The State of TV Thursday

TV Thursday is a tradition that I’ve been a part of for years now. For some reason, the networks think it best to thrust all the best shows of the week on Thursday, and I’m forced to watch them all at once. And by forced, I mean I choose to because I don’t want to wait until the weekend.

Additions come and go. Sometimes there’s Archer, Always Sunny or hell, even Project Runway added on, but the core remains as NBC’s comedy line-up which includes Community, The Office, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock.

I want to focus on those four as each of their respective seasons wind down. 30 Rock finished last week, Community did yesterday, and The Office and Parks I believe are next week. All these shows have been on for a few years at this point, and if you’re a fan, join me in this discussion.

Community


I got into Community a lot later than all of these shows. I had no inherent bias against it, I’m just skeptical of new programs until someone clues me in that they’re good. Very rarely will I watch a new show from the first episode aired, unless I’m absolutely sure of its potential (recently, Game of Thrones).

But it was recommended, and rightly so. I’m not quite sure why it’s being called the “Saved by the Bell” of our generation, because other than memorable characters and a cocky lead, I don’t find much else in common. Rather Community is one of the smartest shows on TV, though it might take you some time to realize that. It’s more of a commentary on the current state of TV than it is a show in itself. It’s meta to even call the show meta, that’s how much it feeds on its own energy.

I worry sometimes that the show goes a bit too gimmick heavy. That it relies on too many “zany” takes on its own subject matter, and it gets tiresome. But so far, it doesn’t. I’d love to complain about how their season finale, a take on their first season’s closer, Modern Warfare (one of the best episodes of a comedy to ever air on TV), is a bad precedent to set as it’s a mere repeat of the concept.

But no, I’ll be damned if the two-part paintball revisit wasn’t damn good despite its unoriginality. The show has no real dramatic center, which can be missed at times, but until it stops being clever, it should stay on the air, and I see it sticking around for some time to come.

The Office


The Office now enters a strange phase in its life cycle. After going from brilliant to shit to rather good again, it’s lost its masthead in Steve Carell. One can hardly fault the man for not wanting to play a buffoon every week forever, and a vast movie career awaits him. But the question is now, where does the show go from here?

Though Michael will be missed, he sometimes acted as the banana peel that made the show slip off track. Too often his antics and stupidity would be escalated to the point of a cartoon, and the plausible reality of a group of folks working at a paper company was shattered by a dolt who would make Homer Simpson look like Einstein.

On the other hand, Michael was the last real beacon of hope for the show holding onto a dramatic core. I can barely even remember that far back when The Office worked as a great drama as well as a comedy, as the Jim/Pam saga was one of the most touching to ever appear on TV. But now they’re not just together, they’re married with a kid, and nothing can shake that union that wouldn’t clash with the vibe of the show. And now that Michael has found happiness with Holly? Short of having him show up with a long awaited child in his arms, there’s going to be nary a dramatic moment found.

The selection of a new boss will be key to the show’s future, but it won’t define it. Last night showed that yes, there are still 95% of the same characters on the show, and it’s more than just one man. Whoever is selected does not need to overshadow all the rest, nor compete to out-do Scott in the absurdity factor. That’s something I don’t think the show could survive.

Parks and Recreation


This show would seem to be the little engine that could. It started off derided by many (including myself, admittedly) as nothing more than an Office clone. But desptie sharing the same fundamental idea, likable people doing an everyday job, as well as a few similar camera angles, it’s grown into something all its own, and to me is the most consistent show in NBC’s line-up.

I honestly can’t think of a time where I’ve said, “wow, that was a really bad Parks and Rec.” There have been lulls I suppose, but each episode flows seamlessly with all those that came before it, and the characters are incredible. Tom Haverford, Ron Swanson, Leslie Knope and even newcomers like Chris and former “guest stars” like Andy bring the show to life, and it has the unique property to make people laugh who have never seen the show once.

There’s no mythology, no back story to catch up on, it just…is, and it works. It’s perhaps the only show listed here that still has a bit of drama left in it. For a while, the Andy-April-Ann triangle worked well, and now Leslie and Ben are getting their sexual tension on. It helps balance things out, so it’s not all just Tom Haverford re-naming things or Ron Swanson building meat sculptures.

Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. The show is perfectly satisfying in every way, and so long as it keeps making good use of its characters (giving Ann a city job was very needed or she risked being cut), it’s going to keep being a beacon of hope for half hour comedies everywhere.

