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Friday, October 19th, 2012

NBC Thursday Sitcom Recaps: The Full Lineup Settles In

Are women funnier than monkeys? Are parents doomed to be boring? Can old people have premarital sex? Will there be any banana cream pie left?! These are some of the questions last night's NBC lineup pondered, and despite the ongoing ratings struggle, it turned out to be a pretty strong evening on all fronts. So let's all relax, enjoy some Indian Hot Pockets, and take a look at what this Thursday bunch had to offer:

30 Rock: "Stride of Pride"
Halle: So! What did you think of last night's episode?
Taylor: ENGAGING
Halle: I thought it was thoroughly enjoyable as well!
Taylor: This episode did two things that I had been waiting to see for a long time.
Halle: Hit me.
Taylor: First, it came right out and said, “We're not the hit everyone wants, but we're not changing for you, and we don't have to prove anything.”
Taylor: And of course second, it dealt with the "Women Aren't Funny" bullshit
Halle: Before we talk about that, which part said of the ep said "We're not changing" to you?
Taylor: Because 30 Rock so often maps it's stories and plot to the real world travails of the show I always look at the writer's mindset behind the script, especially now that the show is in its final season
Taylor: And I think "being comfortable with what you are" rather than mistakenly believing you're the "total package" is something the show has had to come to terms with itself.
Halle: Oooooh, interesting! I didn't read that as a subtext at all, but I liked it!
Taylor: You could even say that being given one final season was 30 Rock's "Meeting Ryan Lochte,” or what Joseph Campbell calls "Facing the Sex Idiot."
Halle: Oh jeez, I think this analogy might be escaping my scrabbling fingers.
Taylor: Scrabble harder
Halle: okay, I'm a-scrabblin'!
Taylor: But beside my own projecting, I loved it!
Halle: Haha. yeah, I think I just interpreted Jack's crisis as ultimately one about aging.
Taylor: Should we take the GeriChair straight to the Women Aren't Funny Story?
Halle: There was a part of me that just wanted Liz Lemon to scream "I AM AN EXAMPLE OF A FUNNY WOMAN." She never actually points that out.
Taylor: I know. I wanted everyone to fight back way harder and way earlier UNTIL “Don't Need to Prove it to You!"
Halle: A song for the ages!
Halle: Though, again, part of me wishes that song had included a line to the effect of, "YOU'RE WATCHING THIS SHOW ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS."
Taylor: Yes, they should hire you for next season.
Halle: I have my specs all ready!
Taylor: Is the first one called "Welcome to the Flower Shop!"
Halle: And by that, I mean my glasses I bought to look exactly like Liz Lemon.
Halle: I do feel like I am so uninterested/exhausted with anyone who would actually think women aren't funny that I was partially filled with dread during this episode
Halle: But, again, as with last week's episode, it was wrong to underestimate them
Taylor: Yes, I was in the same boat, but that great song, one of many in a show criminally under-appreciated for it's music, was one of the best if not the best framing of that argument I'd ever heard
Halle: It also made the actual snippets of the sketch we saw seem amazing
Halle: “Don't thank me. Thank Roe v. Wade."
Taylor: Hahaha, yes, just very telling snippets
Halle: Liz just firing two handguns into the air
Halle: Part of me did think of Rachel Dratch, and how odd it would be to see a lampoon version of their two-woman show Fey & Dratch on TV 20 years later.
Taylor: I wonder if any record of that show is floating around.
Halle: There must be somewhere
Taylor: So am I crazy, or are Alec Baldwin and Jane Krakowski the two best line deliverers in comedy?
Halle: They are just so keyed into the characters. Jenna's storyline was, as usual, my favorite
Taylor: Jack laughing at the monkey sheriff and Jenna's conversation with Liz. Just the way she said "are we?" KILLED ME.
Halle: I knew they were going to go with a Helen Mirren joke, that amazing slut who wins Oscars. Plus. I believe that was the second Helen Mirren joke of the show's run.
Taylor: Strong showing for someone with "British legs"
Halle: The way Jenna's storyline dovetailed with the show was so satisfying. “There's nothing older than trying to be young, and you looked like a million years up there."
Taylor: The end of this episode also found Jack softening a bit.
Halle: yeah, I'm interested to see where they go with him, romantically-speaking. Also, that Pizzarina Sbarro did NOT look Italian to me.
Taylor: Does the actual Sbarro look Italian to you?
Halle: Good point.
Taylor: Are we going long? Can we talk about Ryan Lochte
Halle: Oh yes, I thought he did a good job!
Taylor: yYah, but…. usually you call someone an idiot in public, and it's funny because everyone knows "Hey they're no idiot!" Just saying, that took a certain kind of guts
Halle: I think Ryan Lochte is doing just fine. It's like when Denise Richards played the spokeswoman for America's Idiots.
Taylor hahahaha, oh yeah
Halle: On a related note, have you ever Pokemoned, Taylor?
Taylor: yes!
Halle: I did briefly in the summer of 2007, but I think they might all have been Sex Idiots/Great Hair, despite what I believed at the time.
Taylor: My Pokemon ball more closely resembled the orphanage from Annie. NOT IN AGE.
Taylor: Just in their adorably ragged clothes and can-do spirit!
Taylor: just that there was always a redhead in the bathtub, drunk
Halle: Also, the best, laugh out loud moment in the episode: “I guess what I'm saying is, I need to modify my Zappos order so please email me back at your earliest convenience.”
Taylor: For me, it was Jenna saying "Are we?"
Halle: As someone who watched SATC throughout my entire adult existence, I scream-laughed at that line
Taylor: It was great, but I wonder if SATC is the right allusion in an episode about women being funny. BOOM.
Halle: Maybe it's a woman thing, Taylor
Taylor: And I thought I was the one eating eggs!
Halle: Man, I like new, slightly more permissive of her sexuality Liz Lemon. I hope she becomes a fabulous fuck monster by Halloween.
Taylor: me too, that would be a great costume
Halle: My other two favorite parts were 1) Jenna rubbing baloney on a pile of thongs to mail to her fans and 2) Kenneth slopping that soaking wet mop on his face.
Taylor: Oh man, the Purcell Seduction! Talk about out of left field.
Halle: I feel like they should make that happen. Why not, right? LAST SEASON YA'LL!
Taylor: Halle, the only thing I want out of this show, final season wise, is for Liz to be comfortable with herself.
Halle: Me too
Taylor: I wonder if we'll see Liz's famous friend go through a horrible divorce, because you know…
Halle: Hoo boy! Well, they did allude to Tracy and his wife having a horrible FAKE divorce, which I hope they follow up on.
Taylor: they won't
Taylor: How much do you want to bet they will? $5?
Taylor: FIVE AMERICAN DOLLHAIRS. That’s what that symbol means, right?
Halle Right, a beautiful doll with scoliosis and one giant hair. Thanks again, dude!
Taylor: No problem and if any of our readers would like to contact me my address is taylor@brooklyn.beard
Halle: As always, mine is KenTremendous@Fremulon.biz.

