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Friday, October 26th, 2012

NBC Thursday Sitcom Recaps: Halloween Week!

It's Halloween week on NBC, and last night's lineup brought the tricks, treats, political candidate disagreements, and surprise guest stars like Gary Cole, Kellan Lutz, Don Cheadle, Amy Sedaris, Sean Hayes, Tony Hale (in a mini Arrested Development reunion), Stephen Colbert, and Lucy Lawless. So put on your Dr. Cinderella costume, don't be scared of silly ratings woes, and let's get right to the recap action!

30 Rock: "Unwindulax"
Halle: Okay, I'll just get it out there. So far my least favorite ep of the season.
Taylor: Wow.
Taylor: That's not the Lisa Loeb I know.
Halle: First of all, I just didn't care for Jenna's Crab Catchers. I loved that we got to see Amy Sedaris. I wish she had gotten a bigger role to play.
Taylor: and Gary Cole!
Halle: But just ugh, so dumb. All the jokes for those characters you could see a mile away.
Taylor: Now Halle, you are from where?
Halle: Ohio! Our nation's heartland!
Taylor: (for the record Romney will not be taking Ohio)
Halle: oh god, I hope not
Taylor: So did you have much contact with Parrotheads when you were younger?
Halle: Well, I am familiar with Parrotheads. I think we all have an aunt and uncle who have embraced that lifestyle, or something close to it.
Halle: It's not that I didn't "get it"
Halle: I just thought it wasn't up to par with the previous episodes this year.
Halle: Like the seat belt tattoo joke? Yeesh.
Halle: Also, just to have this in mind, they tried to brand Jenna as "country" in at least two other episodes, and those I thought were better, so this just seemed like kind of a rehashing of that concept.
Halle: Okay, now you defend it with all you are worth!
Taylor: I felt like the first two acts of this week’s episode took a trick that 30 Rock does exceptionally well, naming categories of people and then listing brutal specifics about them, and just did that trick again and again until it was time to get to the plot in the last few minutes.
Taylor: AND IT WAS HILARIOUS
Taylor: Because even when the writers are throwing in every fan favorite to fill time, this is still the most original unpredictable comedy on television.
Taylor: granted, compared to the back-on-top quality of the season so far this episode never became more than the sum of it's parts, but two things:
Taylor: 1) What parts they were! Lutz! Hornberger! Kazap, blinky blinky blinky! Ed Begley's sailcar! Don Cheadle and Jazz, your heroes!
Taylor: And 2) it's part one of a two part episode, though if you didn’t like the Crab Catchers I suppose that's not much of a consolation as they will surely return in half's a fortnight
Taylor: now you yell at me
Halle: Good points all!
Taylor: Youre doing it qrong, say I'm dumb!
Halle: I did think it was odd they never mentioned that Jenna is, you know, from Florida herself, though I'm sure it will come up, YOU DUMB SACK OF HAIR
Taylor: Maybe, like me, they didn't remember that.
Halle: ARE YOU KIDDING?
Taylor: I never kid.
Halle: There have been so many mentions of the Royal Tampa Academy of Dramatic Tricks!
Halle: I will only be satisfied with the plot line if they bring back Jenna's mom Verna and have them come to some reconciliation over this/the wedding.
Halle: Verna is like a dark side version of the Crab Catchers
Taylor: NO! This should not interfere/intersect with the wedding at all.
Halle: Okay, well they HAVE to bring in Verna. And if she's there, they are GOING to discuss the wedding.
Halle: If they don't have Verna, a character who they CONSTANTLY JOKE ABOUT BEING FROM FLORIDA, it will truly be a waste.
Taylor: So since we're talking about the wedding, were you as frustrated as I that this wasn't an episode about either of the two arcs from the premiere, the wedding and tanking NBC?
me: Yes! I was assuming at least one would come back. Especially since the last episode revolved in part on Tracy accidentally helping the Romney campaign by playing his V.P.
Halle: Even to have the people at that Republican fundraiser be psyched about it would have been funny, though I did like the inbred WASP. WILL the NBC Director of Communications ever get that mousetrap off his penis?
Taylor: Don't get me wrong, I love the political stuff, and stickin' it to Mormons.
Taylor: But I want more tanking.
Halle: The fact they haven't gone back to Jenna's wedding yet makes me think Verna is going to take us there. I can feel it in me bones!
Taylor: Then again, if I had to pick a show to tackle the election it would be 30 Rock
Taylor: And there's the rub.
Taylor: This show has a problem, and that problem is: When you can do everything wonderfully but can only do one thing at a time you'll always be leaving something wonderful on the table
Taylor: it's an embarrassment of riches.
Halle: But more importantly…the Crab Catchers are not as wonderful as the wonderful things they already started to give us!
Taylor: Okay, fine. YOU WIN LISA LOEB
Halle: Lol.
Halle: My favorite part was Jack and Tracy simultaneously breaking down what states will swing which way. “The voting machines have become sentient and for some reason are very in favor of gay marriage.”
Taylor: yeah, I mean the one liners in this show were the best. “Condom on the floor of a barbershop.”
Halle: My brother-dad, which is Mormon for dad.
Halle: You do not have enough shrimp to buy my silence. Also, you are out of shrimp.
Halle: An original Leonard NiMOY
Halle: I'd have to go back and see, but this did not feel like a Tina Fey-written ep
Halle: I did appreciate that they brought in Kellan Lutz. “Can I have some more marshMALLOWS?"
Halle: "Of course, Kellan! I was warming up some more marshMALLOWS in the pocket of my dungarees!"
Taylor: "Last season everybody, bring in all the stuff you ever wanted to get on TV! I will even greenlight that mashMALLOWS bit." I loved it.
Halle: Kellan Lutz, Sex Idiot
Halle: I hope we get a Halloween episode!
Taylor: I hope we never die!
Halle: Oh man…the series finale is going to be Jenna's wedding isn't it?
Taylor: and NBC is destroyed?
Halle: Haaaahaha. Go big or go home, I say.
Taylor: I have to go take a nap now. My doctor put me on pelvic rest.
Halle:: And boy, do you need it!

