SitCombat: 1/26/12

Archer dominated SitCombat last week with an impressive season premiere featuring Burt Reynolds.  However, 30 Rock has a chance at redemption with the payoff to a two-part episode.  But there’s a twist to tonight’s SitCombat battle . . .

No new show for The Office tonight.  Yet, we get two new episodes of 30 Rock.  So, much like an early-twentieth-century Olympic sport with few competent nations, the same competitor will get two entrants into the fray.  I’ll just judge each on its own merits as if it were a different television series.  Easy enough.

This was SitCombat for January 26, 2012:

30 Rock (NBC) – “Idiots Are People Three!”

Tonight’s Episode: Tracy’s protest against NBC continues, while Jack squares off against old rival Devin Banks.

Good Stuff: “MAN HOGS” . . . “Wesleyan is the Harvard of Central Connecticut!” “Yale is the Harvard of Central Connecticut” . . . The photo that appears on Devin Banks’ phone when Jack calls, the only copy of which is supposed to be in Stephanie Seymour’s safety deposit box . . . Kelsey Grammar’s improvised Lincoln one-man show (MANDATORY) . . . “National Association for Zero Intolerance” . . . Devin looking confused as the quid pro quo arrangement became exponentially more complicated . . . “I played a nucular psychiatrist in a James Bond movie!” . . . “Because of you, there may be an Entourage movie” . . . “I forgot to press a floor again” . . . “I know that future generations will forge a stronger country, and that, someday, America will be a place…where everybody knows your name!”

Non-good Stuff: Denise Richards not knowing what an elevator is tore the joke a little . . . The Best Friends Gang “B” story alternated between too silly and just silly enough.  More consistency there would have helped this episode . . . Seriously, where is Katrina Bowden? I’m starting to worry.

Line of the Night: “We’re called ‘PEEN.’” “And what is that an acronym for?” “Acronym?” – Devin Banks explaining his new special interest group to Jack Donaghy.

Overall: This was a moderate improvement over last week, but I still got the impression that the need to tie the plot to Tracy Morgan’s real-life controversy from last year hamstrung the writing a bit.  As usual, a lot of the jokes and gags worked well (e.g. the idiot press conferences being covered by Spike, among others), but part of what makes 30 Rock so special is the ability of the writers to craft humorous situations from thin air with total freedom.  Having to start with some of the blanks filled in might have prevented this story from reaching its full potential.  The good news is that this was a funny half-hour of television nonetheless, and the Tracy Morgan apology storyline is now out of the way.


30 Rock (NBC) – “The Ballad of Kenneth Parcell”

Tonight’s Episode: Jack shuts down the NBC page program, Tracy contemplates whether life is worth living, and Jenna and Liz have a falling out.  Special guest appearance by WWE Superstar Mankind!

Good Stuff: “Of course, Liz.  That’s why the president is always a new mom” . . . Reagan’s memoir from the week before he died. “It’s…scattered” . . . “You just bought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s bones…and he’s not even dead!” . . . Jenna pouring vodka in the humidifier . . . “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Improv” . . . I always dig the Chicago flashback scenes . . . Tracy’s depressed thoughts CD . . . “Guy Who Shot Malcolm X” Blvd . . . “If you eat four, you get a t-shirt, so one more…and that’s TWO t-shirts!” . . . “The good news is…for another group of people” . . . “And her son Lyle has a learning disability” . . . “What were you even doing at that bachelor party?” “Derrick thought I was a guy, and I didn’t want to ruin what was happening between us!” . . . Liz’s first roommate dying of old age . . . The Philly Phanatic is an undersea king who must prevent his daughter’s marriage to the Squid Lord . . . “…and other things that women talk about” . . . The premise of the “My Fault” game show . . . “QUIET! Mankind’s trying to tweet about these clowns in Congress!” . . . “We’re all sleeping with Carl, because he has the most puzzles” . . . “You had me at ‘I was wrong, I do need’” . . . Was that a Stephanie Zimbalist reference?  Might have been. Or, it might have just been over my head.

