[Another week, another set of repeats from Thrusday Night’s dramas. The result? Another Thursday Night TV Club focused on NBC’s Comedy Night Done Right.]
This week’s episode of The Office represents an important development for the series: it’s its first attempt to officially integrate a new character into its motley crew of characters. There was very little of Andy, except for Dwight shunning him, and it’s kind of tough for us to really accept him or notice him early in the episode. And, while I think that this would have been fine if the rest of the episode was very successful at providing comedy, it just really wasn’t that great a half hour of the show.
The episode instead dealt with…well, nothing really. After a series of episodes which offered either broad comedy or real plot development, it’s weird to see the show head back to its old roots in ridiculous office situations. This doesn’t mean the show isn’t funny, or that the episode was a waste of time, but rather that it seems inconsequential. It didn’t show a real character shift in anyone, didn’t address any true issues in office work, and just felt like the show was treading water. Considering that we just came off an extended episode which was complicated and interesting, this just felt like a step in the wrong direction.
The focus on safety and Michael’s search to prove himself is nothing we haven’t seen before, and it never really got to be resolved in a meaningful way. The betting sideplot which accompanied it was cute, sure, but it hasn’t been asked to carry an episode since the days of Office Olympics (And even there it had real ramifications for characters). Instead, all we got was some rather humorous but not laugh-out-loud funny moments. The bets included: guessing the number of jelly beans, seeing how long Ryan can talk to Kelly (With sidebets regarding how many times she says ‘Awesome’ or mentions romantic comedies), and whether or not Creed will realize when they switch out his apple with a potato. He doesn’t. That being said, they were still very small-scale, and didn’t really make an impact.
And the problem was that this episode really did have to do something more than this. It really needed to integrate Andy into the office atmosphere and make me see a purpose for him: and it didn’t. Andy was shunned by Dwight, which was humorous, but it was humorous for Dwight and not for Andy. If all he’s going to do is be a nothing character, then why bring him back full time? And while I think he can be established with time, and this episode didn’t sink their ability to bring him into the cast, I really think that a better effort needing to be put forward.
Where the Office finds itself in a bit of a rut, 30 Rock is the exact opposite; every single one of its storylines is a continuation of last week’s episode, and it all feels natural and interconnected. It’s shown itself capable of balancing storylines, and yet managing to provide a varied smattering of comedy each week. It’s situational, it’s absurdist, and yet it remains grounded in the principles of the show as it was organized: Liz is a lovelorn writer, Jack is the powerful yet insecure executive, and Tracy is the absurd actor. In this episode, each of them got to grow as characters and show new sides of themselves. This is precisely what The Office didn’t manage to do, and why 30 Rock was the better show on this evening.
Liz and Floyd’s relationship was nice and established until Jack came along, and Floyd and Jack started mandating. Jack, you see, is struggling with depression ever since his fireworks extravaganza last week went horribly awry and Don Geiss (President of GE or something) took away his prized Microwave Oven division. After Liz tells him to stop trying to steal the Floydster (Jack’s nickname for Floyd), he decides to find his own Floydster by dating his art dealer, and then proposing to her in order to fulfill the executive stereotype brought up at the beginning of the episode. Meanwhile, Tracy tries to get his Norbit-style Jefferson biopic made, and even when he fails he decides to finance it himself.
See how that all relates back to last week’s episode? To the basic nature of these characters? To everything the show stands for? For actually managing to contribute to the show in a meaningful fashion, and yet remaining funny, 30 Rock succeeds once again.
“My Words of Wisdom”
Laverne’s death continues to resonate on Scrubs, which has kept the show from heading too far into its absurdist tendencies. Sure, the cold open featured a rather absurd dream of J.D.’s funeral (Which featured ‘Party All the Time’ (Eddie Murphy FTW) and hugs), but in the end that was the only real diversion in a grounded episode. Laverne’s death has had a huge impact on the show. The result has been a strong set of episodes, and one which has allowed for the series to get back on track. This episode was distinctive for something we haven’t seen in quite some time: a real storyline for Elliot.
Her relationship with Keith has been almost purely sexual from the very beginning, so it’s nice to see Keith finally wish to take it to a new level of understanding. It actually forces her to face her emotional immaturity and her brushing at the hands of J.D. and the insecurity it resulted in. Her heart-to-heart with heartless Jordan and depressed Carla isn’t too helpful, and it forces her to really think about things in a real fashion. She has been the one character left out of the loop on major storylines recently, so it was integral for this episode to occur.
That being said, J.D./Turk were ridiculously ignorant about the level to which the deaf boy’s father wanted to remain connected to his son. It was a bit ridiculous, but the rest of the episode was grounded well enough in Carla’s concern over Laverne’s memory or Dr. Cox’s responsibility to medicine that it didn’t seem too egregious, and they came to their senses in the end. The result was an episode of Scrubs that felt like it mattered, which is an accomplishment for anything after the 4th season.