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Friday Morning Melancholia: Was "30 Rock" Better Than "The Office"?

Fridays can sometimes be a little bit sad for me (granted, the end of the work week is always a plus), especially when The Office isn't quite up to par and when, after coming home from a very late-running work dinner, I wished that instead of watching both The Office and 30 Rock, I had just watched the latter.

Don't get me wrong. The Office on even an off night is still better than 99% of the comedies on television, but because of my love for Dunder-Mifflin I do expect a little more out of the writers and directors on this show. And last night's episode ("Cocktails") was a bit of a mess. Sadly, I do feel that a lot of the blame for that lays squarely on the shoulders of guest director J.J. Abrams (Lost) whose direction last night was as jarring as last week's Joss Whedon-directed installment was smooth.

It just didn't cut together fluidly and, surprisingly for someone with Abrams' talents, it looked awful at times. Take a gander at the daytime driving scene with Michael and Dwight as they make their way to the cocktail party... the entire scene was overexposed and blown-out, making it look amateurish. I'm really, really surprised by this. Additionally, Abrams didn't seem to completely nail the style of the series, cutting when he should have held the shot, holding the shot when he should have cut.

Putting Abrams' involvement aside, I wasn't all that crazy about the episode's storylines either. While I liked the Jim and Karen stuff at the party and the idea of Michael and Jan "coming out" as a couple, I didn't think it was handled all that well by the script (from producer/actor Paul Lieberstein). Michael is a moron, but we've had enough of Michael blurting things out to last the rest of the season from the "Phyllis' Wedding" episode already; I also didn't accept the fact that he brought potato salad. And rather than have him be an absolute boor, I was hoping for just a glimmer of humanity from Michael that reminded Jan of maybe why she's with this guy (more than the shame spiral, anyway).

What I didn't like: the unfunny cold open with Michael and his escape artist magic trick (enough of failed magic tricks already; with the death of Arrested Development, let's leave the ghost of Gob in peace). Also, Dwight on the roof of the CFO's house, which took me completely out of the faked "reality" of the show. I can accept the fact that he's poking around these people's home (and thought the scene with him and the kid about the rocking chair was spot on) but to place him on the roof, testing the chimney, and to film it crossed the line a bit. And it just wasn't funny.

I thought Roy smashing the glass was unexpected but wish it had been a bigger moment as it is the culmination of his three-season-long storyline with Pam (who finally realizes it's completely over between them). All in all, it felt like filler until the next new episode, when Roy confronts Jim about The Kiss.

Meanwhile, 30 Rock deftly juggled three diverse storylines (Liz and Jack negotiate Josh's contract, Kenneth becomes a harmonizing part of Tracy's entourage, and Jenna makes a huge gaffe during her Maxim photo shoot), all of which were hilarious. This show has definitely hit its stride in recent weeks (I'm convinced that last week's episode was an unaired earlier installment, thanks to the paucity of laughs and Tracy's goatee) and has transformed from a well-it's-on-and-I-don't-watch-Grey's fill-in to a must-see comedy, thanks in part to the fact that Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) has become more of a solid den mother overseeing the craziness of her co-workers and letting them be as wacky and chaotic as they want to be.

Still, I am hoping that The Office can recover some of its traction in the next couple of weeks. After all, as much as I love the employees of 30 Rock's NBC (and its parent corporation, the Sheinhardt Wig Company, which "owns it outright"), I miss the good old days at Dunder-Mifflin. Am I alone in this feeling?

Next week on The Office ("Branch Closing"), it's a repeat of one of my favorite Office episodes this season as Michael tries to keep the employees of Dunder-Mifflin Scranton upbeat after he learns that their branch will be shutting down, leading everyone (especially Stanley) to imagine how their lives would be better if they DIDN'T work there anymore.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); 1 vs. 100 (NBC); WWE Friday Night SmackDown (CW; 8-10 pm); Grey's Anatomy (ABC); Nanny 911 (FOX); Wicked Wicked Games (MyNet)

9 pm: Close to Home (CBS); Las Vegas (NBC); 20/20 (ABC): Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy (FOX); Watch Over Me (MyNet)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS); Law & Order (NBC); 20/20 (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

8 pm: Spoons on BBC America (11 pm ET).

It's the premiere of British sketch comedy series Spoons, in which the cast transform themselves into a series of character based on "fabulous young urbanites" in their most painful situations.

8:30 pm: Spaced on BBC America (11:30 pm ET).