Note: Oh my god, we didn’t even discuss the monkey! Here’s the topic: Can we all just agree we're monkeys with suitcases? Please talk amongst yourselves.

Up All Night: "Another Saturday Night"
Megh: After Christina Applegate's spirited SNL performance this past weekend, it's tragic watching Up All Night tread awkwardly into the cancellation danger zone. "Another Saturday Night' is just another example of this awesome cast — Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, Luka Jones, and Rob Huebel returning as Jerry — getting bogged down by the same theme: Did you see that episode where Chris and Reagan are boring but try to be cool again?

This time, the quest for relevance takes Chris and Reagan to a Saturday night Silversun Pickups concert, but it doesn't come without a ton of babysitter drama with Babysitter #1 who makes out with Scott, Babysitter #2 the bitchy goth high schooler, and (stolen) Babysitter #3 who calls them home after the neighbor shows up angry. But it's not really about the caregivers, it's that Chris and Reagan can't truly settle into the young, fun roles they think they want back again because they're worried sick control freak parents. Isn't that adorable?

It's all the small disconnected moments that make this episode worthwhile — like when Chris wants to cook the "Frozen Tupperware Surprise" for dinner that turns out to be frozen breast milk, or when Reagan sweet-talks the neighbor's babysitter by saying "That's a cute jacket you got on there, did you distress it yourself?", when Jerry recounts his buddy Crash's live sitar playing at hot yoga (and his mention of "Indian Hot Pockets"), and when Ava orders her drink: "Two white wines, and whatever it is you want." Luka Jones also brings a realness to Scott's flirty/nervous head bopping when he's checking out a cute blonde at the club, Huebel's hilarious dickishness as the talky Trustafarian, and the way the brilliant Rudolph seems more intimate and close with both Will's and Christina's characters than they are with each other. Ultimately that's the real flaw of the show — they may want to be young and relevant again, but they're the kind of couple no one wants to hang out with because they insist on being the center of attention while having nothing of relevance to say, jumping on stage with the band and crowd surfing even at a cool laid back rock show, because that's what the lite beer commercials told them was cool.

