I’m in for a treat tonight, as both The Office and 30 Rock were reruns. Why will that be a treat? Because I happened to have reviewed both of these particular episodes previously.
It’s cut-and-paste time! Maybe I’ll get to bed before 3:00 AM tonight!
On the other hand, Archer is all-new. Let’s find out if our favorite secret agent of indeterminate age and era can overcome two reruns from NBC’s flagship sitcoms. Here we go!
The Office (NBC)
Tonight’s Episode: Michael finally completes his movie, Threat Level Midnight.
Good Stuff: The newspaper headlines about Michael Scarn . . . Darryl’s motivation for playing the president . . . Goldenface killing Toby . . . Andy as Billy the Bartender (“Some people are really popping onscreen”) . . . “This one’s for you, Cherokee Jack” . . . Michael’s realization that the movie is brutal . . . Stanley’s Morgan Freeman-style narration turning out to be old Michael Scarn.
Non-good Stuff: The Scarn (dance) . . . Michael’s “serious” conversation with Holly (as usual) . . . Not much from Erin or Kevin this week. That’s a shame, because they’ve been on fire lately.
Line of the Night: “The joke’s on you, Goldenface. That man was a wanted animal rapist.” – Michael Scarn
Overall: Total sop to the fans. Akin to coming home from school as a ten-year-old and your mom telling you, “We’re having doughnuts for dinner!” But that’s ok for one episode. For what it was, it was well-executed. This wasn’t the best show of the season, however. The unique nature of it will probably divide fan opinion as to whether it was great or bad. Novelty episodes tend to be divisive. I think it was a good edition that hit more marks than it missed.
GRADE: B-plus (downgraded to a “B” as a rerun)
30 Rock (NBC)
Tonight’s Episode: Jack and Avery are in Canada, Liz and Carol are on a plane, and both couples have some issues as hilarity ensues.
Good Stuff: Jack handing Liz an envelope predicting that she would hand him an envelope predicting his joke about Nags Head . . . Tracy on-stage at the Oscars with a mouthful of Pop-tart . . . Damon lip-syncing along with the Guardian owl movie . . . For those keeping track, Liz has dated both “Floyd DeBarber” and “Carol Burnett” . . . Pete’s grandfather wearing a German uniform underneath his American uniform on D-Day “just in case” . . . “Austin Powers on Crossfire – timely stuff!”
Non-good Stuff: Too many uses of the phrase “double-edged sword” . . . It’s getting harder to work around Jane Krakowski’s pregnancy. It is what it is, but, unfortunately, her only being in a couple of short scenes per show isn’t a plus.
Line of the Night: “We’re having an American, and she will be President . . . no matter how ridiculous that sentence sounds.” – Jack Donaghy
Overall: It’s a crying shame that 30 Rock hasn’t attracted the kind of viewership that The Office has. Anyway, great episode. The only negative (and I’m nit-picking) is that the real-life cast issues (Krakowski’s pregnancy, Morgan’s health issues, Banks’ and Damon’s limited schedules) means that we get a plot where the characters are separated into “pods” for most of the episode, rather than interacting with one another. Other than that, I don’t have anything negative to say about this one.
GRADE: A (downgraded to an “A-minus” as a rerun)
Tonight’s Episode: Pam is accidentally kidnaped and Cheryl reveals a secret.
Good Stuff: “Thanks, Pam. Way to drag out a kidnaping” . . . “What’s to prove? It’s free labor” . . . “Who taught you how to punch? Your husband?” . . . The flashback to Mallory’s budget decisions . . . “Not the IRA, my IRA” . . . “I bet that sneaky little chief just dumped them all into one medium-sized hole” . . . The turtleneck argument . . . “Does internet porn know you’re cheating on it?”
Non-good Stuff: There really wasn’t much to dislike here. My only quibble would be the sudden retconning of Cheryl’s backstory for the sake of creating a plausible kidnaping plotline. Seemed contrived.
Line of the Night: “It’s like . . . ‘Meow-schwitz’ in there.” – Archer, on the ocelot’s meager lodgings.
Overall: This was a blueprint for how to make a good standalone episode of Archer. We had bad guys, we had action, we had some good lines. The only complaint I might have would be that it took place almost entirely in the ISIS office, and not in the field. This one avoided the same kinds of missteps that have plagued some of the more problematic episodes of season two. While there weren’t as many laugh-out-loud bits as you would see in a good 30 Rock, this was still very good.
Final Thoughts: There were a lot of objections the first time I rated Threat Level Midnight as only a B-plus. Maybe I was a bit harsh, but it’s a moot point now with the rerun penalty in play. Meanwhile, a very good Archer went up against one of the best 30 Rock episodes of this season. Including the penalty, the two of them actually tied. However, the tie goes to the new episode. That means that Archer takes the victory in this week’s edition of SitCombat with a nice little show to its credit. After a rough stretch in its sophomore season, Archer has scored some hits in recent weeks.
WINNER: Archer (new champion)