NBC Thursday Highlights

It was a strong night for NBC’s comedies (well, except for The Paul Reiser Show, which might have been good, but I turned it off after 30 seconds to check the weather). Let’s take them one by one:

Community: This reminded me of those Golden Girls episodes that hinged on recreated flashbacks (the girls recall money-making ventures, Valentine’s Day disasters, birthdays past, etc.). It’s a storytelling device that works well because it manages to showcase the characters in a variety of situations and perhaps provide some back-story without using the space of an entire episode. Such was the case with Community, as the study group recalled a year even more complicated (if that’s possible) than the one we’ve seen each week. The highlights were without question the Jeff/Annie and Pierce/Abed lingering looks montages, and I got a kick out of Dean Pelton bursting in wearing an array of inappropriate costumes (that was a gag that went on just the right length of time; they took it further than you expected without killing the joke).

The Office: Definitely an improvement from last week, but did anyone else feel that Will Ferrell’s Deangelo was a completely different, albeit more likable, character? Maybe we’re supposed to believe that he was posturing in order to assert his authority and now, after a settling in period, he’s relaxed with the group and is grateful to learn at the foot of Michael Gary Scott. Or maybe the writers just decided to change the character midstream. In any event, I liked nervous Deangelo terrified at the prospect of hosting the Dundies, and his coworkers’ tips culminated in an amusing King’s Speech parody. Erin dumping Gabe in front of everyone was cruel, but I think it served two important purposes: it paves the way for Erin and Andy to reunite, and I actually pitied and kind of liked Gabe for the first time all season (so there’s hope for his character down the line). And the Seasons of Love tribute combined with what were obviously Steve Carell’s real tears? All I can say is that next week is going to be rough.

Parks and Recreation: Leslie being paired up with Tom via the dating site really took me by surprise, and their lunch was as amusing as Ben inviting Leslie to join him at the mural was sweet. I also love that Chris’ no dating in the office policy kind of sets him up as an oblivious, even good-hearted villain along the path of the Leslie/Ben courtship. But without question, this episode was all about the Ron/Chris cook-off. From Chris’ efforts to describe a turkey burger’s appeal, to the trip to the health food store (which Ron likened to a zoo), to the stop at Food and Stuff (where Ron gets his food and most of his stuff), and finally to Chris having to admit that Ron’s burger was the superior sandwich. And let’s not forget newlyweds Andy and April. April was right to suggest that Andy get the pinwheel, but those crows were pretty awesome sauce, too.

30 Rock: Let’s just put it out there. Steve Carrell, worthy though he might be, is never going to win an Emmy for The Office. Because how can he compete with Alec Baldwin playing four incarnations of Jack Donaghy (Past Jack was my favorite because everyone talked like that in the 80s). The over-sized episode dragged in parts (Jenna’s storyline was basically an excuse to use Jane Krakowski’s pregnancy to the show’s advantage), but Tracy’s inability to sully his good name (and Jack’s obvious solution) stood out in a sea of guest stars (I gotta give props to Michael Keaton’s doomed maintenance man and Ken Howard’s perpetually smiling Hank Hooper). And through it all, we saw every aspect of the Jack/Liz relationship, a platonic partnership for the ages.

Great night all around. Thoughts?

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