Up All Night: "Ma'am'd"
Megh: Even though the first few episodes set up a slow pace and reeked of desperate retooling (So everyone's just jobless now and that's okay?), "Ma'am'd" manages to slip in way more funny moments than usual, maybe even enough for me to forgive the cutesy aging couple version of excitement that is Reagan just wanting Chris to compliment her ass. Again, Maya Rudolph does her best to balance out the show's weaker aspects — like when she pronounces a hateful wifi network name "FUava" as if it were an old world Italian surname or acts out elaborate death scenes with Walter while planning her inappropriately horrifying neighborhood haunted house — but overall, Up All Night can be summed up in its opening scene where Reagan tries to impress the coffee shop hipsters with her smooth moves and love of Yeasayer until she falls flat on her (sexy?) ass in front all of them.

Sean Hayes as Ava's new buddy and former Ava Show band leader Walter and Tony Hale as Reagan's giggly smitten flatterer dentist seemed game to bring their scenes up into some rarefied comic territory, but as ever, Up All Night remains stuck in dichotomies of boring VS cool, employed VS unemployed, and parental VS baby-less. On the latter front, at least this week we see baby Amy here and there, but it's only because Reagan challenges Chris to go one week without filming or snapping cell phone shots of his little pumpkin. It still bothers me how little we see of the baby considering this show's called Up All Night, and when we do see her this time, Reagan tries to steal the limelight by attempting (and failing) to seduce her husband. Ava and Amy should just escape to start their own spin-off together already — a bitchy ex-talk show host and superchill baby? Sounds salvageable.

Note: Despite Up All Night's faults, for Arrested Development fans, no amount of lame parent problems can overshadow the joy of seeing Tony Hale and Will Arnett together again, especially when Hale greets Arnett with "Whazzup my brother?" STOP TEASING US GUYS! No wait please keep teasing us please thank you.

The Office: "Here Comes Treble"
Megh: The Office always goes wide for its Halloween episodes, and seeing as "Here Comes Treble" is their last, there are some extra well thought-out (or not thought-out at all) costumes: Creed's non-costume wins the competition ("It's Halloween. That is really really good timing," he tells the camera with blood splattered all over his usual work clothes), with Pam's wonderfully creative (and positive role model for her child) Dr. Cinderella coming in a close second. Also, Kevin as Charlie Brown is pretty much perfect, and while Nellie dressed as "Sexy Toby" wasn't so funny on the surface, the sexual confusion it causes the real Toby is more than worth the payoff.

While the rest of Dunder Mifflin seem to be meshing together better and better — especially Nellie and Dwight, who seem chummier than ever now thanks to their shared run-in with anxiety meds — Jim's new business aspirations begin to create turmoil between him and Pam. He certainly doesn't help things when he invests $10,000 of his money in the start-up without even consulting Pam, which makes her sublimate her rage into a hate for "Monster Mash" that even scares Kevin. The tension continues, and I'll take that over Last Season Halperts any day — maybe I'm an awful person, but when they're fighting I'm entertained, and when they're happy I can't stand them. (Which is what's wrong with Up All Night in a nutshell.)

