Another blissful night with two previously-reviewed episodes awaits me before NBC comes back strong for the home stretch of the 2010-11 season. Tonight, we get the Todd Packer episode on The Office, followed by the Queen of Jordan episode from 30 Rock. That’s going to be some stiff competition for Archer, but the FX adult-themed cartoon has been hot of late.
Let’s dive in, shall we? Here’s how the chips fell on April 7, 2011:
The Office (NBC)
Tonight’s Episode: Todd Packer makes a triumphant return to Dunder-Mifflin as an internal salesman after a decade on the road.
Good Stuff: Dwight’s survival bunker food supply . . . Michael and Todd 20 years ago (and Creed looks the same) . . . Dwight’s ten reasons for giving Todd the hot chocolate . . . Jim and Dwight joining forces . . . Ryan signing up for three “Jam Sessions” on the sign-up sheet, and Kevin signing up for a “NAP” . . . Nard-dog’s reaction after Michael said “Packer never lived up to his parents’ expectations, Andy” . . . “Maybe you can go back down there and find me some extra sick days.”
Non-good Stuff: Actually having Ryan and his musical group show up for the jam session and explain they have a jam session! Subtlety, people . . . Michael letting Packer go to Florida. It’s one thing for him to realize Packer is a jerk. It’s another for him to let this happen to him just because he said Holly was “uptight.” And it doesn’t make much sense to boot. Why wouldn’t Packer just come back in a week? I’m guessing he gets eaten by alligators.
Line of the Night: “Who is Justice Beaver?” “He . . . it’s a crime-fighting Beaver.” – Dwight and Jim
Overall: They’re having Michael gradually let go of his old ways and attachments as he prepares to head off into the sunset. First, it was his self-consciousness and feeling of purposelessness that we saw evaporate last week. Now, his loyalty and admiration of Todd Packer. Both of these things come to pass as a result of something healthy (his relationship with Holly) replacing the unhealthy. This is all fine, as long as they keep it funny. This week, they kept it funny. This was also an interesting contrast to last week’s over-the-top edition. Every scene this time around took place inside the building. That’s usually a good thing.
GRADE: B-plus (downgraded to a “B” as a rerun)
30 Rock (NBC)
Tonight’s Episode: Presented as an episode of “Queen of Jordan,” Liz tries to figure out a way to get Tracy back from Africa via Angie.
Good Stuff: “(Gasp)…D’Fwan forgot his catchphrase” . . . “Liz, Another Person” . . . The writing credit on Queen of Jordan being in quotes . . . “Jennas-Side.com” . . . the wine-throwing montage . . . Pete trying to used canned “quips” to get on the show . . . “Powerless Bald” . . . “I like bands…like Amy Grant” . . . “I’m not just a gay hairdresser, I’m also a homosexual party-planner” . . . “Oh, I must have mixed-up the DVD discs. We’ll just have to watch it, anyway, and see what feelings arise . . . Tracy’s 1991 haircut . . . Jack singing the Princeton fight song . . . Jenna’s contrived intervention, and Pete’s contrived insurance claim scheme . . . Blurry-face Syndrome . . . queerfectionist . . . Kenneth’s ill-timed announcement about the missing glove . . . the German Shepherd in a party hat throwing the wine on Dotcom.
Non-good Stuff: Liz’s liberal guilt is funny in small doses, but it totally incapacitates her when she deals with Angie. Because Angie was the focus of this episode, it got to be a little much in this particular case . . . Dotcom didn’t need to explain “DL.”
Line of the Night: “Actually, Legal says we can’t use the word ‘best.” – Liz Lemon, breaking the news that the Best Of Tracy Jordan Special will have to be re-named for legal reasons.
Overall: This was a counter-programming answer to the NCAA Tournament, but it worked far better than I thought it would. The different format actually served as an effective way to keep a lot of different sub-plots up in the air. Let’s count them: Jenna trying to exploit the reality show, the reality show itself, Jack’s struggles with his portrayal on the show, Frank’s reunion with the teacher who seduced him. That’s four sub-plots in addition to the primary plot involving Liz trying to get Tracy to come back. What’s more, all of them worked for me. That said, while the gimmick of framing this as an episode of a reality show was more adept at juggling plotlines, it didn’t produce quite as many quick-hitting but laugh-out-loud jokes and bits. But I’m splitting hairs, because there was still plenty of that in the mix. I also continue to be impressed with how well the writers can handle Tracy’s real-life semi-absence from 30 Rock, as well as Jane Krakowski’s pregnancy.
GRADE: A-minus (downgraded to a “B-plus” as a rerun)
Tonight’s Episode: The ISIS team is in Monte Carlo to try to recover some sensitive data.
Good Stuff: The top three in the Gran Prix being Bell, Bivens, and Devoe . . . “No view, but it’s got two queens.” “Where’s the other one? Greasing up in the bathroom?” . . . “Uh, I’m pretty sure you just answered your own question” . . . The 401k screen . . . the girl with the snorkel . . . “Gummi Bears all around!!!” . . . “Go look at your pores, and then tell me you’re using them” . . . “Do you know why they’re called ‘bearer bonds?’” “Because you’re gay?” . . . Lana’s plan to get the disk . . . “Ray, hurry up and get change.” “Eh . . . I’m good” . . . Krieger trying to sell ISIS equipment . . . “Is it obvious he has a gun?!?” . . . “Would vomit, too tired.”
Non-good Stuff: I had to look up the Apollonia 6 reference, but that’s really more a complaint about myself than the show . . . The Benoit joke got a little old . . . We didn’t find out what was on the data disk, but I assume that will be payed off in the final two episodes of the season, so that’s no big deal . . . other than that, I don’t have any complaints.
Line of the Night: For the sake of maintaining some decency on this site, I can’t print it. But it’s what Pam said after Cyril offered the street criminals a color copier and eighty computers “for your clubhouse.” Classic Pam.
Overall: This was just about a perfect Archer episode. Bawdy but effective humor coupled with some cool animated action sequences make me happy. I thought last week’s episode was the best since the season premiere, but I said the only downside was that it took place entirely around the office. This one remedied that problem while also maintaining the level of humor. I think this was the best episode of the year so far.
Final Thoughts: The reruns offered up by The Office and 30 Rock were both high-quality episodes. However, even if they had been new, they wouldn’t have managed to beat out Archer this week. I’m not sure how to explain the Archer turnaround. The show looked like it was in a serious sophomore slump just a handful of episodes ago. Now, the writers are churning out shows that are as good as anything the show has produced thus far. Archer has more than salvaged its second season.
WINNER: Archer (retains title)