Friday, January 16, 2009

The Office, "Duel" & 30 Rock, "Flu Shot": Silent but deadly

I realize I not only buried the lead in my earlier post, I left it out altogether by neglecting to mention that NBC renewed "The Office" and "30 Rock" (and, for that matter, "Biggest Loser") for next season. In the spirit of the joint renewal -- and because I'm in the late stages of press tour brain melt -- I'm going to review both of last night's episodes quickly in the same post, just as soon as I get my compound bow...

Jen Celotta, who runs "The Office" these days with Paul Lieberstein, brings the Dwight/Angela/Andy triangle to an effective close with an episode that's part farce, part dark pathos. Despite Andy being a tool, Angela becoming pure evil and Dwight being Dwight, I really did feel for them all by the end. Okay, maybe not Angela, but the other two for sure. And along the way, we got some big laughs, most notably Oscar's horrified demand (complete with breaking voice) to know exactly where in the office Dwight and Angela had sex, followed by Dwight smugly telling him, "Seems ike you already know where."

If there was a disappointment, it's that the idea of David Wallace trying to learn from Michael seemed underdeveloped. That could have been an entire episode right there, or at least the A-story in an episode with a less important story for the supporting cast, and instead it didn't get enough time to really work. Michael's stream of consciousness "improversation" about his management philosophy was funny, but I wanted to see a lot more of David trying his darndest to take Michael seriously.

"30 Rock," on the other hand, was another disappointment. Even the long-awaited return of Dr. Spaceman wasn't as funny or ridiculous as it could have been, and the Jack/Salma Hayek story felt like something out of a bad '80s sitcom -- and not even the "30 Rock" take on a bad '80s sitcom episode.

"30 Rock" always has great throwaway moments -- my favorite here was Kenneth suggesting that Tracy get the soup himself, and Tracy retorting, "With what? My arms?" -- but there weren't enough to compensate for a couple of lame stories.

What did everybody else think?

42 comments:

Myles said...

I think that we need to discuss the "Spaceman Variable": I thought that his scenes, and a few of the scattered callbacks throughout the episode (Liz at Dunkin Donuts), were very noticeably elevating the episode, and I think that it kind of masks the fact that this is a really complacent and listless half hour in a season when critics are swimming in exciting news about the future and there's all sorts of new shows premiering which offer a stark contrast.

But more or less I agree: I thought (and blogged) that The Office was good in terms of resolution if not in terms of filler, and 30 Rock had its moments but more or less fell apart in terms of its basic loglines. They need to stop giving Jack non-work related storylines, dangit.

Gary said...

That isn't what a logline is.

________________________________

I loved The Office and consider it the best episode of this season so far. 30 Rock was not as good as some other 30 Rocks but I have to declare I didn't dislike the episode at all, it's just I know it can be better.

Byron said...

Some commenter at AV Club guessed that Stringer Bell is going to be at the Scranton branch to figure out what Michael is doing right. That makes sense to me.

Omagus said...

The Office almost seemed like two separate episodes. I was cracking up hysterically at all the stuff that was going on at the Scranton branch but I was barely paying attention to the events at corporate.

I did love the bit with the entire Scranton branch seeing who could run the fastest.

Janslike said...

Honestly, I'm not surprised Scranton is doing so well. In my eyes Michael is a Mr. Magoo of sort. Despite the searing hot lava below, some girder will come along and act as a bridge to safety.

Medusa said...

I found "The Office" episode to be almost unwatchable. I guess I've never really understood why Angela was dating Andy (she seemed to barely contain her hatred around him) so have no real investment in whether "these kids can work this out."

For me, it became even more senseless when everyone in the office learned of her cheating on him - if her only reason for dating Andy is the standing she'll get from being married and in a nice "normal" (to outsiders) relationship (vs. a public relationship with Dwight, with all his eccentricities), then once that illusion is shattered, why is she keeping up the pretense? Is this really the woman who let Dwight be fired rather than admit they had a relationship? Now she's coming to work, facing the ridicule of people like Kevin, and seems pretty much okay with it?

