Hey all, it’s Scott Malchus. Last week, Emilia and I decided to take a look at NBC’s revamped Thursday night schedule. Hard to believe that the once proud peacock network, home of such acclaimed series as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Homicide: Life on the Streets and ER can’t come up with another great hour- long drama to plug into their Thursday night schedule, as they did for two decades. Last year’s debacle with Jay Leno at 10 PM each night, and last fall’s horrible showing of The Apprentice left the network scrambling to counter program against their foes on ABC, Fox and CBS. Hell, even the CW is starting to gain ground thanks to The Vampire Diaries. So what did they do? Why, they created a three hour block of comedy they hope will lure back viewers to NBC, the original home of “Must See TV.” Emilia watched The Office, Parks & Recreation and 30 Rock, while I took a look at Community, Perfect Couples and Outsourced.
Anyone who reads the site knows that there’s a strong fanbase for Community here at Popdose. What started as a fairly straight forward ensemble comedy about a corrupt lawyer attending community college and the study group he winds up in has evolved into one of the most inventive and adventurous half hours on television. It doesn’t receive the acclaim of shows like Modern Family or 30 Rock, but NBC has a real winner on its hands. The network has shown a lot of faith in the show having it start off their night of comedy, especially since it regularly gets trounced in the ratings by The Big Bang Theory. I have a feeling that DVR ratings help this show.
The first show back from the winter hiatus started off like your typical “welcome back” episode, but quickly devolved into a competition of who should be allowed to be the newest member in the study group. Annie (Alison Brie) wants her new crush (Greg Comer) to join. Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) is jealous and counters with Senor Chang (Ken Jeong). It appears that Chang doesn’t stand a chance, until Winger delivers one of his patented speeches that makes everyone look at Chang in a different light. After spending the first half of the season lobbying to be the 8th member of the Greendale study group, it looks like Chang may have finally gotten his wish.
Meanwhile, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) reveals that her husband, Andre (Malcolm-Jamal Warner), has returned in her life. Troy (Donald Glover) and Pierce (Chevy Chase) struggle to keep the secret that the baby Shirley is carrying is actually Chang’s and not Andre’s. It was nice to see Warner back on television. He has a very strong presence and the writers implied that we’ll be seeing more of him. I also appreciated the Cosby joke when Andre makes a comment about the sweater he’s wearing.
Overall it was a great episode to return with a surprise ending. The night started strong. And then…
Remember the dreaded post Friends slot, when NBC would hype a show for months and have it turn out to be a sub-par sitcom? My friends, say hello to this year’s The Single Guy. Perfect Couples is a series about three thirtysomething couples who are married or about to get married. You have the “normal couple”, Dave (Kyle Bornheimer, Worst Week) and Julia (Christine Woods, Flash Forward), who are down to earth and have a realistic married relationship; the “flighty, immature couple” of Vance (David Walton, Quarterlife) and Amy (Mary Elizabeth Ellis), and finally the uptight, “high maintenance” couple of Rex (Hayes MacArthur) and Leigh (Olivia Munn of Attack of the Show). The series is billed as a romantic comedy, but the show was definitely lacking in laughs.
The pilot episode centered around Vance and Amy’s latest breakup and how Vance leeches off of Dave and Julia, interrupting their wedding anniversary plans. Walton, Ellis, MacArthur and Munn were all “acting,” doing their best to sell their meager characters. Vance is a slacker dude, Amy is a loud mouth, Leigh is high strung and Rex is getting crushed under his wife’s thumb. The only appealing part of Perfect Couples was the chemistry between Bronheimer and Woods. If only the show was just about them, sort of a newer version of Mad About You, then the show would be worth giving a chance. Instead, everything about Perfect Couples feels retread. It’s been done better, even this year on ABC’s Better With You.
The Office has been hit or miss the past couple of seasons, but with the impending departure of Steve Carell from the show this spring, they’re pulling out all the stops. Most notably, they’ve brought back Holly Flax (The Wire’s Amy Ryan), the love of Michael’s life. Their reunion was less romantic than Michael was hoping because of her serious relationship with A.J., but his last shred of hope was the ultimatum that she gave A.J., that she either wanted to be engaged by New Year’s or they were over. In typical Michael fashion, he’s made videos and has favors prepared for whether it’s the best or worst day of his life. When Holly arrives, there’s no ring, but she hasn’t broken up with A.J. either. Michael goes through his ups and downs, the high being a dance off with himself through one of his videos. The low was insisting Kevin follow through with one of his own resolutions by forcing him to eat a head of broccoli.
There were a lot of great small moments in this episode, between the cold open of Dwight’s Knights of the Night neighborhood watch group, and Andy (Ed Helms), Dwight (Rainn Wilson), and Darryl (Craig Robinson) trying to meet loose women at the skating rink. Notably missing this episode was Jim (John Krasinski). But Holly and Michael’s story isn’t over yet, and it will be fun to see what all the writers have in store for Michael Scott before his grand finale.
