NBC Thursday Sitcom Recaps: Award Shows, Christmas Parties, Weddings, and Guilt Trips
NBC’s Thursday night lineup kicked off their holiday episodes last night, taking on themes like weirdly intimate relationships, personal temptation, and in true holiday spirit, and familial guilt trips. 30 Rock easily took the cake for most cameos and featured Florence Henderson, Andrea Martin, Wendy Williams, Sue Summons, Gayle King, Judy Gold, Kermit, and much more, and Parks and Rec saw the return of Megan Mullally as well as appearances from Lucy Lawless and Christie Brinkley. So not only was it a night of mostly holiday-themed fun, it was also a night for badass lady celeb cameos! Let’s take a look at what happened. (Pop quiz: Which two shows included a Diane Sawyer joke?)
30 Rock: “My Whole Life Is Thunder”
Halle: Okay, first of all…
Taylor: Jack’s hair?
Halle: Oh no! I didn’t even notice his hair. What was wrong with it? Or RIGHT with it?
Taylor: From the front it looks like it’s pulled back into a ponytail and it makes me really uncomfortable.
Halle: Let me look at this real quick
Taylor: check out the horse carriage scene
Halle: Oh….see, I think it looks okay
Taylor: well fine
Halle: Do I think Alec Baldwin is pursuing all avenues of youth retention? Yes.
Taylor: It breaks my heart but he probably has a Lazarus pit installed in the basement of his townhouse
Halle: What I was going to say was, just when I think they can’t give me another Mickey Rourke joke, they gave me THE BEST Mickey Rourke joke
Halle: “Like that time Mickey Rourke catapulted me into the Hollywood sign.”
Taylor: That he would have a catapult certainly has the ring of truth to it
Halle: I loled, Taylor. That was my one per episode lol.
Taylor: I laugh constantly! Even alone! All the time! I’m laughing now! Please help!
Halle: Yeah, it’s like masturbating: if I’m not with someone else, I don’t really make a lot of noise. It’s my Catholic upbringing. They teach you to be ashamed of guffawing.
Taylor: I make MORE noise when I’m alone
Halle: Looooooool. Just howling
Taylor: and yelling Latin
Taylor: I think this is my favorite season. The way they have handled the weddings is perfect
Halle: Yeah, I’m very much enjoying it.
Taylor: subverting both my expectations, and the overdone cliche of a big TV wedding
Halle: I kind of wish Jenna had a big insane wedding
Taylor: But that’s what we expected. That’s what a lesser show would do
Halle: Yeah…I EXPECTED it to be awesome!
Taylor: it’s too EASY!
Halle: It’s not wrong to expect greatness!
Halle: Luckily Reverend Gimp heals all wounds.
Taylor: He lives off the C train, just like me!
Halle: I would be fine if the show was just about Jenna at this point
Taylor: Me too. She’s never been better.
Halle: Paul might be my ideal man.
Halle: I feel like I’m still burned by that horrible episode where Liz and Jenna break up and Liz befriends a woman exactly like her. Ugh.
Halle: This episode was a Jenna/Liz fight done right a.k.a. they realize they are buddies in the end.
Taylor: oh man, the lighting board
Halle: If I knew how to use computers, I would make a Liz Lemon flashback supercut. I’m sure that exists somewhere.
Taylor: if getting those theater nerd deep cuts means this show is unwatchable to most TV owning americans, then I guess I have to be okay with that
Halle: Yeah, I accept that.. I let that truth of it wash over me
Taylor: I don’t think there was anything wrong with this episode but I never do!
Taylor: Not to be sycophantic, but I think you may have chosen the wrong partner for these write ups. I feel like a child sitting indian style on the ground looking up at the 30 Rock writers, saying “Please tell me another, Daddy.”
Halle: Okay, the only qualm I would have is that we have kind of gone over the same territory with Jack and his mom too many times. I needed Colleen to do something crazy, up the ante this time
Taylor: But never like this!
Halle: I mean…really?
Taylor: That was the most screen time that character has gotten I think.
Halle: No way! Remember that surprise attack Christmas ep? Or when she has that married boyfriend?
Taylor: The scene in Jack’s apartment was a love letter to Mrs. Donaghy if I’ve ever seen one
Halle: Colleen is a supremely well-written character, and one I hope they are truly proud to have put on the show.
Halle: I just thought they didn’t do anything new with it this time
Taylor: She died! Halle….she DIED.
Halle: She’s almost died like 10 times!
Taylor: BUT THIS IS NOT ALMOST. Sorry I yelled
Hall: Why didn’t we get to see her with Liddy? Why didn’t she confess some secret? I wanted something I haven’t seen before with her character. I guess they had to end on the same note they usually hit so they can have that amazing funeral.
Taylor: I’m sure the writer’s feel rushed. squeezing in all the endings and character specific one liners they can
Halle: Boy, you really are a sycophant this week.
