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Today in Week-Old Sitcom Reviews: Community, Parks & Rec, 30 Rock

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NBC

Because of a mad rush of stuff at the end of last week and the beginning of this one, I didn’t manage end-of-season writeups on any of NBC’s Thursday comedies except The Office. Tuned Inlanders have asked about them since then, and thought I might as well post something an even week later. Briefly, then, and starting with Community (oh, spoiler alert—though, come on, it has been a week):

Community seemed like an example of a show ending an episode too late. Its penultimate episode of the season felt more like a season-ender, and would have been a stronger finish than “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited.” The actual finale took the series in a direction that surprised me, though not necessarily in a good way, as Jeff planted a big smooch on Annie and Britta declared her love for him. I thought the “Modern Warfare” episode dispensed so efficiently and smoothly with the Jeff and Britta will-they-won’t-they that I didn’t think the show would, or should, make much more of it. That said, planned or not, Annie and Jeff turned out to be a more logical (if age-inappropriate) pairing over the course of the season, and it’s hard to hate an episode that involved anyone wearing a “Tranny Queen” sash. I’m just apprehensive about the idea of a Britta-Annie-Jeff triangle.

[Incidentally, over the upfronts, Community found it it has more to worry about than handling a love-triangle plot, as CBS schedule its megahit The Big Bang Theory against it. I've never been able to get into BBT despite numerous chances (and despite Jim Parsons' outstanding work in it)--I just find most of the characters too thinly drawn--but obviously a huge chunk of the country disagrees with me. I'm guessing there's a fair overlap between the audiences for the two shows. But I'm at least guardedly optimistic for Community. It's ratings are low, but like BBT at the end of its first season, it has momentum and buzz and it seems like the kind of show that reruns well and could build over the summer—if not into a smash hit, at least enough to cushion it against the coming big bang. We shall see.]

I almost wish the season finale of Parks and Recreation was worse than it was, because that might have made it easier to deal with the knowledge that we have to wait until midseason to see more of it. “Freddy Spaghetti” was a solid finale that hit on P&R’s accumulated strengths while building story of the third season. It was an especially good episode, I thought, for Chris Pratt; Nick Offerman has gotten a lot of buzz as Ron Swanson, and deservedly, but I think Pratt does just as good work realizing Andy’s sweet, overeager puppydog cluelessness. (E.g., “Reverse psychiatry!” and reacting to April’s admission of feelings for him by high-fiving her.) Meanwhile, the budget-crisis storyline allowed Amy Poehler to show how Leslie has evolved from an overeager buffoon into an overeager comic heroine, and we had a changing of the guard as the show wrote of Paul Schneider (whom it never quite figured out what to do with) and wrote in Adam Scott as a promising adversary / love interest. Let’s hope midseason comes soon.

I’ve criticized 30 Rock for spinning its wheels its last season or two–essentially, for focusing on jokes over story–but it finished strong. Especially where Liz Lemon is concerned, 30 Rock has clearly decided to be a fairly traditional sitcom in which her status quo doesn’t essentially change. But the finale, and the resolution of the Wesley Snipes arc, made Liz’s not changing into an affirmative event itself: by not getting engaged to Wesley, she’s made the decision not to settle. (Even though I’m not holding my breath for Matt Damon to become a series regular on an NBC Thursday sitcom.) Meanwhile, Jack thankfully resolved his Archie-Betty-Veronica problem, settling on Avery (the Veronica, right?) and her pregnancy could be an interesting complication, if–big if–30 Rock commits to the story. I’ve come to accept that this is a show I’ll enjoy more if I don’t expect much more than to laugh, though, and Avery’s Maryland-accent scene was enough by itself.

It’s been quite a year for NBC’s Thursday: even with The Office (and 30 Rock earlier in the season) relatively weak, it’s the most solid start-to-finish lineup the network’s had in a long while. Which show are you most anxious to see back?

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