NBC Thursday Sitcom Recaps: Liz Gets Married & More!
Last night’s lineup was all about overcoming what Leslie Knope calls “totally legitimate prejudices,” whether that be those against cheesy parents, the “Industrial Wedding Complex,” secretly gay husbands, murder plots, and those damn snobs up in Eagleton. The night also included cameos from Tony Bennett, Brad Hall, Dan Castellaneta, and Splitsider friend and contributor Chris Gethard. Oh, and Liz Lemon got married, Up All Night returned with its strongest episode yet this season, and two shows at one point make fun of jazz.
30 Rock: “Mazel Tov, Dummies!”
Halle: So! I thought I was going to be horrified by such a rushed wedding…but I enjoyed it! What about you?
Taylor: When I was younger,
Halle: hoo boy
Taylor: my first job in my hometown was videotaping local weddings and little league baseball games for the local cable access channel. I probably saw one hundred weddings between 1993 and 1998.
Taylor: I hate weddings
Halle: Wow, a channel where you just watch strangers get married is perverse.
Taylor: Going into this episode I was firmly and I thought permanently in the Liz Lemon camp of wedding haters but I have to say, Liz and Chris won me over. I mean, wedding culture makes me ashamed to be a human
Halle: Yeah, it’s weird how standardized it all is. An industry standard
Taylor: Just awful. Liz is right; it does reinforce medieval gender norms and is an enormously selfish way to spend money. But come on. We all have a secret wedding journal underneath our underwear ball.
Halle: I also like how they got around the fact Liz already bought a wedding dress: “I had forgotten to stock up on toilet paper, but I remembered to stock up on 7 layer dip.” The Hurricane Irene joke that tied it all together!
Halle: On a related note, I loved Lil’ Liz and Saul Rosenbear! I’d watch that web spin-off
Taylor: Yeah, because young Liz looks JUST LIKE young you. I hope you will show our readers (there are none) a picture of you at that age and let them judge for themselves
Halle: Loooooool, that is 50% of my love for Tina Fey: our shockingly similar physical biographies.
Taylor: Yes, the Leia dress was great as was literally every other detail and throwaway line this episode. And Alec Baldwin playing more famous people in dreams!
Halle: Yeah, I was doing my own epic eye roll when they launched into that (Nothing will top Thomas Jefferson) but I like that they took it in a different direction. The direction of Harriet Tubman, the first woman to surf around the world. Also, “eat some corn on the cob and make it sexy.”
Halle: I do fear for Black Dennis’ life, however
Taylor: Poor Black Dennis
Taylor: I really feel that Dennis is up there with the smoke monster from Lost and Gus Fring in the pantheon of great TV villains.
Halle: He does have much of a smoke monster about him. I also think this was the episode where I finally got onboard with James Marsden.
Taylor: Oh yeah
Halle: I’m in. I’m glad he is Liz’s chosen mate
Taylor: I just want Liz to be happy, and the writer’s nailed it with their relationship.
Halle: Yeah, this was very satisfying. Maybe not the best episode they’ve ever done, but very emotionally satisfying.
Taylor: I agree, though I do think it was a wonderful episode, even though we still didn’t get any forward motion on Jenna’s wedding.
Halle: I think the one way in which it failed was the Jenna plot! Jinx!
Taylor: John Hodgman though! He’s always welcome? Right?
Halle: I think they kind of wasted him.
Taylor: Yeah, I bet there’s two more scenes of that story that got cut.
Halle: He was only on the show for a few minutes!
Taylor: But Jenna’s lines during those scenes…man oh man. “The sheik that won me in that poker game got beheaded?”
Taylor: I imagine the writers have a whiteboard just called Things That Are True About Jenna
Halle: My favorite part of the episode was the cameo by Miss Abra Tabak: “Oh, it was actually my grandmother’s. She made it out of parachute skin while hiding from the Germans.”
Taylor: I spit my breakfast chilli all over my computer screen. Abra Tabak! The host of the best podcast, Make Yourself Comfy with Abra Tabak!
Halle: A moment second only to Tracy brushing his teeth for the first time
Taylor: And getting hit by the second car. Did you see alec Baldwin tweeting about the last table read for 30 Rock?
Taylor: I’m really going to miss this show
Halle: Me too! On a funny note, when I was home for Tgiving, my mom told me how much she hates this season.
Taylor: can you divorce your mom?
Halle: No, marriage is all about compromise, Taylor
Taylor: you’re right
Halle: And working in your garden with Saul Rosenbear. There’s just never enough time…so I think we have to wrap this up.
Taylor: I’m hung over from last night and I need to go down some of that…what is it…clear bathtub juice?
Halle: Breakfast chili, I believe it’s called
Up All Night: “The Game of Life”
Megh: Two things about Up All Night have bugged me this season — first, we never really get to see Chris and Reagan with their child, and second, every episode has in one way or another continued to harp on this couple’s ongoing struggles with “OMG, how lame are we right now?” While “The Game of Life” didn’t really stray from these two issues, instead of struggling with their lameness, Chris and Reagan learn to accept it and cease their vain struggling to stay hip and even gain a brief moment of cheesy “Funlympics”-going parent enlightenment, but Ava’s purpose on this show — to give Reagan a break from her visor-wearing work on “Mom Mountain” — is also locked in place.
