There’s no elaborate introduction necessary this week. The fact of the matter is that 30 Rock has claimed victory a record nine straight weeks. Given the struggles of the Office of late, Alec Baldwin and company have a terrific opportunity to make it an incredible ten in-a-row.
An uncertain future serves as the backdrop for this ongoing battle. Neither show (nor any of the regulars in NBC’s Thursday night comedy lineup) have been renewed for next season. Will 30 Rock be back next year? Will the Office? Will both be canceled? If they come back, will we see retooling, especially on the Office?
We just don’t know yet. But how these final few weeks play out may go a long way in determining the answer. This was SitCombat for May 3, 2012:
30 Rock (NBC) – “Queen of Jordan 2: The Mystery of the Phantom Pooper”
Tonight’s Episode: As Avery is poised to return to the United States, Jack must address his feelings for Diana for the benefit of the Queen of Jordan cameras.
Good Stuff: “Hello, whoever it is…going to be” . . . “Singer / song reader” . . . Raven-Simone, Senior . . . “Lisa Lampanelli?” . . . “I thought it was very brave of you to pose for Playboy…against Playboy’s wishes” . . . “Please defwink responsibly” . . . Adrien Brody’s acting school? Unaccredited” . . . “Isn’t this usually a bathroom?” . . . “I really don’t watch much TV. I’m more of a masturbator” . . . Kenneth and the cord . . . The Jack / Liz kiss . . . The cord accusing Kenneth of racism.
Non-good Stuff: Why does Kenneth appear to be a page again in one early scene? . . . The Rus / Gus thing wasn’t a great vein to tap twice . . . A John Mark Karr reference = Too obscure, too untimely . . . Just not sure we needed another Queen of Jordan episode.
Line of the Night: “Is this one of those ridiculous reality shows like Ken Burns’ Jazz? Disgusting.” – Diana, reacting to the presence of the camera crew in Jack’s office
Overall: I wasn’t really in sync with this one. I thought the first Queen of Jordan episode was surprisingly good. I’m unconvinced we needed a second one. I think that’s particularly true since last week’s show was also a “gimmicky” (but outstanding) episode. For the first time in a long time, 30 Rock didn’t work for me. It was still better than most things on television. It simply wasn’t one of the better episodes of this particular series.
The Office (NBC) – “Turf War”
Tonight’s Episode: Robert accidentally closes a branch office while drunk, and Dwight and Jim scramble to scavenge the clients. Andy makes a play to get his job back.
Good Stuff: “No, Jim…the butt, in his butt” . . . The knowing, gleeful look on Ryan and Creed’s faces when Robert says “Columbian whites” . . . I liked the Robert called Pam out on her BS. She’s gotten a little big for her britches . . . Toby embracing the character of Lloyd Gross . . . “I’ll still be talking about geishas, LONG past their bedtime. You know, I trained as one…” . . . Dan Castellaneta is always a treat . . . “I think you’re gonna need to have an Asian fetish, yeah. It’ll be upsetting if you don’t” . . . Andy’s wireless password is “eatpraylove” . . . Dwight using his belt to bar the door, then not being able to keep his pants up . . . “He said ‘Salvation’…no last name” . . . I loved Robert’s response to Andy trying to blackmail him.
Non-good Stuff: The open was just so-so . . . Pam is annoying and gets in the way of comedy . . . Stop trying to make me feel sympathetic toward Nellie . . . Nellie complains about Robert being obsessed with sex, but previously hit on him repeatedly to try to curry favor.
Line of the Night: “Chair, lamp, plant, table leg, Jim’s leg.” – Dwight, listing the things in the conference room he had identified he could use to hit Harry
Overall: This episode of the Office did certain things well that this show hasn’t done in quite some time. For one thing, the plot and the comedy were largely complementary, rather than incongruous (e. g. Andy’s desperation advanced the story, rather than simply made him seem pathetic and pitiful). There was a lot of good, and only a little bad. A stronger open would have pushed this into “A” territory.
Final Thoughts: The Office has finally broken 30 Rock’s stranglehold on SitCombat, and it’s no wonder—it seems like the show finally has an idea about where it’s headed. David Wallace possibly buying the company and installing Andy in an executive position. Dwight and Jim and everyone else perhaps being out of jobs if Robert sticks around. The writers have laid out a good roadmap about where the plot may take viewers generally while also maintaining unpredictability. This is a great step. I have my own ideas about what needs to happen on the show to continue the series, but the big-picture idea is that the possibility of continuing the show (from a narrative arc standpoint) now seems attainable. Couple all of that with some good, work-related comedy, and this episode was a winner. I’m excited to see where the Office goes next week, and it’s been a long time since I felt that way.
WINNER: The Office (new champion)