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Season Premiere: 30 Rock – “Season 4”

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“Season 4”

October 15th, 2009

There has been a lot of talk about a backlash against 30 Rock as of late, with numerous critics taking time out of their schedules to less review the new season and more place it on an axis of television comedy. The question is not so much about whether 30 Rock is funny, but whether it is consistently funny, and whether it is funny in ways that imply long-term development or ways which rely too heavily on quick cutaways and an almost sketch-comedy aesthetic. Whether VanDerWerff or Holmes, Sepinwall or Weinman, everyone seems to agree that 30 Rock is a flawed show capable of occasional genius, and there are certain things that it could do to improve.

In my relatively short time as a TV critic, I’ve spent more of my comedy analyzing time with The Office, a show which features far more nuance than 30 Rock in terms of its characters. On that show, the actions of Michael Scott need to be finely tuned to (in my view) connect with the right level of comedy, or else risk throwing the entire show out of whack. However, with 30 Rock, the show is inherently out of whack which is kind of the point of the whole thing. I don’t shy away from criticizing 30 Rock, nor do I feel that it deserved to steamroll The Office at the Emmys as it did (as the latter show had the better season, in my eyes), but at the same time I don’t feel that criticizing the show is the same as condemning it. 30 Rock, like all shows, isn’t critic-proof (that’s not a thing), but it is a show that manages to make me happy even when it isn’t quite living up to its full potential.

As such, I thought the cheekily titled “Season 4” was largely satisfied with cheeky as opposed to substantive, and that its commitment to that value resulted in an engaging half-hour of television that didn’t reach high enough but nonetheless had me eating out of the palm of its rough-skinned hand. Helped by airing after a less than fully-realized episode of The Office, the start of the fourth season gives almost no indication of what’s to come, but embodied enough of what makes the show work for me to be pretty excited about it anyways. I missed this show, and I’m glad to have it back, flaws and all.

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The Amazing Race Season 14 – “Episode 10 (China)”

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“Having a Baby’s Got to Be Easier Than This”

April 26th, 2009

One of my favourite travel stories from my trip to California was that, when I was waiting for a late flight from Toronto to Halifax, I sat down in the departures area to watch the previous night’s episode of The Amazing Race. Now, admittedly, I shouldn’t watch TV in public as a general rule: I tend to be fairly reactive (aren’t we all?), and while an airport creates a cramped space that gives you some pause before overreacting an airport lobby feels open and results in some rather embarassing outbursts of laughter or shock.

However, I should have been doubly aware of this when queuing up last week’s episode of The Amazing Race, which I had no idea featured a spectacular meltdown of epic proportions as Jen and Luke got into TWO consecutive footraces resulting in TWO highly physical confrontations where a combination of aggressiveness and Luke’s sensitivity to physical contact (as he would be unable to hear them coming) created a whole overblown scenario. Killer fatigue playing the role that it does, emotions were high, but I tend to be on the side that Margie crossed a line when she attempted to claim it was deaf-bashing, an argument that felt like a defensive action she had in her pocket the entire race almost searching for an excuse to pull it out. This is a highly competitive race wherein emotions are high, and the best course of action in conflict is to chalk it up to a misunderstanding: lobbing accusations never gets anyone anywhere, except for the Amazing Race editors who got material to make an unsuspenseful episode extremely engaging.

Unfortunately, or fortunately for the racers’ sanity, there is no such event this week, as the teams travel to Beijing for a mostly uninteresting leg that seems almost mean in its efforts to accelerate the teams’ killer fatigue to the point of outright exhaustion. While last week’s episode may have been about personal exhaustion creating drama, I have slightly more of an issue when the producers are outright creating these kinds of reaction.

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