Taylor: Thank you sir may I have another
Halle: I will happily admit that they came up with that might be my favorite Colleen line this week: “I’m going to go out like I came in: wearing a hat.”
Taylor: What time do the Mariachi’s arrive?
Halle: The Grim Reaper’s hoodie!
Taylor: He MUST be black
Halle: Both the funeral scene and the Lifetime awards ceremonies were spot-on. “Thank you, Kermit, for explaining the afterlife to us.”
Taylor: 80 Under 80 was perfect/garbagefile
Halle: Every cameo was flawless. Gayle was great, Wendy Williams. Those other ladies I can’t remember right now
Taylor: Blow on the disc!
Taylor: Gayle was not great. She is the human avatar of banality
Halle: Jenna’s vampire reaction when she reared away from the spotlight perfectly encapsulates what I love about this show
Halle: Haha, well, she did her best. I’m a sycophant for Gayle. A Gayl-ophant.
Taylor: sounds like a wonderful mystical beast
Halle: I wonder what they’ll do with Jenna in the end. Tracy is the one who’s had all the career success.
Taylor: They should kill Jenna. She and Paul die while trying to sex like eagles
Halle: My heart! I wouldn’t be able to handle it.
Taylor: And then they have a funeral.
Halle: That would be beautiful.
Taylor: and she gets up, it was a stunt!
Halle: Real quick: What were your feelings on Florence Henderson?
Halle: Look, I love FloHo
Taylor: Jesus, Halle
Halle: Everyone knows I love FloHo
Taylor: stop it
Halle: But…yeah, not so great.
Halle: Funny beats that just didn’t translate.
Taylor: I liked it but it felt underserved. That storyline could have easily been the A story before this season.
Taylor: Kenneth’s summation nailed it for me.
Taylor: “You can’t do that on television because no one would watch.” Ouch. Fuck you, America. This is why we can’t have nice things
Halle: Hey, they still got seven seasons, baby
Taylor: I know. I love television. Ever since it replaced my parents we’ve been thick as thieves, we have.
Halle: Favorite parts/lines? Mine was “Joke’s on you, that wasn’t a commercial. I don’t know what that was.” God, I’m going to miss Jenna.
Taylor: Jack’s turn to his dead mother in the horse carriage, or “torture wagon” was genuinely moving
Halle: God, Elaine Stritch is amazing. “She’s 87!” “That’s only 14 in demon years.”
Taylor: Jenna’s definition of “A List” is being on A LIST to date Tom Cruise
Halle: I don’t know what in the H-E-Double Vibrator I’m going to do when this show is off the air.
Taylor: I know. It’s the end of an era, NBC’s last hurrah against the forces of broadcast mediocrity.
Halle: We’ll have to gain control of a Don’t Trust The B In Apt. 23 recap
Taylor: I’ll get right on it after I’m done turning these bags of sour patch kids inside out and licking them clean
me: Perfect. I just need to figure out how to get out of this steamer trunk/stop orgasming.
Up All Night: “I Can’t Quit You”
Megh: This week on Up All Night found Reagan, Scott, and Ava all in transition mode, and each experiences a time of weakness that involves longing, indulging, and in true holiday season spirit, guilt trips. For the former TV talk show host Ava, it’s how much she misses “having a profound effect on people’s lives,” so she takes a small-town family of former fans on a personal tour of her oh-so glamorous Hollywood day-to-day life, which ultimately leads to the family’s demise (Dad’s not sexually satisfied, Mom’s a lesbian, and the son wants to be a Hollywood actor). Chris and Reagan’s problems don’t end on such a severe note — Reagan’s sneaks a ballet class with her brother Scott’s ex-wife and Chris sneaks cigarettes (What kind? “The red ones”) due to stress over his new business. It’s typical of the show’s judgmental tone that the moment Chris tries to sneak a puff on the back porch, he sees baby Amy staring at him through the window with wide innocent eyes — save it for the PSAs, NBC!
In “I Can’t Quit You” we finally get a more formal introduction to Chris and Scott’s business Brinkley Chafin Construction, which I first thought would clear up some of my confusion over everyone’s income and employment status, but I was left scrunching my nose at the sight of Chris and Scott buying a super spacious industrial garage complete with a kitchen, margarita machine, and “Great Wall of Job-ortunities” — really, is that how you start a business? But then again, I have to remember that these are wealthy lawyer/hipster types who live in swanky sprawling LA homes and probably never have to worry about where their money’s coming from anyway.
Thankfully, Christina Applegate’s mix of deft comedic timing and “still got it” sexual potency still makes up for the illogical plot holes when she aggressively seduces Chris or defends her brother Scott to his ex-wife by declaring “Nobody calls my brother a dumbass but me!” I like Reagan when she’s giving into her loserdom, and I like Chris when he’s inhaling downwind of his neighbor’s smoke breaks — it’s these moments of real character flaws that make the whole parental facet to this show believable. Both Chris and Reagan end the episode having conquered their own temptations, but those few moments we get to see them give in are almost worth the cold journey through their squareness.
