Last night, each of NBC’s Thursday comedies aired episodes that were, more or less, Halloween-themed. In the spirit of the holiday, I have something for each of them! But who gets a fun-size Snickers and who gets a rock?
Community: Excellent episode for a show that has had a couple off weeks. Its a good sign that Community seems to be getting to know its characters increasingly well, as shown in little moments like Senor Chang reaching out to calm Annie’s over-emphatic hand gestures. (By the way, Alison Brie has shown flashes of comedy as Trudy on Mad Men, but she is absolutely killing on this show.) And kudos to the show for landing “Mexican Halloween sex position” at the top of the Google Trends list this morning.
(Extra credit question: When I watch Community on screener DVDs, the show’s excellent cootie-catcher title-sequence and theme song run in full, but in the episodes I’ve seen on air, the sequence is drastically cut down. Which version did you get last night?)
Parks and Recreation: If I had one quibble with this episode, it’s that it pushed Leslie Knope again a little too far into the crazy-obsessive end of the spectrum; while her fixation on catching a teen serial vandal made sense (loved the way Poehler spat out the name “Greg Pikitis”) loudly TP-ing a citizen’s house in the middle of the night seemed reckless for her character. The plus side was teaming her up with Andy, for whom nothing is too reckless, and stoically cautious cop boyfriend Dave, whom Louis CK has played beautifully. In general, a strong episode that hit the office and personal sides of the characters equally well. Meanwhile, I like that we’re seeing that gladhanding horndog Tom is actually emotionally invested in his green-card marriage. Are we headed for a Tom-Ron showdown?
The Office: A fair-to-funny episode that I didn’t think quite lived up to its promise. The opening segment was clever, particularly for Darryl’s low-key annoyance at not having been given a list of everyone’s Halloween identity. But the central plot, about Michael’s koi-pond humiliation, seemed a little inconsistent. It built up to Michael’s pre-emptive self-roasting, in which he talked about his loneliness and thus made himself more depressed, but since last we saw he was dating Pam’s mother, does his emotional state make sense? (Whereas, if he’s broken up with her, shouldn’t the show be dealing with that?) The episode did a better job with Andy’s loneliness after his breakup with Angela, manifest by his too-convincing playacting as the father of Pam’s baby. But most important: is it possible that Erin has become the funniest character on this show? Not only is she killing in every small moment of screen time she gets, but check her out in NBC’s Subtle Sexuality webisodes.
30 Rock: So having yesterday asked America to explain to me what’s so damn funny about Jeff Dunham, it turns out that I am Liz Lemon. 30 Rock was bound to take us to Kenneth’s mythical much-talked-about homeland of Stone Mountain someday. [Update: Sorry! Stone Mountain is real! Now I just have to find Sexcriminalboat on Google Maps.] And the ensuing culture clash was full of hilarious bits and running jokes (i.e., the anatomical location of the pig’s “chuckle”). But the theme itself—that there is no such thing as one America that’s more “real” than another—would have played a little stronger if (1) it wasn’t vocalized so blatantly and repeatedly by Liz and Jack and (2) if it hadn’t already been the theme of the season premiere two weeks ago. Mind you, I’m especially sympathetic to Tina Fey / Liz Lemon’s argument, having made it myself, but I’m hoping that season 4 isn’t going to be devoted to a meta-defense of the show against “New York elitism.” When 30 Rock is funny—as when Dunham and his dummy “Pumpkin” got the best of both Liz and Jack—that’s its own best defense. (Also bonus points for working the coolest woman in showbiz, Betty White, into the Tracy Jordan “celebrity death rule of threes” subplot.)