The Office: "Work Bus"
Megh: "You know what they say, a change is as good as a rest." That's what Pam tells the camera in "Work Bus" after Jim's prank against Dwight backfires into one of the most nonsensical ideas ever — while insulation is applied to the building's wiring to prevent EMF leaks, the Dunder Mifflinites must all work in a bus like presidential candidates, only instead of campaigning for office, they're rolling into each other while yelling "NEXT STOP PIES!" But as silly as it is — silly like Sabre Store silly, or Michael Scott Paper Company silly — it's a fun curveball in what's been a strong final season so far, and having Bryan Cranston on to direct certainly doesn't hurt.

Because pies are involved, a lot of this episode's best moments come from Kevin, like when he learns he's really good at math when pie is used as the variable, but when substituted for salad? "Carry the four…….it doesn't work." Also, best "Roll Call" verse ever: "My name is Kevin / That is my name / They call me Kevin / Cause that's my name!"

On a more serious note, Nellie's character gets a little more humanity after she asks Andy to sign a "character reference" for her adoption application, and though Andy initially is pretty cruel to her (by saying she'd make a horrible mother and calling her pre-written letter "dongwater"), he realizes how douchey he's being after his behavior brings Erin to tears. Erin is, after all, still struggling with not knowing her real mother, and when she tries to help Nellie fill out her adoption application, Ellie Kemper shows off her gift for mixing sweetness, vulnerability, and Orphan Annie moxy: "Always say that a child is placed for adoption, not surrendered. We're not hostages."

Even though Jim's attempt to get a week off turned into a day cramped on the work bus, he eventually ends up at the pie stand where he wanted to take Pam in the first place, with the whole cast in tow. Here's when my favorite moment happens, all over again: After everyone has stuffed themselves with pie, Pam leans her head against Jim's shoulder on one of the roadside benches and rests, like way back in their magical season one beginnings. It's felt like so long since Jim and Pam weren't dull or grumpy or too jaded to be funny, but now that they have the allure of an even bigger change looming ahead, their electric charge is now back in full swing.

Parks and Rec: "Sex Education"
Samantha: This week, two of Pawnee’s local administrators are on trial: Tom for Tweeting while driving (and while plowing into a fire hydrant), and Leslie for violating the town’s abstinence-only education mandate while mentoring seniors. Like “Soda Tax,” the episode’s a wry twist on a current issue, ripping on the Right by suggesting that the elderly should be sheltered from pre-marital sex. Leslie elegantly approaches the topic by announcing, “Great news: Lots of old people have chlamydia!” In response to rising STD rates, she assembles her team of Sex Avengers to advocate for safer behaviors (which leads to us learning that Donna’s fond of edible lube, Andy’s concerned about the length of his pubes, and old people get more action than all of us combined, probably). But when conservative lobbyists object to her actions, Leslie’s forced to replace her helpful curriculum with a pamphlet titled “So You Think You Know More Than God.” While Leslie once again finds herself weighing her personal values against her love of the law, Ron makes an unpredictable move – inviting Tom to his log cabin for a day of screen detox – that leads to some unexpected sincerity. Tom initially deflects Ron’s gentle intervention (with his encyclopedic knowledge of the show Intervention), but ends up confessing he’d rather waste time playing Doodle Jump than admit his personal life is an empty mess. Ron responds with a heart-warmingly paternal prescription — an “actual book made out of paper,” and the offer of auto repair lessons / some quality time.

Also, Anne’s back, explaining last episode’s absence with a cowboy-themed vacation; when she can’t stop mentioning her new boyfriend (and buying lassos, because he’s into them), Leslie points out her tendency to shapeshift to fit relationships, leading to a love-fueled BFF fight (which, of course, ends with Leslie insisting she’s right, and Anne accepting the veiled apology). In other recurring themes, April and Ben continue to bond (this time over a robotic congressman who doesn’t notice when she introduces herself as “April Blart, Mall Cop”); the show’s writers continue to make strides in creative punnery (calling Perd Hapley’s fans “Perd-verts,” and smearing Leslie with the nickname “Loosley Grope” ); and people in Pawnee continue to use Alta Vista (Jerry checks his email by searching “please go to yahoo.com”).

Halle Kiefer, Taylor Moore, and Emmy Blotnick are three 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.

  • http://twitter.com/doggans doggans

    Jack's "business" girlfriend in that picture was a high school theater costar of mine, so I'm two degrees from 30 Rock.

    Sadly, the student loan company refuses to accept that sort of awesome clout in lieu of payment.