Friday, May 8, 2009

Must-See TV? OFFICE and 30 ROCK in Review

Friday, what? After a looong week it's time to kick back, relax, and enjoy a couple of days of blissful freedom. Bring on the weekend, baby.

Let's kick things off with some TV Reviews, shall we?

- THE OFFICE had a really strange, yet really enjoyable episode last night. The first half of the ep was pretty conventional, with Michael upset that no one from the office wanted to have lunch with him, and convinced that the reason why was that everyone was used to the old management and had forgotten how to cut loose at work. In a response that only Michael Scott would dream up, Scranton's returning branch manager turns the old offices of the Michael Scott paper company into a "cafe disco" - basically an empty room with an expresso machine and a stereo. Michael tries and fails to turn the space into the site of an impromtu dance party. Of course, as soon as Michael gives up on the idea, the Dunder Mifflin staff start to get into it, and soon enough there's a full-n dance party going on at work. In this way, the second half of the episode was pretty uncoventional - a continuous look at the ensuing dance party, complete with an ongoing soundtrack in the background. There was something that was just kind of awesome about this whole sequence -- it was fun, upbeat, but also with moments of hilarity - Andy and Kelly's over-the-top dance-off, Kevin making out with the woman he met several episodes back, and Angela reluctantly tapping her toes to the music, much to Michael's delight. The other big standout in this ep was new receptionist Erin - she hasn't had much screentime so far, but her mix of enthusiasm and quirkiness was a nice addition to the mix this episode. There is definitely some potential there. Other parts of this episode were interesting but didn't work quite as well as the main A-plot. Dwight treating Phyliss' bad back as if she were a race horse was a strange mix of awkwardly funny and just plain uncomfortable. I wasn't sure if they were going to fight or make out - luckily, neither happened. Also, Jim and Pam's decision to elope, followed by a mutual agreement to hold off and have a proper wedding ... well, it was intriguing but felt a tad bit glossed over. It's not that I thought it needed more screen time, per se, just that it was hard to tell what changed their minds, exactly. But overall, this was a really fun, even uplifting episode of The Office that, to me, continued the show's streak of A-quality episodes that has gone on now for several weeks. Not only was this another great ep, but it really felt different in tone and structure from any episode we've seen before - I give the show a ton of credit in that regard for mixing things up to such an extent. And finally, how funny was Michael mouthing the words to "Everybody Dance Now"? Just the look on his face was hilarious.

My Grade: A-

- As for 30 ROCK ... this was yet another episode that had some hilarious moments but just left me feeling slightly disappointed when all was said and done. Keep in mind, I only say this because at this time last year 30 ROCK was absolutely killing it - every episode was firing on all cylinders, with jokes so densely-packed into the script that you had to stop yourself from laughing just so you could hear the next incredible line of dialogue. 30 Rock still has several great quotables every week ... but I can't help but feel like there is an increasing disconnect between the humor and the plotlines. Before, the jokes felt totally organic because they basically were baked into the plot. Now, it seems like the plotlines are becoming more and more sitcom-y, and only after the fact do the writers throw us some bones and insert a vintage Tracy Jordan non sequitar or a classic Alec Baldwin word of wisdom. Last night's ep was another movie-centric plot (and a Universal movie to boot) in which Jack pulled a "Mama Mia" and went in search of his estranged dad. Turns out that Alan Alda, playing a liberal professor, is the baby-daddy. Meanwhile, Tracy has been reunited with his own illegitimate love-child, who is suspiciously old and arouses suspicion that he may be scamming an oblivious Tracy. The twist (twist!) is that Tracy knows he's being scammed, but just likes having his money go to his "son's" projects, which turn out to actually be worthwhile. Both plotlines had their moments, and Tracy got in some vintage hilarious lines. But an "okay" episode of 30 Rock is definitely a step down for a show that has so consistently delivered comedic greatness. Step it up, Tina!

My Grade: B

- Alright - short entry today, stay tuned for a STAR TREK review.

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