The Office: “Dwight Christmas”
Megh: As party-themed episodes go, The Office‘s biggest competition is itself, and maybe all the hype about last night being the show’s “Last Christmas Episode Ever” proved to be too much pressure. Of course it was jam-packed with wild goings-ons — Kevin gets angry at the concept of mini cupcakes, Pete recites all the lines of Die Hard to Erin, Darryl passes out drunk right on the snack table when he thinks he’s forgotten by Jim for the new Philly job, Toby and Nellie share a kitchen kiss — but it kind of felt like Dunder Mifflin knew they were about to take their winter TV break and went all Senioritis on us. But I’ll take a mediocre Office episode over a promising Up All Night episode any day of the week, because even at their worst, the Dunder Mifflinites are still convincingly connected and adorable in their own ways. Exhibit A: When Kevin wistfully says “I wish my car had a bathroom.”
The winners of “Dwight Christmas” (excluding Kevin and Creed, who can never go wrong) were easily Dwight and Darryl — Dwight for his massive enthusiasm about throwing the Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas-themed party dressed up as Belsnickel (“I am NIGH!”), and Darryl for descending into a drunk and depressed vortex when he thinks Jim has forgotten his promise to get him a job at his new company. Everything else, from news of Andy’s extended absence (he’s staying in the Caribbean to figure out his whole “life thing”) to Jim leaving for his first day working in Philly, seemed more like irrelevant chatter compared to Dwight’s “impish”/”admirable” Belsnickel game (and when Dwight beats Jim with his bunch of sticks) or the sight of Darryl drowning his resentment for Jim in a bowl of Glühwein. And to top it all off I learned all about Zwarte Piet AKA Black Peter, Sinterclaus’s favorite unquestionably offensive blackfaced companion, who I probably should have known about as a Pennsylvanian who owns a hex sign. So thanks for that, Dwight.
Parks and Recreation: “Ron and Diane”
Samantha: This “Merry Congrati-Christmas”-themed episode – in which Ron attends a woodworking awards ceremony, and the rest of the office prepares for Jerry Day – is all about weird relationships. From everyone’s begrudging tolerance of the latter, to the constant fight for the former’s affection, some of the show’s strongest bonds are tested. It all begins when Leslie’s “Ron Swanson” Google alert tells her about Ron’s nomination for an Indiana Fine Woodworking Association award; ecstatic, she reassures him that she’ll attend the event to support him. He tells her he’s bringing Diane, but she tags along anyways, and quickly develops a friend crush on Ron’s new girlfriend (of course she’d make conversation with “What house of Hogwarts would you be in?” and of course she’d be Seeker on the Gryffindor Quidditch team). Just as she’s giving Ron her unsolicited approval, Tammy 2 – or, per Ron, “a human piece of garbage who is also my ex-wife” – crashes the party. When her flagrant crotch-baring cuts Ron’s acceptance speech short (he won for “Chair,” in category “Chair”), Leslie goes into Emotional Guardian overdrive – but it turns out Diane’s not worried about Tammy’s flirting, she’s threatened by Leslie’s overbearing friendship. After kidnapping, dumpster fighting, and being locked in a trunk by Tammy, Leslie realizes that it might be time to ease up on her protective instincts just a bit. And of course, Diane’s got nothing to worry about. Ron doesn’t just tell her, he shows her – by revealing his biggest, most intimate secret (one not even Leslie knows about): Duke Silver.
While the boss is off at Indiana’s most exciting wood-related event, everyone else is psyched for the office’s favorite Jerry-related event, the annual Jerry Dinner. The idea is, every time you laugh at something stupid Jerry says, you put a dollar in a box; at the end of the year, you get a swanky dinner, no Jerry allowed. In reality, re-living classic Jerry Moments (the time he ate a bowl of glue, the time he slipped on a Cinnabon) makes Donna realize how mean they’re being, and she insists they at least invite the guy along. But when they show up at Casa Gergich, there’s a classy Christmas party underway. April, Andy, Tom, and Donna beg Anne to let them in, but she says they have to earn a spot inside by doing something nice for Jerry (who’s busy caroling with his wife Gail, a.k.a. Christie Brinkley, for once not in need of the gang’s pity). When they realize their invitations got lost in the Jerry Filter – the one that prevents everyone from getting any of his emails – they end up donating their dinner cash to Jerry’s hospital fund (remember?), buying them entrance to the party and a collective clear conscience. Also, it turns out that 15 sessions a week with Dr. Richard Nygard are really paying off for Chris, who consumes full-fat eggnog with abandon, doesn’t care about his silver hair, and is even ok with meeting Millie’s new fiancé. Growth!
Samantha Pitchel writes about and watches comedy in Austin and Los Angeles.
Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.