“The Office” has churned through essentially every imaginable station of sitcom-related public opinion. It has been the ill-advised adaptation of a British classic; the clear and tired rehashing of something we’ve already seen; the surprisingly solid, decent-but-not-great sitcom missing a few pieces; the very, very good sitcom built around a likable burgeoning movie star; the great sitcom of the moment; the show that is on the decline; the sad, former shadow of its former self; the beloved institution; and, finally, the show we’re going to miss, even if we stopped caring about it a few years back. Continue reading
As everyone expected, NBC renewed “30 Rock” for an abbreviated final season: 13 episodes and then it’s off to TV Heaven to hang out with “Cheers” and “Newhart” and…what’s that? “‘Til Death”? How’d you get up there? Anyway, “30 Rock” has regained some of its old form in its current sixth season. I think a shortened season is actually better for an older show like this, because they can focus on those 13 scripts and not have to stretch to fill out a 22 episode order. But are there even any “30 Rock” writers left to help Tina Fey? I sure hope so.
Meanwhile, “The Office” is probably going to get renewed. Ed Helms, Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski are about to resign for one more season, so we can expect one final year for that show.
And no, we don’t know anything about “Community” or “Parks and Recreation” yet, which is AWESOME. We all have faith that NBC will bring back those low-rated, critically-acclaimed, endlessly-amazing shows, because we have to have that faith, because considering the alternative would be downright painful. The season (SEASON) finale of “Parks and Recreation” airs tonight, by the way, in case you happen to have 15 million Nielsen boxes available.
There really isn’t a whole hell of a lot to say about Steve Carell’s last episode of “The Office.” All in all, “Goodbye, Michael” was a perfect (extended) episode. Hats off to Steve Carell, Paul Feig, Greg Daniels and the rest of the cast and crew for their work. Carell is obviously always great, but Daniels’s script was something of a wonder to behold; subtle at some points, unexpected at others, full of big and small character moments and somehow fusing catharsis with uncertainty, humor and pathos. This would have been an exceedingly effective series finale (which, for all intents and purposes, it sort of was). It’s funny watching this and thinking about how just five years ago, fans of the show weren’t guaranteed another season, let alone five more and counting. Anyway: Perfect episode. You can watch it here.
Steve Carell leaves “The Office” tonight, as you have undoubtedly heard. This has allowed the Internet a chance to honor Carell, who by all accounts is that rare star: talented, humble and effortlessly normal. Carell’s departure is worthwhile and I will touch on that, but what a lot of people are forgetting is that”The Office” as we know it is ending.
Yes, “The Office” will continue for a few more episodes this season and onto the next one. But nobody knows quite how it’ll look when the 2011-2012 season kicks off, because NBC has yet to reveal who, if anybody, will be taking Carell’s place as manager of the show’s workplace. Oodles of famous names have been bandied about, but it’s entirely possible they will hire none of them and simply work with what they have.
That the show has a strong enough ensemble to very likely evolve and thrive next season without Carell says nothing bad about him. It’s simply an obvious fact to many viewers that “The Office” has become stagnant. The show that was, for the first few years, so unpredictable and smart and funny and touching and surprising has instead become a show that’s still smart, still funny, still touching, only in the same way it has been for seven seasons now, the way that feels comfortable and familiar, the way that we expect from a show we know so well. Carell is not and was not the problem, but the notion of jettisoning his character and either parachuting in someone new (injecting a new comic energy into the proceedings) or simply reorganizing the desks allows the show something it has not had since 2005: a chance to discover itself.
Good news, everyone! “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Community” have all been renewed for the 2011-2012 season. “The Office” was widely assumed, because everybody involved with that show has been talking all season about prepping for Life After Steve Carell. “Parks and Recreation” was a reasonable pickup, because the show pairs so well with “The Office” and has been getting perfectly decent ratings. “Community” was in a bit more danger, because that 8 p.m. timeslot has been killer (up against “The Big Bang Theory” and “American Idol”), but I’m extremely glad NBC decided to go with known, great quantities for next season. It’s also swell they took care of this now, rather than making us wait until May. (“30 Rock” was renewed in November.)
Meanwhile, “Outsourced” sits by the phone.