I also never understood why Andy stayed with her, after the initial thrill of the conquest was over, and he was stuck with a woman who basically abused him and denied him any intimacy. The entire thing made him more of a punchline than a character (not that he really ever was much of the latter.) The best Andy episode this season was the one where he and Oscar bonded in Canada - and it worked because Andy was rebelling against the box his character had been written into.

I guess the other part of it is I refuse to believe that any office can keep a secret like that for 17 days. Remember how quickly Darryl got the picture of Jan and Michael on vacation out to thousands?

I did laugh, though, when Meredith called "dibs" on the runner-up.

Anonymous said...

i though tonight's OFFICE was just about perfect. Loved the OFFICE stuff. Hate Angela. Bitch deserved to get got. LOVED Meradith's line about two guys fighting over who gets to hold the camera and Creed's "You're Welcome!"

30 Rock: Best moment? Liz dancing for her shot. Very funny stuff.

Anonymous said...

I love The Office, but the Dwight/Angela/Andy storyline has dragged on forever. They wrote themselves into a corner with it and got out the only somewhat logical way, with neither guy wanting to be with Angela. As Medusa pointed out, Angela stopped behaving in a way that was logical to her character---she would never want to be viewed the way everyone viewed her after it came out she was cheating, yet it seemed she had no problem with it. There were a few funny lines in the episode but that storyline has long since failed in the "drama" department so I was just glad it was over.

Myles said...

That isn't what a logline is.

Perhaps it is the wrong word, then, but I think it works: "Liz is concerned about being ill and justifying ; Jack struggles to find time to spend with his busy new girlfriend; Tracy and Jenna do nothing of value and hijinx ensue."

30 Rock is often most unconvincing when the basic setups reek of, as Alan mentions, the formulaic 80s sitcom structures; they might work because of some small scale execution, but if the general idea is without much ingenuity it can be kind of tough to watch.

Indeed said...

I think that might have been one of the worst 30 Rock I've seen. As much as I love the show, I do find it is one of the biggest hit or miss shows out there and when it doesn't work it really doesn't work. The Jack storyline was particularly painful.
But Alan - I'm glad you pointed out Tracey's "What, with my arms?" line. That had my laughing so hard. I think Tracey Morgan's been the VIP this season.

No. 6 said...

I'm a little shocked everyone hated 30 Rock so much. I thought it was a great episode. The humor was a little broader than usual but it worked for me. The zombie sequence straight out of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, "Mr. Templeton" performed by Michael Buble (who I usually can't stand), some great Tracy/Jenna work and the continuing mentoring of Liz by Jack - it was the best one of the season so far.

lungfish said...

I didn't realize the Mr. Templeton song was performed by Buble. That's a pretty funny callback to last week's episode in which Salma Hayek remarks about Jack's CD collection ("I never knew Michael Buble put out so many albums").

Bryan said...

With the exception of "I've got it" "give it to me it's mine!" (Tracy Jordan can do the phonebook funny right now)I thought 30 Rock was very VERY weak. On the other hand The Office was just terrific I thought. Andy trying to "push" Dwight to death into the hedges was perfect and perfectly executed.

Laura said...

Both episodes were a bit unbalanced, I thought. I adored Michael Buble's "Mr. Templeton" song and Liz's dance for Dr. Spaceman, as well as Andy running Dwight into the hedge ("The Prius is silent when it goes under 5 miles an hour!") but the Salma Hayek and corporate story lines really dragged. To agree with another commenter, I rarely dislike episodes from either of these shows, but I know they're capable of doing better.

Anonymous said...

Other than a few of Tracy's non sequitors and Liz Lemon dancing for drugs, 30 Rock was weak.

Stacey said...

Did anyone else thing that Michael's 'improversation' was kind of a rip-off on Fred Armisen's Nicholas Fein Reads the Headlines bit on Weekend Update?

Justin said...

For me, any sitcommyness of the Jack plot was offset by Mr. Templeton's rantings: "He made me watch a giraffe with a man's legs! He ate a plate of fire!"