30 Rock


Once a sure-thing for the comedy Emmy every year, 30 Rock has finally lost its way. It used to be a collection of some of the best one-liners in the business, with snappy, smart plots and colorful characters. But no more.

Yes, there’s still the occasional good line or two, but the magic that used to make the show feel electric has worn out. Characters that used to crack me up like Tracy and Jenna now seem like obstacles that must be given something to do to feel needed, and Liz and Jack are just never going to fundamentally change, and seem stuck in place. That could be seen as a good thing, but I think there’s only so far you can go with these character archetypes. No, Liz is never going to get her shit together, because if she did, she’d stop being funny. The same is true for Jack, who will never truly let his hair down, but that’s part of his charm I suppose.

The season finale didn’t even seem like it was trying anymore. Past seasons have brought huge changes like firings or babies or other such drama, but not so here. It just…ended, without any sort of fanfare that these other shows attempt to put on for their conclusions. A Rockefeller-wide paintball fight perhaps?

Alec Baldwin says he’s not renewing his contract with the show when it’s up in 2012. I guess that means at least one more season, but honestly, I’d try to make it a short one, and at least go out with some sort of bang. This is not The Office, and losing one of the only viable characters in Jack Donaghy would and should be a mortal blow to it.

Outsourced? What’s that?

 

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19 Comments

  1. i find community spends to much time being remarkably clever and not enough being funny.
    As a Brit I’ve no idea if it’s related to this Thursday business but they’ve cancelled Breaking In and Chicago Code? Seriously uncool.

  2. Yay! I look forward to comedy Thursday every week! I totally agree with you on these! Last night’s Parks & Rec was hilarious! “I’ve read that Ladder article! — Fascinating!”

    I am excited to see what the Office has in store.. I think the cameos are going to be so much fun!

    Did you ever watch Perfect Couples? At first, we were like …ehhh.. but after watching it a couple of times, it wasn’t bad at all. Glad they nixed that show they replaced it with though.. good god.

    Also.. Outsourced is good too! I really enjoyed the first season.. American Novelties and sex toys meets Indian culture was pretty funny. This season hasn’t been bad either, but the finale was great because of the wedding.. so pretty. Indian weddings are gorgeous! So much color and festivities, I just loved the visuals! Sue me, I’m a girl.

  3. I thought last nights episode of the office was one of the funniest in quite a while. As much as I like will ferrell, well some will ferrell (anchorman, step brothers, talledega nights etc.) I’m glad he’s gone. His brand of humor is far too out there for a show like the office which is at its best when it has a more subdued feel to it. Well other than creed but creed is awesome and anyone that says otherwise is a moron.
    But that episode of community was just amazing. I felt the two parts as a whole were better than modern warfare. But that might just be me. But this season was more hit or miss than last season for me.

    I actually stopped watching parks and rec after the first season but got caught up on season 2 thanks to netflix because I’d heard it got better. It has gotten so good this season. Something I read said it has had the beat moat consistent run of great episodes since arrested development. And I’m inclined to agree with them. I can’t quite put it up there with AD yet though but if it keeps up with the awesomesauce I just might have to rearrange my favorite tv comedies.

  4. I must start watching Community…I LOVE Joel McHale…I worry I’d want him to be like he is on The Soup. More and more people are raving about this show so I might have to start catching up with it in the summer.

    The only other one I watch on NBC Thursday night is The Office, I’m going to miss Michael Scott, who will now say “That’s what she said?”? I hope he comes back for an episode here or there. I miss the old episodes, I do like the increase of Darrell tho.

    Just a suggestion: add Big Bang to your Thursdays, you won’t be disappointed. This season they added Blossom…Miyam Bialick (you catch my drift even if my spelling is awful) and she’s hilarious!

  5. @cheryl
    Don’t bother trying to get him to watch big band theory. I’ve tried before and he’s just a hater that I honestly don’t think has watched a full episode. Like most of the people that “hate” the show.

  6. My Dad is 58, and I’m 23. Every Thursday, we drink bourbon and watch Archer when it’s on. Easily one of my favorite times in the week.

    On my own, I’m a huge fan of Community and Parks and Rec. Yet despite my love of Parks and Rec, I do not care for The Office at all.

    I just hope these shows stay funny, and are put down like Old Yeller when the time comes.

