I’m not going to pretend that The Office and Archer don’t face an uphill battle tonight.
They face off against the series finale of 30 Rock, and it would be disingenuous to behave as if 30 Rock doesn’t have a natural advantage thanks to (1) sentimentality, (2) being able to pull out all the stops for a series finale, and (3) being an hour-long episode. [EDIT: Apparently, The Office is also pulling double-duty tonight, which means I’ll be up a lot later than usual]
Still, I will be objective as I can in evaluating, as always. If I were a betting man, though, I would say the odds favor a swan-song victory for Tina Fey and company.
Let’s see how it all shakes out.
This was SitCombat for January 31, 2013:
30 Rock (NBC) – “Hogcock! / Last Lunch” (Graded as one hour-long finale)
Tonight’s Episode: The TGS crew begins to adjust to their post-show lives, only to discover a contractual quirk requires that they produce one last episode.
Good Stuff: The responses to Liz’s bike question = The Internet . . . “Double Hitler” . . . Kabletown’s Kitten-in-Spaghetti . . . Tracy setting fires to keep “Frankensteins” away . . . “He has a degree in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan…so, he’s a receptionist at a dentist’s office” . . . Jack is the High Priest of Capitalism . . . Kenneth’s TV No-No Words including “shows about shows” . . . The quick cut as Liz was explaining that cable allows you to let moments land. Or, I guess, “lah–“ . . . “At least I think he was saying ‘nougats’” . . . “Dammit! Why did I get such a loud pacemaker!” . . . “Mr. Jordan’s TGS contract contains some rather unusual clauses…and I don’t mean those two Santas I saw kissing on the subway” . . . LAX . . . “I need six figures. EIGHT, if you’re counting cents, which I fell for once before. Not cool, The Gap” . . . Jack Donaghy referring to Alec Baldwin as one of his enemies . . . “You’re just an alcoholic with a great voice!” . . . “This is Dan Silversmith with Carolina Mutual” . . . “The night is young…and neither are you” . . . “Period” . . . Blazer Barn . . . “Snowicane White Lady Name Like Dorva or Something” . . . “Let’s just say his wife is on the board of a children’s hospital, and they need a celebrity to host their annual gala…and I threatened to do it!” . . . “We were gonna lose our virginity to each other!” . . . Lutz changing his name to “Aardvark” just so he could dictate that the writing staff eat Blimpie’s for lunch . . . “Well, that’s not going to be easy, Kenneth, considering I’m the only person who works here” . . . Watching Pete’s plan to fake his own death slowly unfold was delightful . . . “Why would a guy planning to fake his death DEPOSIT 70 dollars?!?” . . . The “Grizz & Herz” scene was pretty much the reason I watch television . . . Tracy promising Grizz a million dollars, and promising Dot Com $20,000 . . . “And, when that sandwich slides out of you in a week—LOOK AT IT. Because that is Lutz’ revenge” . . . Tracy going back to his Pat Benatar roots . . . Cupcake sandwich . . . “I was thinking about what you said earlier: How people get sloppy when they fake their own deaths” “YOU said that” . . . Hamlet the mini-pig goes downstairs . . . “DON GOES TO WORK FOR PEGGY!!!” . . . “I could totally be a professional boat model” . . . “That’s our show. Not a lot of people watched it. But the joke’s on you: We got paid anyway” . . . “Good God, Lemon, I just figured it all out! I’m turning around! CLEAR DISHWASHERS!” . . . The “One Year Later” montage was great. I wonder how many people got the “St. Elsewhere” reference.
Non-good Stuff: That Conan scene was very obvious greenscreen. Just looked a little cheap, and it’s hard to figure why they would need greenscreen for that scene. Unless they filmed Tina Fey and Conan separately due to Conan’s schedule. Anyway . . . The Liz / Tracy goodbye reminded me a lot of a conversation between B. J. and Hawkeye on the last episode of M*A*S*H . . . I was surprised there weren’t a few more folks in the mix, like Josh, Hazel, and Danny. They were all pretty important for major stretches of the show’s history. And, for a show that loves going meta fairly often (and did so tonight), I was also surprised we didn’t see Rachel Dratch.
