I’m not sure why the NBC shows would want to go head-to-head with the third round* of the NCAA Tournament, rather than waiting one more week to come back, but they didn’t.
Poor strategy aside, we got three new episodes for the first time in a month, and that’s never a bad thing.
Here’s a recap of the violent, bloody conflict of March 24, 2011:
30 Rock (NBC)
Tonight’s Episode: The staff at TGS has to face the harsh reality of being put on hiatus.
Good Stuff: Jack breaking the vending machine to get Liz into his office more quickly . . . Princeton’s quarterback Henry Chang . . . Gay Sportscenter . . . “How many black women’s colleges are there in the country?” . . . “At Harvard, we call them concentrations” . . . Jack’s remake of Knight Rider with the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile . . . Devon Banks as Darth Vader . . . “He’s on LinkedIn, Lemon! He might as well be dead!” . . . Liz rolling her eyes at Rodney King rioters . . . “The only explanation I can think of is that he keeps stopping to perform good deeds” . . . “I’m a straight-shooter, Jack. Except at the urinal. But that’s just a little shrapnel side-effect from Vietnam” . . . Banks bringing the “sexiest” baby to the meeting with Hank . . . Transformers 5: Written by No One . . . The obsolete professions: Travel agent, American auto worker, and sax soloist for rock songs, all of whom live under the subway with the CEO of Friendster . . . “I was trapped in a world of wet-wipes and rectal thermometers…then the babies came, and life changed.” . . . “I was going to ‘Trading Places’ you.”
Non-good Stuff: Two references to animal pooping within a couple of minutes of each other? Not necessary . . . What the hell was that “The Voice” promo across the bottom third of the screen in Act Two? Disruptive . . . I got the Aaron Sorkin cameo, but I didn’t like the Aaron Sorkin cameo.
Line of the Night: “You wanna party? It’s $500 for kissing, $10,000 for snuggling. End of list.” – Liz Lemon, World’s Worst Hooker
Overall: There were some hits and misses tonight. My biggest problem with the show was the wasted Devon Banks reappearance. Well, “wasted” is probably too strong a word. But it came off as gimmicky in light of the current short-handedness of the cast. The internal logic of Jack recruiting his nemesis wasn’t sound, but they compounded the problem by rushing to wrap up the storyline in one-off fashion. 30 Rock still delivered its usual pot of comedy gold, but this episode didn’t quite live up to the promise of the premise.
The Office (NBC)
Tonight’s Episode: The Dunder Mifflin employees put on a garage sale for some reason.
Good Stuff: Michael leaving that message . . . Dwight’s sales pitch on Kelly . . . Professor Copperfield’s Miracle Legumes . . . Ryan tricking his mom into making Pesto, then mocking her . . . Andy, Kevin, and Darryl playing the Dallas board game—with no idea what the rules are—for money . . . “Well, that’s Dallas!” . . . Michael’s decapitated corpse proposal idea . . . “And that…is Dallas.”
Non-Good Stuff: Again with “The Voice?” Ugh . . . Of course Michael proposed at the office . . . and, of course everyone was involved in the proposal . . . The reaction of the group when Michael announces he’s leaving was more the reaction of the audience superimposed on the characters, or at least some of them. Dwight? Sure. But Stanley, for one, wouldn’t be stunned and saddened to see Michael leave.
Line of the Night: “We must honorably adhere to the rules we are making up on the spot!” – Andy, on Dallas.
Overall: The proposal was a little much. The Office took a quick detour back to pandering to a certain demographic, an unhappy reminder of some of the missteps of late last season and early in this one. However, the detour was brief enough. I also cut the show some slack because the writers obviously had to move the plot to this point somehow. It was executed well enough. On a different note, I thought the “Dwight getting duped by Jim” sub-plot was too obvious and felt like a re-hash. A decent episode with a few laughs, especially with the board game and Ryan’s marketing strategies, and some necessary table-setting as Carell prepares for departure.
Tonight’s Episode: Archer discovers that his medication is counterfeit, and takes appropriate action thereto.
Good Stuff: “Vincent Van Go F*** Yourself” . . . Archer setting up his rampage / interrogation as a round of Family Feud . . . Archer instantly turning into a withered cancer patient just a day after beginning chemotherapy . . . Krieger’s secret Nazi past . . . Cheryl saying “Duhhh” when she has no idea what’s going on . . . The Irish Mob guy making an “E-Street Band” joke upon seeing Archer’s head-scarf . . . “You don’t believe me? Walk into NASA sometime and yell ‘Heil Hitler!’” . . . Wow, WOW. A “Did You See the Sunrise?” reference?!? I’m going to put the percentage of the audience who got that joke at somewhere between five and ten.
Non-good Stuff: The flashbacks to Ruth felt out-of-place . . . The tone of the episode again had issues. Everything is potentially funny, but sometimes the writing can’t overcome the seriousness of the underlying subject matter (i.e. cancer).
Line of the Night: “C***-flavored spit? Well, you never know what’s gonna be on the board. LET ME SEE C***-FLAVORED SPIT!” (Fires shotgun into mobster’s kneecap) – Archer, getting some answers
Overall: This episode wasn’t that great. Some of the rampage stuff was very strong in an over-the-top way. Pam and Cheryl had some good interaction as usual. Outside of that, though, the tone was a little “off” and some of the jokes a bit repetitive. Here’s the thing, though . . . I’m a big Magnum, p.i. fan. The fact that they took some time to set up an elaborate (and accurate) reference to one of the most iconic Magnum episodes hits me where I live. So, I’m giving this show a break.
Final Thoughts: This wasn’t a strong crop. While none of the shows were even close to being “bad,” each one was far from the best episode of the season for its respective series. 30 Rock was barely a B-plus, and it felt like it didn’t live up to its potential, but it still carries the night with a narrow victory over a decent Office and an uneven Archer.
WINNER: 30 Rock (retains title)