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Tricks and Treats: Quick Thoughts on NBC's Halloween-Themed Thursday Night Lineup

I've never been much of a Halloween guy. Some people love to dress up and head out to parties but I've always taken the view that Halloween is one of those holidays that you either believe in with all of your being or you can't quite wrap your head around.

Last night, NBC's two-hour Thursday night comedy block all offered Halloween-themed diversions but happily each did so in their own inimitable way with Community focusing on a Mexican Day of the Dead after-school party, Parks and Recreation splitting its focus between Leslie stalking a notorious Halloween teen vandal and Ann throwing a costume party, The Office keeping it all confined to the cold open, and 30 Rock offering a celebration of "gay Halloween."

I have to say that I thought that Community and Parks and Recreation were by far the funniest two entries in last night's comedy block, comprising a strong one-two punch of humor that seems to be gathering more confidence week to week.

Last night's episode of Community ("Introduction to Statistics") might just be my favorite episode yet and featured fantastic turns by Yvette Nicole Brown and Danny Pudi, some fantastic Senor Chang moments, and some genuine emotion as Britta tried to get Jeff to attend Annie's Day of the Dead party rather than score with his statistics professor and slowly realized that Shirley's anger toward Jeff really stemmed from her own issues at home. (Brown is hands-down one of my favorite elements of the series and last night gave her the chance to bring some genuine emotion along with the humor.)

Meanwhile, Pudi perfectly nailed Christian Bale's gravely voice as Batman, turning in a stunning performance as the Dark Knight, even managing to save the lives of Jeff and a drug-addled Pierce from a collapsing fort of desks and chairs. (You really had to see it.) The cast of Community seems to get more self-assured with each episode and is gelling magnificently now, offering some deeply absurd comedy with an extra dose of heart on a weekly basis.

Likewise, Parks and Recreation continued the trend, turning out yet another incredible installment ("Greg Pikitis") that pitted Leslie against the titular teen, a juvenile criminal mastermind who would give Ferris Bueller a run for his money. Over the course of the episode, we saw Leslie stalk Greg with her policeman boyfriend (Louis C.K., who I hope sticks around for a while), attempt to waterboard him after discovering he had vandalized the Parks Department offices, and then got caught by her own boyfriend after toilet-papering Greg's house with Andy.

I'm confused by some viewers' dislike for Andy; to me, he's so absurdly goofy and dumb that it works perfectly in the off-kilter world of Parks and Recreation. I love having him around and am secretly hoping the writing staff can figure out a way to keep Andy on the Parks Department payroll after his short stint guarding over the Pawnee founder's statue.

Elsewhere, Ann realized that Tom isn't as bad as she thought he was after he saved her party from going off the deep end and we got to see a rare moment of vulnerability from Tom himself when it began to hit home that his green card marriage would soon be coming to an end. It's small moments like those that make Parks and Recreation such a fantastic place to visit week after week and this season has taken tremendous strides to deepening both the characters and the world they inhabit.

I was less pleased with The Office ("Koi Pond"), which jettisoned a Halloween plot early on in the episode (it was restricted to the cold open) and instead offered up a lukewarm plot about Michael falling into an ornamental koi pond during a business meeting, which seemed pretty much like stale Halloween candy. I know the writers are trying to create a new dynamic between Michael and co-branch manager Jim but the plots have gotten so ludicrous and the humor become so slight that it's actually painful for me to watch The Office on a regular basis these days. It hasn't been must-see television for several seasons now (save for when Amy Ryan joined the cast briefly) and it's likely going to get dropped off of my TiVo Season Pass very soon.

As for 30 Rock ("Stone Mountain"), not my favorite episode. Some genuinely hysterical moments (Tracy saying that he will have "a bowl of cherries and some ghost meat" in honor of a dead celebrity) and a semi-funny plot about Frank, Twofer, and Lutz attempting to befriend Jenna in order to party with some hot women at a "gay Halloween" party. The Jeff Dunham bits were painful to watch, even if it appeared that the humor was actually pointed at Dunham himself at times. I liked the idea of Liz and Jack hitting the road to find a new star for TGS but the Stone Mountain-set bits didn't quite work for me as well as I wish they had. But it's an uncharacteristically off episode for 30 Rock and I have no doubts that it will return to form next week.

What did you think of last night's Halloween comedy lineup? Which series had the strongest episode? Are you as hooked on Community and Parks and Recreation as I am? Bored by The Office? Discuss.


Bella Spruce said…
I agree! Community and Parks and Recreation were both hysterical last night. Community can be a little too "cute" for my liking sometimes but Pierce tripping and Abed as Batman totally made up for the more sappy moments.

As for Parks and Rec, it just keeps getting better and better. Louis C.K. is great on the show and a provides a great balance to Leslie's erratic behavior. I loved the scene with the two of them on the stakeout!

The Office? So painful I can't even watch it anymore.

30 Rock is usually my favorite but last night's episode felt a little off. I think it would have been funnier if Kenneth had gone with Jack and Liz to his home town and acted as their tour guide.
Unknown said…
Yes! I thought Pudi's Christian Bale was excellent, too. (I get this absurd sense of validation when I find I'm not the only one who thinks these things.) The contrast of Britta as a squirrel while Annie was a sexy skeleton was great.

The Office. Sigh. For me, the only remaining appeal is Jim and Pam's cuteness and sweetness. But, of course, they've now written Jim to be petty and mean. As soon as Pam becomes bitter (and she has been before), I'm outta there.
Anonymous said…
Mang, I don't know what you guys are thinking!!! I still LOVE The Office. Stop hatin'.
Savvy Veteran said…
I don't agree with your opinion on "The Office" this season. In fact, ever since the Michael Scott Paper Company arc from last season, it's kind of been on a roll. The episode before "Koi Pond," "The Lover," was in my opnion one of the best half-hours the show has ever done.

I was definitely on board with in regards to last season—especially in the middle episodes after Amy Ryan's departure—about the show's subpar performance, but I really do think that they're delivering again. Oh well.
Anonymous said…
Office has devolved into one of the worst shows on TV. Don't understand how people can defend it. It's gotten stupid and BEYOND unfunny.

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