September 17th, 2009
When The Office premiered last year, it was with an hour-long episode which broke a number of rules in terms of pacing and everything else. That was an episode that was about establishing a relationship between Michael and Holly, and about emphasizing the impact of Michael and Pam’s time apart on their relationship. When the latter story came to a climactic moment at the end of the episode, it felt wholly earned, and really made the episode stand out as likely the show’s best premiere to date.
“Gossip” is not interested in doing any of that, really. If “Weight Loss” was a complex game of parkour designed to get from Point A to Point B in the most inventive and complex fashion (with its various time periods and the weigh-ins to provide a sense of progression over the summer months), then this year’s premiere is a far simpler equation. The episode’s Point A is Jim and Pam keeping her pregnancy a secret, and the Point B is the office finding out about said pregnancy, and Paul Lieberstein’s goal as a writer is to get there in a strong twenty-one minute segment of comedy.
And by keeping things simple, the show creates an engaging and funny premiere, one which doesn’t aim for the heights of last year nor does it really need to. By drawing comedy out of a very simple but well executed concept that plays to Michael Scott’s strengths as a character (and thus faults as a human being), we get a story that takes a common workplace element (gossip, clearly) and lets it loose in a group of characters we know and love.
It isn’t rocket science, and that’s what makes it work so well: this isn’t a show that needs bells and whistles, or one-hour premieres, to make me laugh. And while I might like The Office best when Michael is given a bit more credit, the episode walked that fine line with great success for a wholly satisfying (if not mind-blowing) premiere.
May 6th, 2009
ABC made a decision last year to save Scrubs, which at the time seemed like a mistake: the show was struggling mightily with its creative focus, and if you go back and read my review of the out-of-order finale NBC aired you’ll find that I was more than ready for the show to die. At the same time, there was a sense that a show seven years running deserved a better sendoff. So while I was frustrated that ABC chose to pick up the series on some level, I also hoped that it would be worth it.
It was. The show’s eighth season has not been amongst its most novel, but it’s probably the most consistent the show has been since at least Season 4, and as the series faces yet another finale with an uncertain future this time I find myself entire ready to say goodbye. The show has been on a victory lap all season, giving each character their time to reflect on the past seven years through a vacation, a new set of interns to remind them of themselves, and a new set of memorable if familiar patients that brought the show back to its emotional roots.
There are some rumblings that “My Finale” will actually be “J.D.’s Finale” more than that of the series: the first-person narrator of a majority of the series has been the series’ star, and his relationships with the various characters (his bromance with Turk, his relationship with Elliot, his mentorship with Dr. Cox) are the series’ most memorable. And it’s this reason that this doesn’t just feel like J.D.’s finale: his future is the future of all of these characters, and the idea of them continuing on while he’s off at another hospital doesn’t feel right.
For me, I want the show to be over: I want to go out on a good season, and on a great episode, one which takes some shortcuts but gives John Dorian the kind of exit that feels right for this character, and thus one that felt right for the series. It’s not that the series can’t continue beyond this point, but rather that in many ways it shouldn’t.
But, after a season of good will after seasons of struggle, I’m willing to keep an open mind should they make that decision.
February 5th, 2009
Bravissimo, Tina Fey and company.
With “Generalissimo,” 30 Rock has returned to what I would consider to be, at the very least, its pattern of glory. What works about this episode is not that every one of its storyline is a home run, as I am still extremely bored with Salma Hayek as an actress, but rather that everything connects. Not only do the A and B plots almost entirely intersect with one another, one informing the other, but then the C plot comes out of nowhere to play a convenient but nonetheless clever role in the conclusion.
And with comedies like these, especially ones like 30 Rock which here errs on the side of being a little zany and off the wall, connectivity is their greatest asset: this isn’t the episode where Liz Lemon got a new love interested played by Jon Hamm, or the episode where Jack Donaghy bought a telenovela starring a man who looks like him, or the episode where Tracy Jordan discovered the dangers of placing fire close to his mouth. Instead, it’s the episode where Jack purchasing a telenovela gives Liz terrible advice on dealing with her current crush which eventually is both complicated and then uncomplicated by the crazy antics as Tracy tries to prove his youth.
And that kind of episode? I want to go to there.