And Tracy's response to Kenneth saying they'd have to remember their staff IDs ("That's the worst part!) had me rolling, but I'm officially declaring a moratorium on any plotline that resolves with Tracy and/or Jenna dressing up in costume, unless it's specifically for a TGS sketch (like last week's Janet Joppler). Who's with me?

Anonymous said...

I am a math guy. Let me explain how the Transitive Property will be used at this year's Emmy's.

"We love Tina's impressinon of Sarah Palin. Let's transition that love to 30 Rock for Best Comedy of the year even though its new season has dropped in quality."

The Transitive Property at the Emmy's.

K J Gillenwater said...

Loved The Office. I, too, will say it was the best this season so far...I was laughing out loud...so many times, I had to pause the Tivo before I could finish watching.

Angela is basically not human to me. She's always loved herself more than anyone else, and cats will always come 2nd in her world, with people a distant, distant 3rd.

She liked having the attention of two men, even is she was quite disgusted with both of them, I think. She didn't care that one or both might get hurt with the 'dueling.'

The Oscar bit KILLED me. As did Meredith's declaration about men fighting over her, the way Jim tried to keep order in the office, everything.

"30 Rock" was pretty terrible. Although I liked the swimsuit Liz bought (what was it called again? someone???) that Judi Dench's *mother* wore! So so funny. And her hope of having an affair with the Filipino guy at the resort. Oh, and the song...heh, heh. Funny stuff.

ZeppJets said...

Am I wrong, or was the running "Puerto Rican" gag recycled from (I think) Diversity Day - when Michael wants to call Oscar "something less harsh" than "Mexican"?

Paul said...

On the whole I thought both episodes were not their finest. Was anyone taken aback by Jim's inability to manage the branch with Michael gone? Perhaps Michael is, in fact, integral to the Scranton branch running smoothly. Look at the chaos that transpired with him gone (though he was significantly to blame by dropping that bomb and then driving off).

Brian J said...

I envisioned a plot line similar to the one last night about David Wallace being impressed that Michael was actually making the Scranton branch better than the others during the recession. Perhaps it's part of a smaller story arc that will play out over several episodes, but if not, I agree that it wasn't as good as it could have been. Imagine if Michael told a story about how he went to the warehouse late one night to deliver some supplies to a client who then became a regular purchaser and ordered more and more. If the episode had ended with a tale of dedicated service like that, then it would have been satisfying.

I will say this, though: it did fit nicely in with the unstated idea that whatever Michael's faults are, he's actually doing a pretty good job for the company, and that's why he's there.

"30 Rock" was pretty goofy, but I liked it. It didn't seem like the sort of episode that would be listed as a gold standard for the show, but that's okay.

Brian J said...

"Angela is basically not human to me. She's always loved herself more than anyone else, and cats will always come 2nd in her world, with people a distant, distant 3rd."

I think this explains why Angela has acted the way she acts. She's definitely the judgmental type, but like a lot of people with that strong trait, it evaporates completely when it comes to herself.

I guess I can agree that the story line between the three was starting to wear itself out, but I thought it was wrapped up, at least for now, in a good way. I'll be interested to see if Angela becomes the office pariah or if it's just dropped.

Bryan said...

Nobody could manage that office after what Michael did. Jim is second in comand but has no power. All he could do is what he did - go behind Dwight and pick up all his weapons ("there's metal star under the break table") -

Anonymous said...

I noticed that last night that Alec Baldwin was listed as a producer on 30 Rock. When did that happen? Or am I really behind on this one?

Ben Vyle said...

I thought 30 Rock was really funny this week. The problem was, the best bits about 30 Rock were the interaction with minor characters, but the show has dropped that for Kenneth and Jack screen time.

Don't get me wrong, I adore Alex Baldwin, but it seemed to me the reason Season 1 was so good was because we got 50% minor players (Frank, Toofer, Cerie) and 50% Liz Jack et al.

Has anyone noticed we haven't seen a SINGLE shot of the writer's room this season, and yet an awful lot of Jack's office???

Steve said...

I LOVED The Office this week. The "like an improv conversation" line was incredible and represents the reason I love the show so much.

