Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Tell your gay mom I said thanks.": Two weeks of The Office and 30 Rock, plus HIMYM, 24, and Chris

Here's that big wrap-up I keep promising. We'll try to dispatch of all of these shows in a paragraph or so.

The Office may have pushed things too far with Michael's behavior at Phyllis' wedding (just generally being a boor), but it nicely reined everything in with the following episode, when Michael was made a fool through little fault of his own by Ryan's business school classmates, then redeemed by how much he liked Pam's fairly awful art. That episode, "Business School," was directed by personal hero and Buffy creator Joss Whedon, and I swear I didn't just like it because he was involved (and, honestly, Jim attempting to have Dwight believe he was a vampire was funny, but just how dumb are we supposed to believe Dwight is anyway?). The show is always at its best when it's blending cringe humor with pathos, and the whole art show scene was shot through with this (right down to the last "Chunky" joke). Somehow, the fact that Pam's art isn't that good makes the character even more lovable and believable -- on most other shows, she would have been an undiscovered genius. But the week before just didn't work as well. It had its highlights (pretty much everything Creed did), but, while I bought that Michael would have been that big of a jerk, it just didn't strike me as accurate that no one would have reacted more violently to him. This is someone's wedding day he's ruining, and most people wouldn't stand for that.

Meanwhile, 30 Rock gets funnier and funnier. Even an episode that isn't as strong as some others can make me laugh uproariously with something like Jack getting drunker and drunker. I really like that the show doesn't even try to do anything touching -- after a full night of comedies shot through with this sort of pathos, it's nice to find one that's just as bitter as the real world can be. While the show is far from perfect (there are a few too many characters that aren't really as sharp as they could be), it finds a lot of stuff that most other shows wouldn't try (its commentary on Liz's "runtiness" was better deployed than when HIMYM tried to do the same thing earlier this season) and makes the most of it. Plus, Alec Baldwin! And Judah Friedlander!

HIMYM wasn't my favorite episode of the show ever, but it gave Neil Patrick Harris a chance to do some truly great physical comedy (his attempts to stand were hilarious), and Ted's excitement over the penny from 1939 was spot-on (the character is never more endearing than when he's being a big-old dork). The show works so well because it gets the little details right (right down, I'm told, to the dresses Lily was excited over getting at 90% off) and because it's interested in bigger things than just the typical tiny sitcom stories. I presume the scene where Ted marries the mother was there to introduce the show's new viewers to the premise of the show, but would Barney really be the best man? Actually, he probably would.

24 continues apace. I'm not sure I have anything to say about the latest two-hour spectacular, other than my general impressedness that a power drill can be used so effectively (between this and Grey's Anatomy, power drills are the heroes of sweeps) to gain information. It's easy to see the twists coming now, six seasons in, but the show still sweeps me along, so I guess that's something (they're going to assassinate another president? I assume this is how they'll redeem the Peter MacNicol character somehow).

Everybody Hates Chris was funny, and I liked the show's acknowledgement that Chris, for all his smarts, doesn't do as well in school as he could be doing. Orlando Jones (and wasn't he a funnyman at one point?) continues his reinvention as a deadly serious actor, and the jokes continue to be winning. I thought this was the strongest episode of the show in a while, so I don't have a lot to say about it.

This catches me up enough that I think we can probably call the vacation catch-up over (even if I never did write about Studio 60). Anything you're waiting to hear about?

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