight-Andy bonding also had some nice flourishes, especially the accappella argument. The investment-club meeting was a howl. Ryan's decline remains hilarious (and I am searching for a good context to call someone "shoe bitch"), Kelly's longing for Charles is splendid -- as was Kevin's belief that Kelly's middle name is a boy's. Phyllis and Stanley peeking at Michael's office, also good. If I have one beef about the two shows, it was that once Pam had gotten through her driveway panic attack, it seemed unlikely that she would then go to Charles begging for her job -- one or the other, but not both. Still, Jenna Fischer was given plenty to play with, and she did well with it.

"30 Rock" was kind of a mixed bag. Loved the "quadrant" line and the Emmy magazine cover, some of the cutback-business was all right, and I am always entertained by Tina Fey tarting up. But the business about Tracy misinterpreting Kenneth's apartment never really worked; think of the scene where Kenneth is working for Jack when Jenna and Tracy arrive. Kenneth had to act eerily, and there was no real reason for him to do so except to play into the others' paranoia about him. On a show where the characters are so well defined, that was a noticeable misstep.

Which brings us to "Parks and Recreation." My friend and colleague Mo Ryan predicted that a lot of the reviews would offer the work-in-progress judgment, and I am in that camp. Comedies in particular don't always come out of the box well, and the American "Office" was certainly a case of that. And, as much as I like Amy Poehler, I don't think "Parks" has figured out its tone yet. There was a mean streak to the premiere which I found off-putting, even if it is being used to establish a contrast between Poehler's can-do optimism and the cynicism and despair around her. I'm curious about where it will go from here -- and how it will come up with something more for Rashida Jones to do. Between this and "I Love You, Man," I would hate to see her stuck on the periphery, likable but not very involved. She can do more.

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