I loved the radar gag, as well as the Prius bit. It was also nice to see typical Kevin say "I'm sorry I did such a whorish job on the..."

I can't wait for Stringer Bell.

On 30 Rock. Though not the best episode I have ever seen, I still enjoyed and laughed at several moments.

- I loved Spacemen making Jack drop his pants for the shot, and making Liz dance for hers.

- The Buble song was subtle and an added bonus.

- I liked the old guy's line about Jack being in prison and owning a railroad because they were playing monopoly.

- Though the Puerto Rican bit was similar to Oscar's Mexican bit, the execution of the callbacks throughout the show was typical Baldwin gold

- I loved when the blond forgot to hit send to Liz about her cancelled vacation, and then sent it to her when they were talking to each other.

- I liked the soup bit

- I want to see more of the writers.

KB said...

30 Rock was hilarious! All of Tracy's lines, Spaceman, sick Kenneth, the zombie stuff, Liz hitting Pete, the old man talking at the end, and the Puerto Rican jokes were all great.

I agree that The Office was even better. Very strong episode with several nice little touches like Dwight's bobble-head signal. Great way for the show to start the new year.

dronkmunk said...

"It's like an improv-conversation. An Improv-isation." Roffle.

DolphinFan said...

Thoughts on both shows, starting with THE OFFICE:
I agree with Brian J. Angela's a textbook hypocrite, and to me the best part of that storyline wasn't her being kicked to the curb by both Andy and Dwight; the highlight came when she criticized Kevin for a work error and then got BLASTED with his comments and had to hide behind her headphones. She's lost any semblance of moral superiority, and I think we can say (at this point, not knowing what the next story steps are) that Phyllis officially kicked Angela's ass, took a deep breath, and then kicked it again.
Nice little dig by having David Wallace specifically say that the Utica branch was struggling. How could THAT happen? They have the non-idiotic, non-burdened by Jim's love for Pam boss there! Curious!
Speaking of Jim, this was a much more interesting take on him as a forced leader than the Jim-as-Michael story from "Survivor Man". He made it clear Andy and Dwight couldn't fight directly in the office, checked to confirm Dwight hadn't been badly hurt, and confiscated Dwight's weapons. Better material than having him mad for no real reason at Toby--maybe that's why the HR guy wasn't around for this story.
As for "30 Rock", the whole flu shot story was kind of undercut because it's way too late to take them in mid-January and that the shots take several weeks to take hold after injection. But Liz's beach fantasies (especially Oscar the sandwich turtle), Dr. Spaceman's unabashed idiotic cruelty, Tracy and Jenna being even more stupid and worthless as a duo than they were as adversaries, and most of all the Dunkin' Donuts flashback meant I liked the episode anyway.

samuel.x.killer said...

RE: Michael's management skills - one of the things I've loved about the US version of THE OFFICE is that Michael is a competent businessman, he just has, as Wallace says, "unorthodox" ways. That he can be the character he is yet run a successful company is something I love. I wish that his rambling "rule to live by" had been focused to what he always says - that it's about taking care of the people, even though he doesn't really take care of him (though in his defense, after dropping the bomb and driving away, things resolved themselves so that the office environment as it was is preserved).

RE: 30 ROCK - the plots always feel somewhat recycled to me, though recycled in an original way. I enjoy Salma on the show and think she's great with Jack (though where was his mom??? probably can't afford two huge stars an episode) Anyways, Liz is always endearing when she tries to get people to like her and then ultimately fails. The zombie homage was fun, especially with Pete "turning" sick. Not its best show, but I'll take 30 ROCK on a bad day over most everything else (except THE OFFICE on a good day like yesterday!)

dronkmunk said...

Amy Ryan to return to The Office.

http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2009/01/exclusive-amy-r.html

dez said...

Jim is second in comand but has no power. All he could do is what he did - go behind Dwight and pick up all his weapons ("there's metal star under the break table") -


And make some very awesome reaction faces. I also thought it was funny that Pam seemed concerned about Andy running over Dwight at first, but then seemed fascinated (albeit in a horrified way) by what was happening in the parking lot.