It's the finale of one of the wackiest Britcoms ever devised. On tonight's episode ("Leaves"), Daisy and Tim concoct a plot to save themselves and their friends after Daisy disastrously revealed to Marsha that she and Tim weren't really a couple after all. Ouch.

10 pm: Hyperdrive on BBC America (9 pm ET)

On the sixth episode of this hilarious space station-set workplace comedy ("Assessment"), Henderson gives the HMS Camden Lock over to York to face a high-level inspection.

10:40 pm: Feel the Force on BBC America (9:40 pm ET)

It's the US premiere of UK cop spoof Feel the Force. On tonight's episode, Frank and Bobbins are left out of a rather big, rather important undercover investigation. Hilarity ensues.

Comments

Bill said…
I actually thought Roy's outburst was about as big as can be. I found it extremely jarring, in a very unpleasant way. Where other moments like that are played for laughs (like Andy punching the wall), David Denman's performance was pure anger. They threw in some comedy with his brother joining in, but the feeling you got from Roy was murderous rage.

I found it a little disturbing... it gave me the feeling that next week's episode will open with a scene like Edward Norton pummelling Jared Leto in Fight Club.
Anonymous said…
This episode was hilarious. Get off your high horse loser. 7-11 needs you.
Unknown said…
I agree that Dwight's antics on the roof were jarring. I would've preferred to see him testing the pool with a pH kit.

On another show Roy's rampage would be fine, but here it was excessive and not in tune with the show's mood. It would've been better to see him to throw the glass at the mirror, Pam saying "It's over," and then cut to Roy peeling out of the parking lot.

I also agree that Michael's Tourette-ish outbursts are tiresome. We've seen enough of the other side of him to know he's clueless but not completely stupid.

I started out liking the new honest Pam--telling Roy what she needs and getting the right beer--but then she made the mistake of telling Roy about The Kiss because she felt guilty and wanted to feel better. She should've known it would only hurt Roy and there was no point. And worse, she's dragged Jim into what will surely be an unpleasant confrontation with Roy. I hope she at least warns him.

So, by the end of the ep, it was Pam 0, Karen 2.
the reviewers said…
Roy's craziness was definitely surprising, but I was still laughing out loud. I felt like it was a good ending to the relationship and only made me more excited for what will happen next. Roy has inadvertantly forced something to happen with the Jim/Pam affair, which had been kind of floundering, and this is just the thing to spice it back up. (Will Pam call Jim to warn him? Will Roy reveal to Jim that Pam did have feelings for him?) Oh, next week, why do you have to be a re-run!

On another note, I'm curious what you thought about the OC's final episode... They got in a few bitter jabs a la The Valley, but in the end it seemed like the writers had just kind of given up. (www.starredreview.blogspot.com)
Dear Anonymous,

The episode was not hilarious are you are neither clever nor entertaining. Your comment was unnecessarily rude (especially as you don't even have the balls to put your name). Even if you did find the episode to be funny you should respect other people's opinions.
Anonymous said…
Like 30 Rock, Jace? You love it. You love it so much you wanna take it behind a middle school and get it pregnant. And after last night's homage to The Bodyguard you could find no better television show to be the mother of your children.

And am I the only one who was disappointed that we didn't get to hear Jenna sing six measures of something called "Muffintop"?
Anonymous said…
This ep was pretty uneven, though since its purpose was to advance character arcs, I was not surprised. "The Office" writers are a pretty talented group in most areas, but have habitually bent characters' personalities to suit their needs, rather than writing to suit the characters. (Karen is the most glaring example of this, probably because she exists primarily as an emotional "trigger" for Pam - i.e., let's make Pam see Karen do this so that Pam can feel like this, etc. Michael is a close second, because sometimes he is an actual human being.)
Dwight on the roof didn't work for me. I loved him leaning forward suddenly during the heartfelt exchange in the car, though.
Later, "30 Rock" was a complete joy. It IS better than "The Office". It's funnier, anyway.
--Oh, and not the earlier "anonymous" here. Just too lazy to get a blogger account. --
Anonymous said…
I totally agree about the Office. I just don't think, in general, that the eps are as good when so much of it takes place outside of the office. I really laughed out loud at Roy throwing the glass, and thought it was a great moment. Jim/Karen stuff was good. That was it.

As far as this - "Take a gander at the daytime driving scene with Michael and Dwight as they make their way to the cocktail party... the entire scene was overexposed and blown-out, making it look amateurish."

Totally!

re: 30 Rock. Oh man - all the Jenna stuff had me on the floor. I loved how she was so greased up she couldn't stay on the chair. Awesome. And the schwastikas? Brilliant. Great ep.

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