I’m skipping the first night of the NCAA tournament to write a review of three sitcoms, so I’m going to dispense with the preamble this week. It’s only fair. I’ll just point out that 30 Rock is riding a two-week winning streak coming into tonight.
This was SitCombat for March 15, 2012:
30 Rock (NBC) – “St. Patrick’s Day”
Tonight’s Episode: Liz deals with the reappearance of Dennis, Jack mulls his place in the business world, and everyone tries to manage Jenna and Tracy’s egos.
Good Stuff: “It’s the tail I had until I was sixteen” . . . Tracy is only allergic to allergy medication, but he loves it!” . . . William of Orange invented the orange according to Yahoo! answers . . . I like Liz’s anti-Irish attitude . . . Liz gave to the IRA in the 90’s because she thought she was contributing to a retirement account . . . “I tried to steal beer from a Duane Reade, and some black guy cold-cocked me.” “Oh, like a security guard?” “I don’t know, pal, I don’t see people that way” . . . Tracy prays to Michael Jackson’s ghost . . . “I’ll replace your lizard with a gay guy in a giant champagne bottle” “SIRI, KILL JENNA!” . . . Dennis’ new business is burning your old DVDs onto laserdisc . . . Criss was a volunteer EMT…at Burning Man . . . “Me and Criss? We’re bang brothers!” . . . Jack playing Colonizers of Malaar . . . Liz’s German curse . . . “What does that mean, ‘once agan?’ That is not a thing” . . . “Whoa! Buy me a drink, first!” . . . “He was born in fourth-century Ireland. He might as well have been born in a grave” . . . “Is 70 not a good i.q.?” . . . Tracy’s attempt to replace Andy Rooney.
Non-good Stuff: I feel like a disproportionate number of 30 Rock episodes have been holiday-themed this year, from the real (Valentine’s Day) to the fictional (Leap Day) . . . It’s not really plausible that a guy who won an Oscar would be a lesser star to a reality show judge a year later. Nine years later? Possible.
Line of the Night: “Jack, Tracy and I are total pros!” “On television, AND when it comes to the assisted suicide debate!” – Jenna and Tracy, not doing a good job of putting Pete’s fears to rest.
Overall: This was a great Liz-centric episode that hit most of the right comedic notes. A couple of general observations. One, it seems increasingly obvious that they’re paving the way for Jack to leave Kabletown one way or the other. Kenneth will likely take his place. I’m fine with that, although I obviously hope Alec Baldwin remains involved in some capacity. Two, Tracy and Jenna have been paired up quite a bit this season. While that works more often than not, I do miss Grizz and Dot Com having a more prominent role on the show. They had some of the best lines and moments in the entire series.
The Office (NBC) – “Get the Girl”
Tonight’s Episode: Andy goes to Florida to get Erin, Nellie inexplicably takes over the Scranton office.
Good Stuff: Chumbo . . . Charles Darwin is in charge of every office in America . . . “Have you ever heard of buying a toothbrush?”
Non-good Stuff: The opening was surprisingly weak. That’s usually a strength of the show . . . Oh, Nellie’s joining the Scranton branch? And Toby’s instantly smitten with her, thereby creating another relationship storyline? That’sjust what this show needed! . . . Andy’s into Erin, but Erin’s not into Andy, then Erin’s into Andy, but Andy’s not into Erin, then Andy suddenly decides he’s into Erin after all, but Erin says she’s suddenly not into Andy anymore. Ugh . . . I got through the open and entire first act without writing a single thing in the “good” column . . . The entire “serious” conversation between Erin and Andy was eye-roll-inducing . . . I was rooting for Catherine Tate to fall into a coma by the twenty minute mark of this episode. Does that make me a bad person? . . . I don’t care that Andy and Erin got back together.
Line(s) of the Night: “Touch me, and I’ll sue.” – Creed, after stealing Dwight’s desk.
Overall: What a “nothing” edition of the Office. Most of what I feared about the relationship-heavy (read: not funny) direction of the show a few weeks ago came to fruition tonight. Hopefully, they got it out of their system. I think I might have laughed twice tonight. Jim’s attitude toward Nellie approximated mine toward this episode.
Archer (FX) – “Space Race, Part I”
Tonight’s Episode: ISIS goes into space to stop what appears to be a mutiny aboard a space station.
Good Stuff: “DON’T!” . . . “He could have been saying ‘underfinanced’” . . . Archer trying to get Drake to say “Danger Zone” . . . “And you never mind and also shut up!” . . . “Or, who knows, he put me under. Maybe twelve?” . . . Lana’s vomit got on everyone except for Lana . . . “Or, whatever, the normal number” . . . R2-DoubleD2 . . . “…he asked, intending to be facetious” . . . “Seriously, guys, read a book” . . . “Welcome to the…danger zone” . . . Big picture point: Even though this was a “futuristic” episode with a space station with artificial gravity and technologically advanced weapons, they present the futurism in a way that is consistent with the show’s setting in a not-quite-modern, not-quite-Cold-War time-frame. In other words, this was futurism as conceived by the people who produced Moonraker, which is pitch-perfect for this show.
Non-good Stuff: I like getting Pam and Cheryl into the mix as much as the next fan, but, even for a cartoon that sometimes gets a little absurd, this was a bit much. Where did they get flight uniforms? And how did they survive launch without being strapped in or hooked up to oxygen?!? The twist at the end was fairly obvious, but it didn’t hurt much.
Line of the Night: “Um, sorry, I-I thought ‘French’ was a joke.” – Archer, when informed that the space station crew includes French astronauts.
Overall: Very good episode hurt only by the fact that it was part one of a two-parter, which is always a tougher sell (see also 30 Rock earlier this year). Just about everything worked, and Cranston was a fantastic guest star. I also like that Archer works so hard to maintain continuity. This sets up for a potentially fantastic season finale next week.
Final Thoughts: Archer may very well have won had it been an hour-long season finale instead of part one of a two-part episode. Both the FX sitcom and 30 Rock were very strong this week, but 30 Rock delivered a few more lines that made me laugh and had the added benefit of a fully-formed conclusion (complete with a coda that included meta commentary on the plot development of the episode). On the other hand, the Office turned in its worst effort in a while. The premise in Scranton was dumb, and the premise in Florida was cliched at best. It’s strange—I actually decided to watch the shows in a different order tonight, since I sometimes feel like I might give the Office an unfair shake watching it after I’ve already been laughing at 30 Rock for a half-hour. So, I watched the Office first. Tonight, it didn’t matter.
WINNER: 30 Rock (retains title)