October 19 is my birthday, so I'm pulling a Ferris and taking Friday off. (Playing the role of Cameron: my daughter.) I wrote my "Mad Men" and "Friday Night Lights" reviews in advance, so those should be posted close to on time (if either one's delayed here, check the NJ.com blog, which allows me to auto-schedule posts), and I'm going to deal with "The Office" and "30 Rock" really quickly right now. Spoilers coming up just as soon as I make a reservation under the name Abe Froman...
Paul Lieberstein, who plays the most melancholy character on "The Office" in Toby, writes and directs a very melancholy episode that I found oddly compelling in a way that none of the previous three were, even though I would argue all of those were funnier, minute-to-minute. Lieberstein really understands what makes these characters tick, so while Michael's second job and money problems or Dwight literally moaning over Angela weren't gut-bustingly funny the way the DVD screensaver gag or the Alfredo's Pizza Cafe/Pizza By Alfredo gag were, I felt invested throughout. And by the time Jan gave Michael the pep talk in the train yard and Jim opened up to Dwight about heartbreak -- and then professed his love of Pam/Italian food -- I was genuinely touched.
Which isn't to say there was no comedy here, just of a lower-key variety, like Michael pointing out to Ryan that he wasn't going to figure out the Power Point presentation even if he didn't have the second job, Kelly being baffled by Darryl's straight talk, the protracted "whoever" vs. "whomever" debate, or Kevin telling Michael to call someone in the mob for gambling advice. Also, any episode in which Michael can cogently explain why the original "Die Hard" was much better than the fourth gets major bonus points from me.
Meanwhile, any "30 Rock" episode that comes out and makes the obvious but brilliant Jack Donaghy/Tim Donaghy joke automatically gets a pass from me. Fortunately, there was some other brilliant stuff in there, including Kenneth's reaction to Jenna licking his face, Steve Buscemi saying of Jack's cookie jar collection, "You wish it was a gay thing!," Angie explaining that Tracy wouldn't play Obama because "we support Kucinich," or Jack explaining that "businesswoman" isn't a word. They still haven't knocked one out of the park yet this season, but they've made me laugh a lot.
What did everybody else think?