Non-good Stuff: The commercial for “Martin Luther King Day” was fine, but it was done better by SNL a few weeks ago as “Apocalypse.”  The part that stinks about that is that, chronologically, the SNL sketch was probably written after the 30 Rock bit (adding to the problem is that the 30 Rock version included SNL’s Andy Samberg, which might even raise an ethical issue depending on how it all went down) . . . I’m sure the song coda was great for some viewers, but it just didn’t do anything for me.  Sorry . . . I won’t rest until Katrina Bowden’s face is on a milk carton . . . The on-screen cable guide description of this episode must be for a future show, because it wasn’t even close to what actually took place.

Line(s) of the Night:
LIZ: “Hey, Sue! What are you up to tonight?”
SUE: “I’m not working late again!  Why don’t you write the show yourself?  You take all the credit anyway!  I hope you dream of your death!”
LIZ: “I was just wondering if you wanted to go to a movie.”
SUE: “Oh, I can’t.  I have to . . . work late.”

Overall:  This appeared to be a “Sword of Destiny”-esque standalone episode that doesn’t necessarily need to fit into the normal continuity of the show.  There was no reference to Criss or any of the other storylines we’ve seen so far this season.  I have no problem with that, I just thought it was worth mentioning.  Anyway, this was a good episode.  Several lines didn’t just make me laugh, but also made me marvel at how well-crafted they were.  The stories themselves were decent, but I always appreciate it when the “A,” “B,” and “C” plots manage to reach interrelated conclusions.  This one was a nice effort.

GRADE: B-plus

Archer (FX) – “El Contador”

Tonight’s Episode: ISIS goes after a Columbian drug lord and institutes a drug-testing policy.

Good Stuff: “Oh, sorry, I’ve gotta get back to Earth before the Stargate closes” . . . “Some offense.” “Some taken” . . . “AND KNOCK OFF THAT DAMNED BEATBOXING” . . . “Thanks, ghost of Teddy Roosevelt” . . . Ray at the club . . . “Well, then why not just say ‘kilometer?” “Because, shut up.” “Oh. Jungle zing” . . . “Not afraid to dump out your purse in the jungle, huh?” . . . “He has a telltale shimmer” . . . “If I had a nickel for every time I heard a guy say that…I’d have eight nickels!” . . . Ray turning into the hallucinated robot . . . “You’re not my friend!  You’re a Decepticon!” . . . I liked the figurative/literal callbacks . . . “My heart’s not gonna be in it.  It’ll be with that tiger’s family…but, go ahead. I mean, start” . . . Archer tripping Lana to get a head start . . . Archer pouring liquor in Cyril’s eyes. Just because.

Non-good Stuff: The ending was a little dumb: A phone conversation leading to the revelation that the ISIS team didn’t get a “signed receipt” from the DEA. It didn’t hurt the episode much, but it felt like an afterthought rather than finishing on a high note.

Line of the Night: “Which is why tomorrow, at dawn, I’ll be hunting the most dangerous game in the world!”  “. . . Jai Alai?” – Archer, confused.

Overall: Archer is a cartoon, true, but it’s also got a strong ensemble feel.  Even though Sterling is the primary character, Archer works best when everyone gets productive “touches,” to borrow a sports term.  That happened this episode, which is a very good thing.  This was a nice follow-up to the stellar season opener.

GRADE: B-plus

Final Thoughts: Weird night.  Two new episodes of one show, and no episodes of another.  The latter 30 Rock and Archer were each strong, if imperfect.  I usually make a call one way or the other, even in the case of a tie, but neither one of these shows seemed clearly better than its counterpart.  Archer was snappier, but 30 Rock had a couple of lines that slayed me and a better ending.  I think this is the first tie I’ve ever had.  So be it.  It’s a draw!

WINNERS: Archer (retains title) & 30 Rock (new co-champion)

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