For the first time in a long time, we had three new episodes going head-to-head-to-head on Thursday night. Archer has managed to wear the crown the past two weeks with episodes that probably would have won even going up against debut episodes. But could the animated basic cable show stand up to the might of the NBC powerhouses back from break? With the Office winding down Steve Carell’s tenure with an important run of shows, and 30 Rock
Let’s find out. Here’s how the shows unfolded on April 14, 2011:
The Office (NBC)
Tonight’s Episode: The Office gets its new boss (for now) in the form of Will Ferrell’s Deangelo Vickers (seriously).
Good Stuff: “It’s a lot to process…paperwork-wise” . . . Kelly’s seduction attempt . . . Andy always carrying name-tags . . . “There’s no turtle, Michael” . . . “It’s one of my favorite regions” . . . “Shave me” . . . Andy constantly having to up the ante as a ‘funny guy’ . . . “I guess this is my life now” . . . “I left a message with corporate” . . . That awkward embrace-from-behind . . . “Get your senioritis on. It’s Lake Havasu time!” . . . “What is the…Native American girl’s name?”
Non-good Stuff: The opening scene at the bar was dumb. Literally . . . We’re still doing the self-asked question gimmick after six years? Enough already . . . Ferrell’s character vacillates between goofy, Michael Scott-like guy to uncharismatic straight man. Pick a lane, Will.
Line of the Night: “That baby could be the star of a show called ‘Babies I don’t care about.” – Deangelo. Not that funny of a line, but, man, is Deangelo the voice of the fans (well, some fans) or what?
Overall: There were some decent bits along the way, but (1) seeing everybody in “kiss-ass” mode makes them less likable, (2) some of the supporting folks like Creed and even Ryan had little to do, and (3) no Holly hurt the show. I think The Office is treading water until the finale. The plotting has a high degree of difficulty right now because the writers have to wean the audience off of Michael. No easy task. A decent show, but nothing special.
30 Rock (NBC)
Tonight’s Episode: Desperate times for the nearly-cancelled TGS, as Liz and Kenneth make a last-ditch effort to find Tracy.
Good Stuff: “That’s ironic, because next week’s topic is fascism” . . . “Edward James Almost…who is an Edward James Olmos look-a-like that Tracy is friends with” . . . “Listen to me – I sound like Cagney & Lacey, but without the slutty clothes” . . . “We produce more failed pilots than the French Air Force” . . . Dad 2.0 would fit right in with Robot History Month . . . The little girls on drugs . . . “We don’t ever worry about you. We don’t think about you” . . . They did the Silence of the Lambs move with the answering-the-door-scene . . . “There was some confusion, and I ended up punching the real LeVar Burton” . . . Tracy’s favorite kind of mustard is ketchup . . . “The NAACP once hired someone to kill you!” . . . Phil Rosenthal’s rap.
Non-good Stuff: Why would Grizz and Dot Com be sitting side-by-side on a sofa if they weren’t watching TV? Odd . . . The “Listen up, fives, a ten is speaking!” line would have been funny and much more effective if Katrina Bowden’s character weren’t there. I mean, come on . . . So, the entire arm wrestling sequence was all in Pete’s head? I could get behind this if there were a great payoff, but, well—there wasn’t.
Line of the Night: “I’m not strong enough for the pain and human misery . . . of a three-hour plane ride with Sean Penn.” – Tracy, lamenting his changed place in the world
Overall: Another mixed bag, here. The first act was tremendous, and the show overall was fine, but the A-plot wasn’t as well-assembled as it usually is, and the B-plot weirdly turned out to be a fantasy in Pete’s mind. I continue to cut 30 Rock a bit of slack because of the various off-screen issues with which the show must deal (To wit: How many different props did the show use to conceal Jane Krawkowski’s pregnancy tonight?)
Tonight’s Episode: Archer tries to discover the truth about his father’s identity, and what he finds may surprise him.
Good Stuff: “Zip it, LaMotta” . . . “According to ODIN’s guys in the KGB, which, as a real agency, we have…” . . . The callback to the opening scene of the series, in which Archer was going through torture training . . . “What am I smelling, Barry?” “Nothing yet. But you wait.” “Uhhh, ok” . . . “Don’t ‘Lesson One’ me, Barry” . . . “Those cannot be your only shoes. What am I saying? It’s Russia. I bet people come from miles around just to have their picture taken in those” . . . [Gun malfunctions] “How are you a superpower?!?” . . . Archer’s footprint trick . . . Archer thinking the Russian woman’s groceries were garbage . . . “BAM! My collar!” . . . “Super glad I didn’t wet my pants.”
Non-good Stuff: The exposition from Ray at the beginning was a bit much . . . Why would the Russian M.P.’s speak English . . . I actually feel sorry for Barry at this point.
Line of the Night: “AAAAAAAGHHHHHHAA . . . I SWEAR I’M JUST A FINNISH SKYDIVING ENTHUSIAST WHO . . . SH*T, WHY AM I SPEAKING ENGLISH . . . WITH AN AMERICAN ACCENT . . . “ – Archer, not thinking his story all the way through while being tortured by the KGB.
Overall: Not quite up to the high standard of the last couple of episodes, but still a quality effort. The first act (post-credits) was pretty thin on jokes, but things picked up considerably around the middle of the episode. A lot of this was set-up work for the season finale, and the supporting characters weren’t utilized very well, which is part of what made this episode inferior to the last two. This was nonetheless an entertaining, above-average episode.
Final Thoughts: I try to mix up the order in which I view the shows each week. I watched Archer first tonight. After recognizing that the show was good, but not as good as it had been the last two weeks, I thought for sure the FX comedy would lose its crown to one of its NBC rivals who were returning with new episodes. That turned out not to be the case, as a B-plus effort was enough to carry the night for Archer. That makes three consecutive wins for Archer, something I never would have guessed would be possible after seeing the first five or six episodes of Season Two.
WINNER: Archer (retains title)