Sadly, Stephen Colbert's much anticipated cameo as Andy's Cornell a cappella nemesis Broccoli Rabe was confined to what I assume was a tiny pretaped performance from some back room at The Colbert Report, but we do get to hear him sing George Michael's "Faith" and interact on some level with Ed Helms, however stilted the delivery. It's also just satisfying to see two former Daily Show correspondents fight over the nickname Boner Champ and the resulting identity crisis it causes for Andy: "If I am not Boner Champ, I don't know who I am." The good thing is that Andy's kept his new backbone so far this season and lived up to the promise of his summer camp getaway, and as long as he can keep that up — and ideally, as long as Jim and Pam are at odds with each other — The Ofifce still has a great chance of ending this season on a high note.

Parks and Rec: "Halloween Surprise"
Samantha: The most surprising thing about “Halloween Surprise” is how its most unexpected moments seem so natural; from (spoiler alert, duh) Ben’s emotional proposal to the rapid crumbling of Ron’s tough-guy facade, the season so far has been building up to some major turning points. Let’s get right to the biggest one: Ben and Leslie’s inevitable, adorable engagement. When we first see Leslie, she’s preparing for Ben’s return from DC by leasing a house (preferably one with a “trampoline room”) for the two of them. She shows up at City Hall ‘s screening of “1986 horror camp classic Death Canoe 4” dressed as Rosie the Riveter and high on excitement, but just when it seems her patience is finally about to pay off, an offer from Ben’s boss Jennifer (the amazing Kathryn Hahn) has him considering a campaign gig in Florida. Leslie’s attempt to mask her disappointment with some Halloween mischief ends in hilarious tragedy when Jerry has the most Jerry-esque emergency of all time: a minor heart attack punctuated by an uncontrollable bout of flatulence. (“Is there a term for having a heart attack while releasing soooo much gas?” Tom needles later, at the ER. “I just want to hear the doctor say Jerry had a fart attack. Is that too much to ask?!”) It turns out he can’t afford his hospital bills, so Leslie throws a garage sale — a “Jerry’s Kids’ Dad” benefit — to help out (highlights include Ann almost getting auctioned off to an old tattooed man, Tom establishing his “Rent-A-Swag” business, and someone winning a signed photo of the mayor’s dog). The event doesn’t raise much cash, but when Leslie apologizes to Jerry, his simple and optimistic gratitude inspires A Teaching Moment that helps put her hurt feelings in perspective. She accepts the uncertain state of her relationship, smiling bravely as she goes to say goodbye to her dream home. And then, the moment we've been waiting for: Ben shows up, armed with a massive jewelry box, and drops to one knee. Before he can get the words out, Leslie shushes him, insisting she needs a second to “remember every little thing about how perfect my life is right now at this exact moment.” While it's unclear if this means Ben’s back for good, one thing’s certain: this is going to be the best wedding of the season (especially if Tom and Jean-Ralphio have anything to do with it).

Meanwhile, Ron’s involved in his own blossoming romance. After a Halloween outing with Diane and her daughters ends in tears (when Ron diplomatically destroys a tiara), the new couple experiences their first fight; and when a sheepish Diane attempts to reconcile, Ron accepts but doesn’t reciprocate, sparking another spat. He pretends not to care — perhaps unsure how to react to Diane’s level-headed, decidedly un-Tammy-like apology — but quickly snaps out of it and shows up on his girlfriend’s doorstep bearing gifts: flowers, chocolates, grout cleaner, and a saw for the girls (“I now realize that seems dangerous”). We’ve seen Ron act as a metaphorical father to Leslie, Tom, Ann, and April before, but his gruffly paternal treatment of Diane’s daughters is endearing in heart-melting new ways. Also great: Chris’s continuing descent into complete madness (he’s attending therapy five times a week, despite being named “Most Improved Patient”), and writer Joe Mande’s cameo as Twitter-obsessed Morris.

Halle Kiefer and Taylor Moore are two comedians who've formed a hive mind to bring you 30 Rock recaps for the last season of the show. You're welcome.

Samantha Pitchel writes about and watches comedy in Austin and Los Angeles.

Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.

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  • BonzoGal

    In Parks & Rec, Chris Traeger's twitching mask of anxiety as he leaves the room after telling everyone about going to the therapist 5 days a week is one of the finest comedy moments Rob Lowe has ever done.