Tick-tock. 30 Rock and The Office are close to wrapping for good, and, with them, so is SitCombat. Both seem to be going out in style, as they produced high-quality episodes last week.
Yet, neither of the venerable NBC franchises took top honors. Instead, a returning Archer won the battle in its first attempt of 2013.
Will there be a repeat performance for the FX adult cartoon?
This was SitCombat for January 24, 2013:
30 Rock (NBC) – “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World”
Tonight’s Episode: Liz makes a last-ditch effort to save TGS from cancellation. Jack must pick his successor.
Good Stuff: “Panic Dream” . . . Lutz is a cowboy amongst skeletons . . . “…out of Houston’s George Bush Airport.” “It’s not MY airport!” “Let it go, Liz!” . . . “I have, through back channels…” “Like…BET?!?” “Back channels…” . . . Liz and Jenna’s pitch for The Girlie Show . . . “Expensive musical cues are exactly the sort of thing you can’t afford anymore” . . . DeafCon . . . “My whole life has been building to this moment…Has it really? Oh, God!” I’ve missed Pete . . . “It’s dying. And its leader needs to be a grave-robber who’ll strip every last bauble off the corpse” . . . I loved the reference to firing Danny. Meta. Wheelhouse . . . “Yeah, I’ve got some stuff on the back-burner. Left unattended long enough, my house burns down. Insurance money!” . . . The NBC candidates mirroring the Willy Wonka kids . . . “Kenneth! It’s ‘we PEACOCK comedy!’ You say the peacock!!!” “What? That’s insane!” . . . The trampoline salesman’s wife died in a trampoline accident . . . “The movie is being directed by Michael Ba..io. Scott Baio’s uncle” . . . “It comes out 13/13/13, which is January 13, 2014″ . . . C. B. Essington . . . “You do peacock peacock” . . . The MacGuffin was named MacGuffin . . . Bro Body Douche Presents: The Man Cave . . . “Guys…I’m worried about Todd” . . . Kenneth’s college mascot AND president was a bear in a hat . . . “They’re replaceable! We can get David Alan Greer and Miss Piggy!” . . . Liz’s kids essentially being Jenna and Tracy. And the circle is complete.
Non-good Stuff: I never noticed how much Matt Oberg looked like Martin Short when he was on SportsDome (in glasses). Not really a complaint. Just an observation.
Line of the Night: “I actually quit two years ago.” – Cerie. Just perfect.
Overall: In its penultimate episode, 30 Rock included just about every character (except Grizz and Dot Com, unfortunately), and everyone had something fun to do. Throw in a couple of meta jokes, and I was very pleased with this one.
The Office (NBC) – “Customer Loyalty”
Tonight’s Episode: Dwight tries to keep Darryl from leaving for Athlead. Jim tries to stop a potential crisis in Philly. Erin and Pete’s budding “friendship” comes under some scrutiny.
Good Stuff: “Oh my God…I DID send Dwight on a quest for the Holy Grail!” . . . “Jim should just call it “stumpany”…for “stupid company!” . . . “I’m sorry – Do I still need to be here?” . . . I actually liked Nellie in this one, especially her trying to shut down Pete and Erin by hijacking Dwight’s meeting on customer loyalty . . . “Let’s try it out” . . . “Ok, this is REALLY hard to follow. Can we just say ‘Pete,’ because that’s the guy Erin is flirting with?” . . . “It can’t be more fun than selling paper and paper products!” “It can.” “Are you pretending to be crazy?” . . . I actually like the weird thing Toby has for Ellie. Let’s not forget it started when Toby saw Ellie dressed up AS Toby . . . Dwight inexplicably throwing the milkshake at the fast food guy . . . “User error. I’ve heard it happens to other people.” Oscar is such a smug jerk . . . “You never stop surprising me” . . . I liked Jim taking Pam to task. It’s a simple camera phone that she said she knew how to use. Jim was right to call her on it. This attitude is probably one of a hundred reasons why I’m single . . . “Milkshake vs. Old Dork.”
Non-good Stuff: I don’t like that Erin and Pete have a special handshake thing . . . Not sure what to make of the “breaking the fourth wall” thing. My concern is the boom operator guy will now become a love interest ex machina for Pam, creating a contrived love-triangle-y thing for the stretch run of the show. I think this is very dangerous territory for two reasons. One, if they go this route, it will be some kind of “he’s been there the whole time” thing where the guy says he knows Pam better than she knows herself. Two, I don’t think you peel the lid off the show’s central conceit with a handful of episodes to go. Very risky. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. That’s speculative for now.
Line of the Night: “Ooh! I haven’t heard it! So . . . what about the Irish-American Cultural Center mural? Potato?!?” – Kevin, misinterpreting a non-joke.
Overall: Very good episode. They’ve started to make some bold choices here, and my only concern is the one above. Don’t throw in a heretofore unseen love interest to mess with Jim and Pam’s marriage. Anyway, this edition of The Office was consistently funny throughout, with the only slow spots being a couple of moments when the Erin/Pete stuff got a little too “rom-com-y.” Kevin had some great lines, Dwight was solid, and even Nellie had a quality outing. Nice work.
Archer (FX) – “The Wind Cries Mary”
Tonight’s Episode: Archer searches for a former (and supposedly dead) friend in order to exonerate him for what Archer believes to be wrongful accusations of traitorous conduct.
Good Stuff: “First of all, it’s DOCTOR I-can-solve-your-ant-problem…” . . . Krieger’s “VAN BY NIGHT” van . . . “For..?” “Nope!” “God, what a DICK!” “…said your mom! BOOM!” “DAMMIT!” . . . “Is it pumpkin season?” “Why? Is that a thing?” . . . Archer’s voicemail message is an airhorn because of course it is . . . “You left YOUR gun in a pile of clothes!” . . . Troy paying a hobo to get his teeth drilled to match Troy’s dental records.
Non-good Stuff: There wasn’t anything specific tonight that was bad.
Line of the Night: “Bros before…apparent threats to national security.” – Archer, presenting part of his worldview.
Overall: To put this episode in football terms, there weren’t a lot of big plays, but there also weren’t any plays that got negative yardage. To put it in baseball terms, there weren’t any extra-base hits, but there also weren’t any strikeouts. I guess it might make more sense to put it in television terms. So, here goes—there was little that made me laugh hard, but there wasn’t much that made me want to change the channel. The net result of that is a show that can’t reach “A” territory, but wasn’t bad, either.
Final Thoughts: Archer was fine, but this one comes down to the two NBC shows. Interesting that we got two episodes on the same night that dealt with a tense cell phone call between spouses juggling work and children. Although I liked Jim taking Pam to task, I think the different ways those moments were handled also reflects why I like 30 Rock better generally: Namely, 30 Rock kept things comedy-centric, while The Office sometimes, as here, skews into “serious moment in a rom-com” territory. It’s a matter of personal preference, but I prefer the former. If I were a 25-year-old woman, I might prefer the latter. But I’m not. So, as good as The Office was, 30 Rock wins the tie-breaker.
WINNER: 30 Rock (new champion)