In fact, Chris and Reagan (and in turn, Arnett and Applegate) finally got what they needed — in Chris’s case it’s getting stuck in a cabin with the insufferable cheeseballs Gene and Terry, and for Reagan it’s getting away to Palm Springs with Ava and her “yoga friends” for an all-night dance party fueled by endless energy drinks that’s really just Reagan doing all the dancing and embarrassing herself. Finally Arnett gets to play off his strengths as an irritated jerk type (sidenote — Jonathan Breakfast is a great Facebook stalker name choice), and Applegate gets to have a tantrum to get some “mom friend” frustration out of her system, and when they both meet back at the cabin, the lame egg-and-spoon games that used to fuel their cynicism now helps them realize that if they ever want to have fun in their new status as invisible parents, they need to stop standing around hating and/or fighting for attention like spoiled brats.
The Office: “The Target”
Megh: It’s rare to see Dwight urging mercy and sanity, and so it’s a very special moment on The Office when Angela approaches him to do the darkest of favors — hire a guy to kill Oscar. The wackiness of it all didn’t phase me, because while Dwight’s the best character for evil plots and schemes, last night’s episode shows us that it’s Angela with the truly disturbed mind. When Dwight asks her if she really means actually murdering her coworker and desk neighbor of several years, she meekly replies “It’s the only thing that will make this right.”
While our break from Andy Bernhard continues (he’s on a boat), we get Pam embarking on her warehouse mural in a Pratt sweatshirt, Jim wining and dining Phyllis and Stanley so they’ll cover for him while he works in Philly (they agree after Stanley orders the surf ‘n turf “with a side of lobster” and Phyllis gets drunk off every bottle of wine she can rip out of its decorative separator wall in the restaurant), and new guy Pete’s talents in card tower making and showing encouragement even to Kevin. Guest star (and Splitsider’s own!) Chris Gethard also nailed his role as Trevor, Dwight’s wormy, creepy, old-school Dodge minivan-driving hitman friend hired to kill Oscar. The best moment of the episode definitely goes to drunk Phyllis and lobster-filled Stanley in the back of Jim’s car, both beaming with childlike smiles after their day of decadence. It was like a glimmer of Florida Stanley all over again. Some favorite lines:
Kevin: “He’s a sweet kid Darryl, but he’s not the sharpest guy in the drawer.”
Phyllis, drunk: “Whose hands are these? They’re not my hands…”
Dwight: “Oscar, there are a bunch of workers in the warehouse wearing only their trousers drinking diet soda!”
Trevor: “Sandwich delivery for Mr. Oscar Martinez?”
Kevin: “I…am…Oscar Martinez.”
Dwight: “You’re not stupid. Jazz is stupid.”
Angela: “Jazz IS stupid. I mean just play the right notes!”
Trevor: “If you chase me, I will run so fast. If you catch me, I will bite so hard.”
Dwight: “When two gay men have sex, how do they know whose penis will open up to accept the other person’s penis?”
Parks and Recreation: “Pawnee Commons”
Samantha: In an effort to drum up support for her passion park project, Leslie appears on public radio show “Thought for Your Thoughts” (between specials on dolphin lactation and mash-ups like “Jazz + Jazz = Jazz”) to solicit design ideas and volunteer offers. While most of the feedback she gets is less than serious – think scale models of the park made with gummy bears, by prisoners – Leslie also hears from the one thing worse than a “junkie war criminal pimp”: an Eagleton-ian. Seasoned architect Rustin St. James has, despite Pawnee and Eagleton’s centuries-long feud, expressed an interest in the project, and Ben, lacking Leslie’s natural hatred of the neighboring town, is eager to accept his help. Councilwoman Knope feels quit differently, even after they pay a visit to Eagleton’s newest, absurdly pristine park. When St. James turns out to be a total sweetheart, commissioning a balloon animal version of Leslie and Ben and offering to work on the project pro bono, it seems like Leslie finally needs to put her Pawnee pride aside (for the good of Pawnee itself) – until his “model park” turns out to be an insulting caricature of the town’s overweight, unshowered masses. Ben’s as angry as Leslie, but still questions St. James’ innocence, and meets him to get the real story; the architect insists he’s outraged by his staff’s inappropriate gag, but before they can settle things, Leslie stages the least scary ambush ever. In the end, St. James turns out to be the real deal, and even Leslie has to admit he’s the perfect guy for the project.
Meanwhile, Tom’s got the rest of the Parks Dept. working on his new Rent-A-Swag office space. Attempting to avoid another Entertainment 720 disaster, he’s picked a decidedly un-swag strip mall storefront, because “Tommy Timberlake is dead; long live Thomas M. Haverford, responsible tycoon.” He tries to stay jolly as everyone – including DJ Roomba! – helps him renovate, but his friends can tell he’s spiraling when he throws them the world’s saddest “pizza party” for them (two cans of Sprite does not a party make). When his extreme budgeting causes him to get a little too self-pitying, Anne treats Tom to pancakes and, in a conversation she probably never thought she’d have, tells him that he’s got to let his baller side shine if he wants to really sell his swag. Step one? Replacing the store’s depressing décor with all his own furniture (after all, he’s basically living in his own private Brookstone catalog). Elsewhere in City Hall, Andy’s already bored with his new security guard gig. April knows exactly how to cheer him up: with some Bert Macklin / Little Miss Hitler roleplaying. While they’re chasing each other around the building, Andy accidentally helps a lost child find his mom, his first (unwitting) success on the job. When he tries to give the credit to his alter ego Bert, April insists that Andy’s the real hero – which leads to even more weird, weirdly hot role-playing. Can someone give these two their own reality show already?
Samantha Pitchel writes about and watches comedy in Austin and Los Angeles.
Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.