Archer and one of the two new episodes of 30 Rock tied for victory last time around, in a week in which The Office did not air. That changes in this edition of SitCombat, as Dwight Schrute and company return with a surprising new show.
Archer is two-for-two so far this year, but 30 Rock has moved past the Tracy Morgan storyline into fresh territory, so this should be a good battle for all three shows. Let’s see how this contest unfolded.
This was SitCombat for February 2, 2012:
30 Rock (NBC) – “Today, You Are a Man”
Tonight’s Episode: It’s contract renegotiation time for Liz, Kenneth feels underappreciated, and Jenna and Tracy take part in their accountant’s son’s Bar Mitzvah.
Good Stuff: “Getting paid to help a boy become a man? That’s kind of my wheelhouse” . . . “Morale-boosting t-shirts indicating everyone survived a certain barbeque” . . . Liz’s fictional assistant(s) . . . Liz’s agent setting up shop in a public library . . . “How Jewish is everyone here? I may need to change parts of my act” . . . Gina Gershon being the nemesis of both Jenna and Tracy . . . “Don’t worry about the fee, you can just give it to us now” . . . Tracy’s charity increasing the chances of Godzilla attacks . . . “When you have a serious offer, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org” . . . “THIS IS THE PART OF THE MOVIE WHERE I FELL ASLEEP!” . . . “Jack Donaghy…playing with himself…It’s a ‘Jack-off’” . . . Tracy performing the “Who’s on First” routine without being able to remember the phrase “Who’s on first?” . . . The unaired ninth season of Perfect Strangers including Balki trying to win a land war in Russia . . . Frank’s peanut allergy . . . “An amazing rendition of ‘What’s the guy’s name who plays first base?’” . . . Jack’s self-negotiation . . . “NOBODY BEATS THE LIZ!” . . . “He’s missing me. Boy, you are dumb sometimes” . . . “I WANT TO BE A BABY AGAIN!” . . . “Have you not read the poetry of Jewel?” . . . “No, What died in Vietnam!”
Non-good Stuff: Jack getting a dog and a cat to marry as an example of his deal-making abilities was kind of weird . . . The Suze Orman cameo didn’t click . . . Ok, I’m going to go ahead and call it: Katrina Bowden is now just an occasional player . . . The absence of Grizz and Dot Com is never a good thing . . . The dialogue got a little convoluted at the end.
Line of the Night: “Sorry, Jack, I have to take this—Yes, may I please speak to Pizza?” (*grimace*) – Liz, botching her fake phone call negotiating tactic.
Overall: When a show is as great as 30 Rock, it doesn’t have to be off-kilter by much to seem like there’s been a drop-off. 30 Rock still has plenty of great lines and bits (probably better than any show on television), but the story elements haven’t been quite as strong this year. I wonder how much of that is just a function of being six years into the series. In any event, this was another good, if unspectacular episode. I thought the Liz / Jack stuff was clearly the strongest, although there were some good moments in the Jenna / Tracy plot, particularly their forced robot performances (including the horrible “Who’s on First”) at the Bar Mitzvah. However, I worry about where the Kenneth storyline is going. Swapping out Kristen Schaal for Jack McBrayer could go either way. On the one hand, it might freshen up some of the stories I referenced a moment ago. On the other hand, McBrayer has been outstanding and consistently funny in his role as Kenneth Parcell, and putting someone else in the role of page seems like cutting loose a king in the hopes you draw an ace. It’s possible you’ll do as well or better, but the odds are against it. 30 Rock is a victim of its own success at this point. This was another good-to-very-good show, but, other than the season premiere, I haven’t felt like they’ve truly “nailed” one yet this season by their own lofty standards.
The Office (NBC) – “Jury Duty”
Tonight’s Episode: Jim returns from jury duty, but Dwight is skeptical, and Angela has her baby. But who’s the real father?