    …except hopefully not because they were rabid.

  7. How can you say that Parks and Recreation is part of the backbone of Thursday comedies? It is a good show, but it’s only been on for three seasons.

    How can you call Always Sunny an addition when it has had six seasons, all broadcast on Thursday nights, but you call Parks and Recreation a core member of the Thursday fraternity after a mere three seasons?

  8. Eh ? Seems to be all the best shows are on Monday. Thursday doesn’t really have anything except for the mediocre comedies and Vampire Diaries

  9. @ Sam – Big Band Theory? Is that a show about figuring out Glenn Miller’s disappearance?

    Seriously though, I’ve probably seen at least 30 or 40 episodes of Big Bang Theory (my girlfriend loves it) – and I’m not sold either. I don’t hate it, and it does have its moments, but it’s not nearly on the same level as Community.

    Case in point:

    Alison Brie >> Kaley Cuoco.
    Dany Pudi >> guy that plays Raj.
    Donald Glover >> dude that plays Howard.

    Now if only Netflix Canada had more than just the first season of Community. And Justified.

  10. “canned laughter” comedies such as Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men are just another breed in my opinion. I find other comedies much more appealing were I dont need to be spoonfed the joke or cued when I need to smile. I actually enjoy watching those series from time to time but AD, The Office, Parks and Rec, Community (which I got into last week, glad I was able to watch 2 seasons in a row.) are far superior for my taste.

  11. Community and Parks & Rec. are great and have some great years ahead

    The Office went on a slump and had some good moments but not as good as before…it’s on a wait-and-see state now, next season should be the decisive one to see if it can go on

    30 Rock – reached its peak and its bound to go down, one more season to end with a bang, two more would be stretching it, beyond that it’ll crash..

  12. i miss Perfect Couples… that show was really good. i agree that 30 rock has kinda lost its steam, however its worst episode of the season is better than the office’s best. that show lost its steam 3 years ago and never gained it back. i still watch it and get a chuckle every now and then, but it’s not even close to the top 10 best comedies on tv right now.

    parks and rec is the backbone, i agree… it is consistently hilarious and i do at least one snort-laugh per episode.

  13. SAN DIMAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RULES!

    That being said; The Office looks like it still has legs to stand on. I have to admit watching these last two episodes I really didn’t notice the Steve Carrell’s absence. Don’t get me wrong, the man is a comedic genius. The show just happened to prove that like a real work environment, it can move forward based on the work of others. In the wake of his departure I think we’ll have the chance to see some of the supporting characters really shine. When we watched Creed ascend to the manager’s chair at the end of last night’s episode, I sh*t a brick laughing.

  14. I stopped watching 30 Rock a few seasons ago and i’m thinking of quitting The Office too after this season. I have too see how replaces Steve Carell first. I hope Community and Parks will hold up better than those two. I’m starting to think the early cancellation of Arrested Development was a good thing when i see other brilliant shows like it just get worse and worse.

  15. @jim i think he meant by add on that they are later in the night and the seasons don’t last as long since they don’t take such long breaks and by the way the liquor works both ways.

    besides parks and recreation i don’t really look forward to the “must see TV”. since I’m in college community was just like OK what else can i do, the office is OK i only watch for Creed and Kevin, fingers crossed Katherine Tate gets the job. 30 rock got old after season 2 sorry guys just my opinion and outsourced and big bang theory just cater to the lowest common denominator people that don’t know what else to do but the tele is on.

    i have to thank NBC, if it wasn’t for the yawntastic lineup of outdated material, asides from parks & recreation, i wouldn’t have found trailer park boys and those simple 7 seasons have changed the face of comedy. don’t take this the wrong way i too have been watching Thursday growing up and the way it is now is a great time to search for comedy from the UK or Canada etc

  16. At Chelsea: Yes, thank you for mentioning Perfect Couples. That show was really underrated. Yes, it plays on the cliche about a sextet of late twentysomethings, early thirtysomethings that the 2010-2011 TV season seems to think people want now, but it made it work. The cast did a great job. I think this show’s been under-appreciated and dismissed too hastily (though I CAN understand why one would dismiss it from the word go: It’s a show about three pretty couples and their antics, of course you would).

  17. I don’t think the office will ever be as good as it once was. So I think they should make a big change (as lighter fluid squirts from my wrists) and just go ahead and make Gob Bluth the manager for a season and let him run the company into the ground.

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