Tuned In

Now the Deluge: Office, Parks & Rec and Fringe Return

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Besides tonight’s debut of Community, we also have the returns of The Office, Parks and Recreation and Fringe, which Fox has decided to add to my Thursday entertainment burden menu. After the jump, a little rundown of what to expect, and how I plan to handle blogging the heavy schedule of Thursday  shows as the fall season kicks in.

First of all, it’s a solid episode of The Office, which picks up with the Pam’s pregnancy storyline the last season ended on, though I won’t get into the details of how. If you read this blog, though, you were probably already going to want to watch The Office.

Instead, let me take a second to urge you to watch Parks and Recreation, even if you hated it last season. Especially if you hated it last season. I know I was something of an evangelist for the show when it started in the spring. Its debut was a rush job, and it took a few episodes learning to write for its characters, but I thought then that it had the basics that it needed: a strong sense of place, an understanding of who its characters were and an animating idea—how finding a purpose, even or especially a ridiculous one like filling in a pit, can bring together disparate people who need a purpose.

If I were a pettier man, I would say after seeing the first two episodes of this season that I told you so. Instead, I will say that the show really has a handle now on Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), who comes across as an overzealous but sympathetic bureaucrat, not a ninny. That it is doing an excellent job of finding things for its supporting characters to do, suggesting it may someday have the bench strength of a show like The Office. And most important, that the new episodes are just bust-a-gut funny, and not just reliant on the cringe humor (though it’s also still there) that turned some people off from the early episodes. It’s impressive how many different way the writers have found to make a hole in the ground funny. Parks & Rec is really living up to its potential now. I told you so.

Meanwhile, the premiere of Fringe, while not as mind-blowing as the last season’s finale (which had me finally buying into the show after a season on the fence), does a good enough job continuing to run with the parallel-universe scenario established toward the end of season one. (While also making the obligatory attempt to bring in new viewers through the time-tested method of bringing in a character who has to have the Fringe Division and everything it does explained to her.)

All this plus Project Runway, and eventually 30 Rock and a new Survivor as well. How will I blog about all this the morning after? I won’t. I may do a package roundup of all the NBC comedies, which I was doing toward the end of last season and was working pretty well for me. I may continue blogging only those episodes of Fringe that really advance the plot or move my fancy.

But I’m only one man, with other work to do besides filling up this blog—plus a family and a sleep habit on the side—so I’ve gotta draw the line somewhere. In any case, I’ll continue to keep putting up a Morning After thread on Fridays, so consider that your invitation to comment on whatever I passed up.