Good Stuff: Andy still calling Jim “Tuna” . . . “Is it black? Because that would be hilarious!” “Why?” . . . Kevin getting the YEAR wrong on his birthday guess . . . Dwight busting Jim . . . “What’s up, gangstas?” . . . Toby is the most forgettable man in the known world . . . “Hey, ‘Murder She Wrote,’ how about we drop the whole ‘Murder She Wrote’ thing?” . . . Andy’s attempts at lying about Jim’s week off . . . “I’m not Rumpelstiltskin, Jim. I can’t spinning gold out of your @#$%!” . . . Oscar looking at the camera EVERY TIME Angela’s husband does something gay . . . “I got ‘Little Kevin’ Call of Duty” . . . “I don’t even know which thread to follow!” . . . “The only premature baby in this room is the baby this baby ate” . . . “That baby is a Schrute. And, unless somebody taught Mose sex, that baby is mine” . . . The Senator being grossed out by his wife’s breasts . . . “Hey! Angela’s back with her baby!” . . . Kelly tearing up the picture . . . Dwight putting the stickers on his car.
Non-good Stuff: Not sure the juice was worth the squeeze on Andy’s dancing routine, but at least licensing “Footloose” shows that NBC is still very much committed to the show . . . Gabe is horrible. He’s being misused. He works great as a corporate shill, but as a random weirdo, he skews too creepy. The Office already has plenty of random weirdos (e.g. Creed).
Line(s) of the Night: “You will lead millions . . . willingly . . . or as slaves.” – Dwight, to his possible son.
Overall: There was a lot to like this week. One of the storylines was office-centric, which, as I’ve said over and over, is where this show should focus. A guy trying to avoid being busted for skipping work or taking extra days off is a relatable situation that can be embellished for TV purposes to great effect. But the show also delivered a very good off-site story with an interesting plot development that will undoubtedly drive future episodes. This one checked a lot of boxes. Add in a lot of good lines by the supporting cast (Creed finally got some great material for the first time in a while), and it all means a nice bounce-back episode after a week off. I think the break from Robert California was probably a good thing as well. He’s hilarious in small doses, but building episodes partially around that character usually crosses into some strange territory. This was a very good show that bodes well for the future.
Archer (FX) – “The Limited”
Tonight’s Episode: ISIS transports a dangerous Canadian terrorist back to Canada via train.
Good Stuff: “Oooh, thanks, Freddy Foreshadowing!” . . . “Hey, Heinz 56, can I get an Irish coffee?” . . . “They just killed the black guy. I know, right? Welcome to America!” . . . “Couples skate?” . . . “Apparently my great-grandpa was nuts for skating? That and the Klan” . . . “Get ‘em up, Dudley Douchebags!” . . . “When you don’t suck at…SHUT UP!” . . .
Non-good Stuff: Cyril thinking he’s blind because he got shirted was a little much . . . There wasn’t a lot I specifically didn’t like. It was just that there wasn’t a great deal of positives compared to prior episodes. See below.
Line of the Night: It was silly, but this cracked me up:
ARCHER: It’s empty, dickhead!
BILKO: Nice try, super dickhead! What the?
ARCHER: You fired eight rounds, ultra dickhead!
Overall: Archer got off to an excellent start this season, and there wasn’t a whole lot to complain about specifically with this episode, but the hits weren’t as frequent or as powerful as the other Season Three shows thus far. I think the fact that this episode took place on a train was appropriate. The show felt constricted and forced at times. When a good ensemble show compels everyone to be in essentially the same location, that ups the degree of difficulty. I think that happened to an extent this week. As I said, there weren’t too many specific negatives, but there were also fewer positives than in the last several episodes. An off night, but nothing terrible.
Final Thoughts: Notice how the Office was able to push to victory: One storyline taking place at home base, another that made great use of some of the supporting characters while also advancing a plot point in a humorous way and maintained a light tone, sparing use of potentially annoying characters. Other than the few nits I picked above, this was a very solid episode. I think this is the blueprint for how the post-Carrel office can continue to churn out quality television for the foreseeable future, even if that happens to be only one more season. 30 Rock was also good, but not quite as well-written in the story department, while Archer had a fine episode that wasn’t one of its best.
WINNER: The Office (new champion)