Good news, everyone! NBC’s very good comedy lineup (consisting of high-quality shows “Community,” “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” and “30 Rock,” we’ll-see-what-it-turns-into “Perfect Couples” and 30-Minute Violation of the Geneva Conventions “Outsourced”) premiered last night. And the ratings were pretty decent! Especially considering it was up against the singing show featuring the reanimated carcass of Steven Tyler and the wreckage of Jennifer Lopez’s stint as a movie star.
“Community” was up 16 percent and tied its second-strongest episode this season; “The Office” hit a season high and was up 22 percent; “Parks and Rec” hit a series high; and “30 Rock” was up 29 percent from its last episode. (“Outsourced” fell 28 percent without the cushy “Office” lead-in, hitting a series low.)
“The Office” was the night’s winner for NBC with 8.2 million viewers, and “Parks and Rec” only dropped a quarter of that lead-in with 6.18 million viewers (and in the crucial 18-to-49 age bracket, “Parks and Rec” was tied for 2nd in the timeslot behind “Bones”).
Now we begin the process of mildly worrying about whether or not viewers who checked out the premiere of “Parks and Recreation” will return for the second episode.
Oscar (Oscar Nunez), one of the three accountants, is a cartoon gay man. He’s fussy, prissy, aesthetic, and cruel — a sketch of a certain type of homosexual drawn by writers who seem to know the type at which they’re aiming…. While Kelly can take her coworkers to a Diwali celebration and still retain Kelly-ness, to be Oscar is to be a double helix of other, a racial minority compounded with homosexuality, the strangest trait the ‘Office’ writers could possibly imagine.
— From a very interesting look at the way “The Office” handles Oscar, the show’s only gay character.
When “The Apprentice” wraps up for this season, NBC will have to find something else to be the lowest-rated show on Thursdays at 10 p.m. Interestingly, they’re considering moving “30 Rock” to the 10 p.m. slot. It would be followed at 10:30 p.m. by “Outsourced,” perhaps accepting that nobody who watches NBC’s legitimately great comedies should have to sit through that root canal of a comedy. “Community” and “The Office” would remain in place, while new sitcom “Perfect Couples” and Best Sitcom On Television “Parks and Recreation” would get nestled into the 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. slots.
It’s an interesting idea, doubling down on three hours of comedy rather than just dropping a staid one-hour drama into the slot (like their other option, putting some “Law & Order” show there). Movieline thinks this is stupid because the network is doing the same thing they did last year, when they put Leno on at 10. Their argument — that the Leno thing showed people like comedy at 8 and 9 and serious stuff at 10 — is pretty stupid. People aren’t opposed to comedy at 10 p.m.; they’re opposed to bad comedy, which was was why Leno’s show failed. Putting a show with an entrenched fan base (“30 Rock”) that would get DVR’d like the dickens would be further proof that timeslots are irrelevant nowadays; people who watch “30 Rock” would watch it if it aired at 10 p.m. or at 4:37 a.m. on Saturday mornings.
Me, I like the idea. NBC has four of the six best sitcoms on television; why not put them all on one night (even buffered by “Outsourced” and whatever “Perfect Couples” ends up being)? Why not take advantage of built-in fan bases? Plus, anything that gets “Park and Recreation” back on the air is okay with me.
Last season, NBC seemingly aired the best two hour comedy block they’ve had since…well, ever. (Don’t let your nostalgia for the mid-’90s heyday of “Seinfeld”/”Friends” fool you. There was always one “Caroline in the City” or “Suddenly Susan” wedged in there, both to reap the benefits of the bigger hits and to make “Friends” look even better by comparison.) It was almost astonishing: four different shows, all with different energies and strengths, all airing one after another.
So, clearly, NBC had to find a way to screw that up posthaste. “Parks and Rec” gets booted to the midseason, and they plop “Outsourced” at the end of the block. Which is fine, because as long as it’s safely ensconced at 9:30 p.m. until its mid-November cancellation, we can safely watch the first three-quarters of the comedy block without being subjected to a rhythm-breaking encounter with Anti-Comedy.
[And, by the way, by sheer force of lethargy, I did watch the beginning of “Outsourced.” Just to give it a shot. Did you know Indian people sometimes have different names than Amurricans? Did you know they like cows in India? Did you know Indian food could cause gastrointestinal distress? If not, this is the show for you. I’m assuming it didn’t do a 180 in the second half and turn into a latter-day “Cheers,” right? Because wow.]
After the jump, some quick thoughts on the three remaining gems NBC somehow hasn’t screwed up (yet):