Line of the Night: “He’s in a really bad place. Like when Mickey Rourke . . . ok, I can’t do this anymore. I’ve never met Mickey Rourke.” – Jenna, through the fourth wall (and Liz turning around to see who Jenna was talking to was great).
Overall: You know, this was quite good . . . I’ll start by saying that . . . but there was a little bit of a sacrifice on the comedy side for the sake of sentimentality. I took issue with The Office when Michael Scott left, because, at a certain point, the characters weren’t characters anymore, they were just the actors. Here, something similar happened, albeit to a lesser extent. It’s also a little more forgivable because this is the last episode of a TV show ABOUT the last episode of a TV show, so it seemed less out-of-place. Having said that, sentimentality is fine, but it does detract just a tiny bit from the laughter. There was still plenty of that, however. I don’t think this episode (or two episodes) was (were) among the very funniest in the history of this great series, but it (they) also didn’t disappoint. Perhaps the best part was being able to make sure so many of the superb supporting characters were able to take part, including Dot Com, Grizz, Cerie, the Pranksmen, and Sue. This was, in short, a fitting end to one of the better sitcoms in television history.
The Office (NBC) – “Junior Salesman”
Tonight’s Episode: Dwight is given the responsibility of hiring a junior salesman to take Jim’s place.
Good Stuff: “Hey, boom guy. When are you gonna ‘boom’ me?” . . . “Uhhh…Remind me not to lend YOU any dead cows or horses” . . . “He’ll make you laugh so hard, you’ll puke your pants” . . . “I chose my words VERY carefully” . . . Jim explaining his Athlead partners’ plan to get him to ask the boss of the company he’s abandoning to give them a huge influx of cash is Jim at his best . . . “He loves to jump on people, that Trevor” . . . “It’s just a classic no-win situation…so I’d ‘Kobayashi Maru’ it” . . . “Meredith, I tell you all the time” . . . “EVERYONE was in the shower” . . . Dwight attending a con man’s fake X-Men school . . . “We can’t blame a weirdo for bringing in weirdos. We CAN blame a normal for creating a situation where a weirdo is allowed to bring in weirdos!” . . . “Do we get our resumes back, or do you keep them? Because I only have the one, and I have a chili recipe on the back that I really want to keep” . . . Creed joins the impromptu paintball game . . . Dwight trying to suffocate Dwight, Jr.
Non-good Stuff: Again with the Brian stuff. This is a bad, bad decision . . . And then another shot of Brian as Jim says that staring at Pam all those years caused him to fall in love.
Line of the Night: “You put in 12 grueling weeks at a company, and what do they do? They make you compete for a promotion…like an animal! You know, I thought this was an office, not the Thunderdome!” – Clark. Now that’s what I call the “voice of a generation.”
Overall: The Brian storyline is going exactly as I predicted (feared) last week. He’s a love interest ex machina who has been retconned as having been around since day one (off-camera, of course). The hell with that. I hope fans of the series like this direction. Because I don’t, and, in a series that has had several potential JTS moments, this surely has to be the final, indisputable one. Otherwise, this episode was just so-so.
The Office (NBC) – “Vandalism”
Tonight’s Episode: Dwight and Nellie help Pam track down the vandal who defaced her mural; Darryl and Jim are at odds over cleanliness; Kevin and Oscar attend Angela’s son’s first birthday party.
Good Stuff: Erin’s jumping jacks . . . Bearryl . . . Creed flying a kite in the office . . . Meredith’s wigs are a fun running gag . . . Erin not following Pam’s explanation of what happened to the mural . . . “If there’s anything I hate worse than art…it’s crime” . . . “Ugh. What is it? I have vengeance to exact” . . . “Incorrect. It is my fetish” . . . I liked that painting of Angela . . . “It’s cool. Reading’s tricky sometimes” . . . “Today, she has tapped into this vengeful, violent side, and I’m like ‘wow…Pam has a good butt’” . . . “But my only crime was loving the local sports teams and trying to be one of the guys!” . . . Pam’s painting on Frank’s truck was very entertaining.