Parks and Recreation is back for its third season, and the parks department of Pawnee, Indiana is back after having gone bankrupt. The show really hit its stride in the second season, and it’s certainly keeping that up in the premiere.It’s hard to imagine the show without the new characters who have come in to fix the government budget: the over-enthusiastic Chris (Rob Lowe) and the wunderkind-turned-slacker Ben (Adam Scott). Leslie (Amy Poehler) is determined to get the parks department back to its glory, beyond maintenance and a youth basketball league. But, she’s at the mercy of Chris’s budget decisions. So of course she hatches a plan for Ann (Rashida Jones) to go out with Chris (who only has great, or phenomenally great dates) and seduce him into giving the parks department the money. But, the plan starts to go awry when Ann starts to actually like Chris despite his emphatic love for everything. Leslie of course crashes the date, along with Ben, and naturally, they end up at the neighborhood gay bar. The truth comes out, and some damage is done, but Chris can easily be won back with apologies and moving speeches.
It was the throwaway moments throughout that really made the episode, like Ron Swanson’s (Nick Offerman) Pyramid of Greatness he uses when coaching the kids basketball team, and Andy (Chris Pratt) pouring Gatorade over himself in his team’s victory. As Andy tries to win back April (Aubrey Plaza), his adorable heart and lack of common sense is endearing, despite April having a boyfriend from Venezuela. The episode ends with a gamble to vault off the season: Leslie bets the entire parks department on the success of the annual Pawnee Harvest Festival. Of course hijinks will ensue, and Leslie will stumble along the way, but with its sharp dialogue, fast pace, quirky characters, and a lot of heart, I’d be happy to see her win or lose, as long as Parks and Recreation stays around a little longer.
There’s nothing like starting off a new year with an accidental marriage to your co-worker/dependent. In a hilarious misunderstanding involving a French minister and Liz (Tina Fey) wearing a men’s tennis shirt and government sanctioned head net while standing as Jack’s (Alec Baldwin) best man during his wedding to Avery (Elizabeth Banks), Jack and Liz got married. Although both horrified, Liz also sees this as an opportunity for leverage. With the impending NBC/Kabletown merger, Jack has been cutting corners by turning dressing rooms into IT companies, and renting out space for Bar Mitzvahs. Liz threatens not to grant the divorce unless she gets everything back for her show. It’s a battle of the wills between the two, and involves accidental mentions of slavery and cat rodeos at gay guys’ apartments. Their ultimate realization via HR survey is that Jack and Liz have the most meaningful relationship in each others lives as co-workers/friends/emergency contacts, far more meaningful than the bond of marriage.
The NBC jokes are incessant, and spot-on, referencing the dying network with pie charts that illuminate the importance of The Biggest Loser and the glory days of 1997. The subplots of the episode were good for a few laughs. Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and Danny (Cheyenne Jackson) have to share a dressing room and start bickering like an old married couple, with only Kenneth (Jack McBrayer) keeping them civil by acting like their child. Also, Tracy’s wife Angie (Sherri Shepherd) will have a reality show so absurd it would probably save NBC altogether. Perhaps the NBC execs should just watch more 30 Rock.
NBC surprised a lot of people by picking up more episodes of Outsourced, even though it was almost universally panned (I know, Mr. Harris, you liked it) and it routinely got trounced by (Shat) My Dad Says on CBS. I find it strange that having shown some patience with the show, they shoved it at the tail end of the night.
Outsourced should be so much better. Then again, any show on network television should be better. I mean, only the best writers get hired for these shows, right?
I have not watched a single episode between this one and the pilot and guess what, it’s only marginally better. The cast is likable, especially lead Ben Rappaport as Todd, the American shipped to India to oversee the Mid American Novelties call center. Yet, all of the charisma and talent of a great cast can’t hide mediocre writing.
The episode that completed NBC’s night of comedy centered around a amateur singing competition and Todd’s attempt to get his employee, Madhuri (Anisha Nagarajan), to enter. She has a lovely singing voice and Todd is sure that she’ll win. As sitcom fate would have it, Gupta (Parvesh Cheena), tries to steal the spotlight, only to freeze up once he’s on stage. A very lame B story involved Diedrich Bader’s Charlie trying to fix the call center’s phone lines because he’s unwilling to bribe the phone repairman. A laugh riot.
For a night of premieres and hype, you anticipate the network to put on their best episodes in hopes of luring back viewers. If this episode of Outsourced is the best that NBC has to offer, it’s no wonder CBS is the number one network on television.
Dear NBC, I implore you to make amends with Steven Bochco and John Wells, have them come up with another kick ass drama, return the Thursday night comedy block to the four you had on last year (Community, Parks & Rec, The Office and 30 Rock) and restore your Thursday nights to must see television.