All three shows were new again tonight. Would Archer’s season finale be enough to propel the FX animated show to an improbable fourth consecutive victory? Would The Office take the crown as Steve Carell’s long goodbye continues? Or perhaps 30 Rock’s 100th episode would be enough to put Alec Baldwin and company over the top?
This could be a very close race. This was SitCombat for April 21, 2011:
The Office (NBC)
Tonight’s Episode: Michael tries to pass along the rich tradition of the Dundie Awards to his successor, with mixed results.
Good Stuff: Michael egging Toby’s house . . . Meredith’s walk of shame . . . “When Larry King died, they didn’t just cancel his show” . . . “I love it when people say ‘like crack’ who have obviously never done crack” . . . “Where were you on September 11th?” . . . Daryl still wearing the Western outfits . . . Michael Scott as Jim . . . Dwight’s diabetes sound effect . . . Dwight’s acceptance speech and subsequent “tribute” to the humble trash can . . . Erin’s in-speech break-up . . . The Extreme Repulsiveness Award.
Non-good Stuff: The song tribute to Michael Scott. Hated it (except for Creed’s line). Creed only having one line in the show isn’t a plus, by the way.
Line of the Night: “They say he’s going to be my right hand man. Ad lib masturbation joke.” – Deangelo, taking the cue cards too literally.
Overall: We were doing so well until the end. That song really dropped a turd in the proverbial punch bowl. I have a bad feeling about next week as a result. Quick big picture point: I know that I may be in the minority among Office fans as far as how I feel about the occasional sappy digression. However, the UK version of the Office . . . WAIT! HEAR ME OUT! . . . as I was saying . . . the UK version was able to nail those emotional moments in a more effective way than the US version and avoid being absurd. To wit: Dawn crying in the car when she opens her Christmas gift. The notion of everyone in the UK Office preparing a song from David Brent (or anyone) seems ridiculous. So it is here. Other than that, I really liked this episode. They even lightened up the Ferrell character just a touch.
30 Rock (NBC)
Tonight’s Episode: 30 Rock celebrates a milestone as TGS teeters on the brink of cancellation on the day of its 100th episode.
Good Stuff: “This better be important, Jack. I was in the middle of bidding on a bag of bras on Ebay” . . . “‘I have a very full plate.’ ‘Really?!? Is it from that pie place?!?’” . . . “‘That wasn’t me. That was another guy.’ ‘I don’t think so.’” . . . “Albinos get to be watchers in the mating shed!” . . . Michael Keaton sighting . . . “You should stick around, we’ve got our no-cook cooking, hair make-unders!” . . . I don’t know if this Tracy Jordan storyline is part Chappelle-inspired, but I’d like to think it is . . . Liz doing a dry spit-take at the idea of Jenna being a good mother . . . Sideways Jack Donaghy . . . “‘Did you also have to evacuate the NBC store?’ ‘No, it’s just empty.’” . . . Dennis’ cellphone, voicemail, and speaker system . . . “‘You’re back!’ ‘Yeah. This is my front. Thanks for setting me up with another classic quote.’” . . . Past Jack Donaghy . . . “This tuxedo is made out of the puma I rode into my fiftieth birthday party” . . . Pete’s rendition of the alphabet . . . Future Jack Donaghy . . . Jenna’s instantly disappearing baby bump . . . Alec Baldwin (as Jack) delivering a monologue about the effects of doing television. Just great stuff . . . TALK SHOW GAME SHOW SKETCH MY HEAD HURTS . . . “Well, I don’t have the password. Pitt’s our webmaster! Well, then, wake him up! (Hangs up) They’re doing Pam again? Yech.” (Begins humming “My Life”).
Non-good Stuff: Uh-oh. Is this a clip show? . . . IT’S A CLIP SHOW . . . The tombstone thing at the end skewed too far away from “weird funny” and toward “weird only.”
Line of the Night: “Dammit! I’m getting too old for this shhhhhhh sound that comes from this gas pipe.” – Tom the maintenance man, on his last day before retirement.
Overall: This hour-long episode didn’t leave many stones unturned. Some of the clip show moments early on were a little too straightforward for a show like 30 Rock, but providing the explanation of the gas leak redeemed the gimmick to an extent. The show itself was one of the better-plotted episodes of the season. The major and minor plotlines all worked for me. By 30 Rock standards, the laugh-per-minute average wasn’t as high as usual, but having an hour-long edition to fill likely contributed to that. All in all, a great effort on par with the top shows of the season.
Tonight’s Episode: In the season finale, Archer makes his way back home with his new KGB defector friend in tow.
Good Stuff: Loved the continuity with the shoulder tattoos . . . “‘I fell in love the moment I saw you.’ ‘Really? With who?’” . . . “Almost as cool as my van” . . . “‘My words have failed me.’ ‘Well, shut up.’” . . . “You realize I can never un-hear that” . . . Krieger’s virtual girlfriend always gets me . . . “Don’t engage him” . . . “Wait…does Canada even have a spy agency?” . . . the Bionic Man intro and “Cy Berg” . . . “Exit…Van Left” . . . “I just thought you were…well…slave’s not the right word….” . . . “Why the hell are YOU crying?” (*sound of car remote being activated*).
Non-good Stuff: I guess killing off Katya was necessary to reset the storyline next year, but that character had potential. Other than that, not much to dislike this week.
Line of the Night: “All ashore from the S. S. Date Rape!” – Mallory, on Krieger’s van.
Overall: I have no idea what they were doing for a few episodes earlier in this season, but Archer came back with a vengeance down the stretch. This one was right there at that same level. The story was tight, the jokes worked, and the season ended with a great joke. We still don’t know who Archer’s father is, but that’s not really the point. If you’re watching Archer to get closure on open-ended story arcs, you’re probably not watching for the right reasons. This was an impressive way to close out Season Two.
Final Thoughts: All three shows were great. This was easily the best overall evening of the season. There were no losers in this group. The reason 30 Rock gets a slight nod over the other two is probably the more nuanced and sometimes self-referential nature of the humor. The Jack Donaghy speech that was basically about Alec Baldwin scored major points, as did the Josh montage and Tom Hanks’ nod to his own humble origins in television. Even something like addressing (but not really) Jane Krakowski’s pregnancy was done with a clever twist. As good as the Office was, and as good as three-time defending champ Archer was and has been, tonight’s 30 Rock just barely sneaks out a win with an episode worthy of the milestone.
WINNER: 30 Rock (new champion)