Non-good Stuff: Given how emotional Pam got last week, I felt like her reaction to the mural being vandalized wasn’t sad enough . . . I cannot explain how much I think this boom mic guy plot element is a mistake . . . I’m halfway through this episode, and, if Brian turns out to be the vandal, I might be out . . . Ok, bullet dodged . . . Nope, this is even worse. Now he’s using the boom mic as a weapon. This is horrible.
Line of the Night: “Uh, 6783 is also a good time. Less mileage” – Creed
Overall: Saw the Brian fighting vandal thing coming a mile a way once they had Frank (a/k/a Bram from Lost) be the culprit. This is an unfortunate turn of events for this series. Otherwise, there were some funny bits elsewhere, especially a couple of good moments from Creed. The Jim / Darryl stuff turned out better than I would have expected as well. Absent the Brian garbage, this would have been a solid B-plus or A-minus. But, here’s the deal: I’m now rooting for Pam to end up with the boom operator. Have Jim’s business go under. Hell, have Dunder-Mifflin go under as well. Also, have Dwight die in some kind of non-humorous accident before the finale. I say they just go all the way and flat-out antagonize fans as much as possible. We’re already halfway to a train wreck as it is. Borrowing a storyline from Real World: Seattle isn’t enough. Let’s really commit to blowing up this show on the way out! Make the last season of Roseanne look like the last season of Newhart! We can do it if we really pull together, people!
Archer (FX) – “Legs”
Tonight’s Episode: Krieger comes up with a possible way to restore Ray’s ability to walk.
Good Stuff: “And, good morning medical bills. Oh! And your friend, crippling debt” . . . “I don’t know, we’ll say ‘B’ was ‘shut up’” . . . “But now it requires literal legwork, Ray, like walking and maybe running. Although hopefully not running, because I’ll be in brand-new shoes” . . . “Me too!” . . . . . . “I have to say, it kind of worries me you don’t know the names of the actual bones” . . . Conway callback . . . “Seriously?” “SARCASTICALLY!” . . . “Is it Halloween already?” “I DON’T KNOW!” . . . “Grover Cleveland called, he wants his watch back….He left two, non-consecutive messages” . . . The flashback scene, as usual, was fantastic . . . “JESUS CHRIST! How many times do I have to apologize for that?!?” “Once would be nice!” “Mmmm…no” . . . “I’m just gonna say it…I think it’s SUPER creepy you get sexually aroused by physical violence.” “Mmmmmmm…well, but also emotional violence!” . . . “You mean ‘mince?’” . . . “Just like Fourth of Ju-luau.”
Non-good Stuff: Eh. I understand they were going for shock value by showing Ray’s bathroom routine, but I think I could have done without it.
Lines of the Night:
KRIEGER: “For one thing, Katya wasn’t completely dead.”
RAY: “Just ‘pretty dead?’”
KRIEGER: “SO pretty . . . . . . . . . . ”
Overall: The Archer episodes that usually work best are the ones that have a very focused primary plot and are able to get everyone in the primary cast involved without being contrived. This episode hit all those marks. It even had a couple of nice callbacks from years earlier. The dialogue was tight, as was the plot. The ultimate outcome was also to restore Ray to full functionality (which I’m guessing won’t always be the case, naturally). Very good show.
Final Thoughts: Archer and 30 Rock were both strong this week. Archer might have had a higher rate of laughs, thanks to a few moments when 30 Rock delved into sentimentality. However, the highest highs—and the night—belonged to the NBC sitcom taking its final bow. It was a very close race, and I have a good feeling about this season of Archer, but 30 Rock wins for the second week in a row in its final night of SitCombat competition. Meanwhile, The Office is spiraling out of control, and I hope it either snaps back on track, or just gets exponentially worse until it’s unwatchable.
WINNER: 30 Rock (retains title; retires with the belt)