As the barren, post-apocalyptic world of the Office scrambles to find fresh water and seeks shelter in a burned-out building on a charred city street, 30 Rock loads up with a live episode for a possible ninth consecutive victory.
I may be harsh on the Office these days, but that harshness comes from a sympathetic place. The show had some good years, but, despite some hopeful signs early in the season, I’ve reluctantly joined the sad chorus declaring the show all but dead. What’s worse is that it must tangle with a live episode of 30 Rock in order to shake off a record-setting slump.
Or, we could choose to look at the last two months of 30 Rock victories as a record winning streak. Glass half-full and all that. This, the second live episode of the show, will probably be loaded with guest stars and cameos that make it a very likely winner. On the other hand, there’s always a chance
Tracy Morgan something could go horribly wrong.
Let’s find out which it is. This was SitCombat for April 26, 2012:
30 Rock (NBC) – “Live From Studio 6H”
Tonight’s Episode: Kabletown says that TGS won’t be a live show anymore, and Kenneth tries to make the case for continuing the practice. Meanwhile, Jenna contemplates a possible proposal from Paul.
Good Stuff: The shameless (and meta) sucking up to the live crowd by Baldwin . . . McCartney waving to the crowd and slapping Baldwin . . . “Unlike the wildfires I’ve started, this one doesn’t sexually arouse me” . . . Cerie sighting . . . “Twelve Angry Men is preposterous, Kenneth. Eleven decent Americans are swayed by Jane Fonda’s father?!?” . . . The Kraft Product Placement Comedy Hour . . . “The cheese that won World War Two (don’t ask how)” . . . “BLAM! BLOW YOUR FACE OFF!” . . . Baldwin’s Honeymooners-style insults . . . “Nine out of ten doctors surveyed said ‘WHO IS THIS? WHY ARE YOU CALLING SO LATE?!?’” . . . Danny Baker returning and explaining his absence, with Jenna not listening and behaving as if he asked for her autograph . . . Donkey Stringbean . . . Alfie and Abner . . . “NBC received a lot of complaints…that the show wasn’t on often enough” . . . “I’s done stole this catfish!!!” . . . “Zippity Doo Doo!” . . . “BANJO!!!” . . . “Are you telling me the mayor of your hometown is a CAR?!?” . . . “Hello, I’m Nazi doctor Leo Spaceman. I know it’s live! I want people to know!” . . . Chatterton Syndrome . . . Fred Armisen as Frank 2.0 . . . “We both know you’re not due for another nine days” . . . “While they never found Jamie Garnett, that woman who stole his microphone went on to become…a wife!” . . . St. Ray Ray’s Blatholic Church . . . Before he worked in the Microwave Division of GE, Jack worked in the Poison Division” . . . Tina Fey pretending to remove a (pubic) hair from her tongue after doing the Rock of Ages promo . . . Prince William and Prince: Time-Traveling Fart Detectives . . . “O.L.D. being an acronym for ‘oxylaprodexatrin,’ a hallucinogenic plant extract that makes sex terrifying” . . . “You’re my boyfriend! We were just going to go call some people I went to high school with!”
Non-good Stuff: I don’t mind Poehler being a surprise guest, but her being the flashback version of Liz Lemon probably wasn’t the strongest choice. At least put a brown wig on! My suspension of disbelief only goes so far! . . . Henna or Jazel. Oh, well. Nobody’s perfect . . . The Joey Montero Show was kind of weird. Felt more like an SNL sketch than the other cutaways did.
Line of the Night: “Tonight’s the night, Hazel. I do my surprise cameo, it goes viral…I take medicine for it. Next stop: Hollywood…Florida, to get the car from my mom. Next stop: California…Pizza Kitchen, to tell my old boss Nadine to suck it! Next stop: Tinseltown…because Christmas decorations are really cheap this time of year.” – Hazel. Wow. If my wheelhouse had a wheelhouse, this kind of writing would be snuggled neatly inside it.
Overall: Home run. They saved a lot of great stuff for the live show, just as they did last time. The conceit of having twelve cast members in a room in order to facilitate a few stepping away at a time to play other roles was excellent. The best lines of the show were as strong as anything we’ve seen this season. I lost it for the Hazel mini-monologue above, as well as for the Chris Parnell commercials and the Jon Hamm in blackface-ish parts. The only cutaway I didn’t love was the Joey Montero Show, but it wasn’t bad by any means. This show gets an A-plus, because downgrading it because of that one less-than-stellar part of the show would be like saying a quarterback who threw for seven touchdowns had a sub-par performance because he mixed in a couple of incomplete passes. Amazing show.
The Office (NBC) – “Fundraiser”
Tonight’s Episode: A fired Andy shows up to a fund-raiser, making things awkward for his former co-workers.
Good Stuff: Robert naming two very specific auto-asphyxiation sex club locations off the top of his head . . . “I’m going to…bring my…gym bag. Just in case” . . . “Did anyone order a blast from the past??!” . . . “It was my idea to not be raped!” . . . “It feels more like I’m receiving it than writing it!” . . . “Life isn’t Downton Abbey.” “Life IS Downton Abbey!” . . . I liked David Wallace resurfacing, especially the fact that he’s now a millionaire because of “Suck It.” Just like Triple H . . . “A gay man would not leave the house wearing those shoes.” “A gay man would not leave the STORE wearing those shoes.” “Hey! You BOUGHT me these shoes!” . . . “Huey’s going to need this medication every 90 minutes. You can administer it orally, but he’s going to puke it up. So, other end is best” . . . “I’d have to be a monster to root for that…a lonely, aging monster” . . . “SPEECH!!!” . . . “I can’t tell you what an honor it is to support this…thing” . . . I’m glad Kevin cut through the bullshit at the end.
Non-good Stuff: Pam’s animosity towards Ryan is a little much for her character . . . I do not care about this slapdash tension between Nellie and Daryl . . . The Andy vs. Robert stuff is just more awkward-awkward than funny-awkward . . . I think there’s a lot of wheel-spinning going on, plot-wise . . . The ending with Kevin and the dog felt tacked-on in order to keep people from thinking that the dog was dead. It didn’t even appear to be shot the same as the rest of the episode.
Line of the Night: “This confirms three things: I’m right about the Senator, I’ve still got it, and poor Angela.” – Oscar, sizing up the situation
Overall: This wasn’t terrible, but I get the feeling just about every week now that the writers don’t have any kind of real plan, much less an exit strategy. Anyone who watched last week’s episode probably took away from it that Andy had turned some kind of emotional corner. He stood up for himself, he effectively quit his job, and this seemed to be a high note for the character. This week, he reverted back to his pathetic self, except now he’s unemployed. There were a few funny moments this week, but the overall direction of the show is still a huge issue. The fact that Kevin is now the voice of reason on the show is telling. Still, I’m going to cut the show some slack because of the doggies.
Final Thoughts: The Office was never going to beat 30 Rock this week. This was one of three or four episodes from this season that will go down as some of the all-time best in the show’s history. The Office continues to tread water, but I hold out hope that the writers will be able to find their way once again when the behind-the-scenes questions (is the show coming back, which actors will return, etc) are answered. This is a record ninth-consecutive win for 30 Rock. It’s extremely likely that no show will ever touch that again. 30 Rock tries to make it ten straight next week.
WINNER: 30 Rock (retains title (x9))