I couldn't stand Chris Parnell on SNL, but his Dr. Spaceman kills me every time. I'm going to have to rethink my dislike for him.

Stylist Mick said...

At this point, I'd agree with a reviewer from last season's batch of post strike episodes that said 30 Rock was a live action Family Guy. The side jokes killed (Kenneth and his Parcel men honorable death; anything Tracy said; Spaceman) while most of the plot seemed weak by comparison. Nothing wrong with that at all as long as the writers continue with the stupidity of Tracy having no clue how to get soup or finally ending montage sequences for shopping.

Mike said...

Nobody in America gets finer medical coverage than union stagehands. Those guys would never be wanting for flu shots.

SoCal said...

Any episode with Cerie is a good episode in my book...but then again i'm a 25 year old dude, so i might be a little biased.

Jeff said...

Coming late to the party...

The corporate stuff with Michael was so obviously a plot device because Michael couldn't be in the middle of the Andy-Angela-Dwight mess... and since you can't really do an ep without Carrell, they had to do *something*.

I did like Wallace's "Oh, just finish up" when Michael didn't leave after the meeting was over.

I don't know why everyone's so down on 30 Rock. Last week and this I've laughed just as much as before with the show. Sure, Salma might not be the funniest gal around, but she's not really hired to be, is she? Seems she's there to fill out a dress, provide a little ethnic color and lend a little "Academy Ward nominee" cred/starpower to the show.

Mr. Templeton was a winner all the way around from Buble (and Jeff Richmond?) to the bizarre recapping of the evening's events -- all a winner.

Some things did feel dumb -- Cerie's texting mishap the most egregious -- abd if I have to se one more actor spit out condensed milk or mushroom soup it'll be too soon. Enough with the vomiting! Not funny! Cheap! Plot devicey things -- why did Liz remove the sweatjacket? -- have to be forgiven because we know they have to happen.

None of these plots are Curb-Your-Enthusiasm-intricate that you can't see them coming a mile away... the joy is in how they get to their foregone conclusion.

But other bits gold -- Jack dropping his pants and getting the shot in the arm; Liz' dance for the shot, Zombie Lutz...

chrissie said...

Nobody's mentioned my favorite exchange of the night (from both shows):

Angela: "Pretty standard, nothing fancy."
Andy: "So, missionary?"
Angela: "I said nothing fancy."

Brian J said...

"Coming late to the party...

The corporate stuff with Michael was so obviously a plot device because Michael couldn't be in the middle of the Andy-Angela-Dwight mess... and since you can't really do an ep without Carrell, they had to do *something*."

Perhaps, as either here or somewhere else suggested, this was the first act of a plot line where the corporate offices try to figure out exactly what Michael is doing right. Couldn't this be where that guy from "The Wire" factors in?

I guess I mean to say that I gave faith in the people running this show. Even if one episode seems to stumble, the producers seem to have a good idea of where they want to take it.

dez said...

Mr. Templeton was a winner all the way around from Buble (and Jeff Richmond?) to the bizarre recapping of the evening's events -- all a winner.


Until I saw Buble's name at the end, I could have sworn that was Jonathan Richman. The song sure fit his sensibility!

anonymous sd said...

My favorite 30 Rock moment of the night is when Liz says "we've got to Fight the Powers that be" and after her supportive crowd reaction calls up the only other rap song she knows ... "Shoop". So funny.

As for the Office, I'm not sure why I watch it anymore, there are only glimpses of greatness anymore. I agree with a past commenter on this blog (or maybe it was Alan) who said they enjoy the episodes that are about the mundane office days.

Michael's "improversation" -- isn't that a reference to a UK Office episode when David Brent is asked his work philosophy and he just rambles on and on? Definitely reminded me of that.

Brent said...

I love 30 Rock, but I thought this episode was inexplicably lame. It's as though someone else wrote it. It was 'zany' in an uncomfortable Benny Hill sort of way, throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the audience and hoping something would make us laugh. A few things did, but I actually tuned out before the ending--which is the first time that's ever happened with me and a show I usually consider the smartest show currently on TV.