Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

Posts Tagged ‘30 Rock’

Comedy Night Done Right – Jan. 20th

Posted by Mr. Feeny on January 20, 2011

My unheralded return to the blogosphere will begin with a new feature. A Thursday night feature. Since NBC is experimenting with a three hour block of comedy (“Comedy Night Done Right”), I thought I’d honor the night accordingly. In case you’re busy on Thursday night, or you’re watching the new Thursday night behemoth, this will be your guide to the best the night has to offer. So, if you only have a half hour on Friday, this will tell you which comedy to watch on DVR or Hulu.

I’ll rank each sitcom, give a little summary (I won’t give a full recap of the episode or jokes, so as not to spoil anything), some great moments, and also tally the laughs. From least to most:  chuckles, laughs, wheezes, and ROFLs. Also smiles, but I figure if an episode’s enjoyable, you’re smiling all the time. So I won’t count those up. I’ll just put (++, +, -, — to indicate good or bad). Obviously, everyone will laugh at different things. But I think it’s a good barometer of the humor.

1. Parks & Recreation – “Go Big or Go Homes” (3.1)

I love the mockumentary style, so it was reassuring to know last year that as The Office started to slip in quality, another show took its place in comic brilliance. But not just that. Parks & Recreation also mastered comedic sentimentality. No sitcom does a better job right now of showing emotion. In this episode alone, there was a fantastic shift between energy and depression by Rob Lowe’s character and we also got a peak into some solid background for Adam Scott’s character and Leslie. And neither those moments, nor the more ridiculous ones (like Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness…don’t ruin his cult hero status by hitting us over the head with it), took away from the constant, subtle laughs. Best show this Thursday, maybe it will be the best all season.

Best Fake Foul Called By Tom: “That’s a foul for touching the basketball.”

Smiles: ++
Chuckles: 11
Laughs: 12
Wheezes:
ROFLs:

2. 30 Rock – “Mrs. Donaghy” (5.11)

When 30 Rock is hitting on cylinders, it’s a joy to sit through. And tonight the hits just kept coming. Not all the plots worked (Tracy thinking he’s going to die only served as another pawn in Jack and Liz’s fight), but the writing was sharp. Just don’t blink, or you migh miss some hysterical drop-in line. I also like that the whole episode played on the fact that Jack and Liz are never romantic possibilities. That’s very rare for two leads in a sitcom. Just great friends.

One of the Best Jokes: Early on in this Liz/Jack heavy episode, Liz apologizes for him getting caught up in another one of “Liz Lemon’s Adventures.” Jack: “My adventures! I am the protagonist!” I love meta jokes. Like when Danny (Cheyenne Jackson) returns after a long absence and Kenneth says “We forgot you work here!” And so much NBC lampooning.

THE Best Moment: Liz pretending to be Jack’s wife by putting on a Kennedy-esque accent and calling a press conference.

Smiles: +
Chuckles: 5
Laughs: 10
Wheezes: 1
ROFLs: 0

3. The Office – “Ultimatum” (7.12)

Let me first say that the order of this line-up is great. Specifically putting The Office before Parks & Recreation. They’re naturally meant to be together. Now, to one of the better episodes of the season. It was just a transitional episode, to get us to a point where Michael and Holly can reunite. But it was laced with several funny gags (mostly regarding resolutions) and also had a heavy dose of Michael’s endearingly pathetic love life.  But the subplot of Darryl, Dwight and Andy was just weird and stupid (a preview of the end of the season? They’re the three in-house candidates for Michael’s job). Still, a solid episode.

Best Moment: Michael coming down to earth and subtly telling Holly that he’s sorry and will make their friendship work. Michael’s non-cartoony moments are his best.

Smiles: +
Chuckles: 5
Laughs: 9
Wheezes: 2
ROFLs: 0

4. Perfect Couples – “Pilot” (1.1)

The only new comedy in the CDNR line-up. My initial reaction: just what TV needs. Another relationship sitcom featuring three couples. Has this been done before? And the opening is the same schtick Better than You (which I like) uses on ABC: how three very different couples handle the same situation. But I’ll tell you what gives me hope about Perfect Couples. It stars one of my favorite and under-appreciated comic actors. Kyle Bornheimer. I loved his half-season comedy Worst Week two years ago. Loved it. So I’ll watch this just for him. And early on, he’s the only one I’m laughing at (and originally, he wasn’t playing this part). There are a lot of recognizable faces. The Waitress from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Double Agent from FlashForward, Lana from Greek. But no one’s as natural as Bornheimer. The material’s not breaking new ground, but as a highly competitive person, I can’t dislike an episode about Game Night. Always comic gold. Also the filming is a more modern upbeat style than many other sitcoms. Good change of pace for NBC. Just like the sentimental music montage at the end.

Best Joke: (cut to) Rex: “What is our best relationship skill?” Julia: “Nobody asked you that…”

Smiles: +
Chuckles: 7
Laughs: 9
Wheezes: 0
ROFLs: 0

5. Community – “Asian Population Studies” (2.12)

My favorite comedy of the season (yes, even more than Modern Family). It’s easily the most inventive show on television (in the first half of the season alone, they did a zombie episode, a space parody, and an entire episode in claymation). But this episode was lackluster. The idea of having a contest to pick a new study group member was solid, but the execution felt rushed. Also, too many previous plots seemed to come together for resolution, as if they wanted to start fresh next episode without any lingering problems. That took out a lot of the humor and made it much more plot-centric than usual. Epitomized by the underutilization of Abed. The ending seemed to indicate this was supposed to be a mock-up of a chick flick (that’s Community‘s gimmick), but it didn’t work. I liked the return of the “Troy and Abed in the Morning” show for the tag, though.

Best Character: Duncan. As he explained how his soberness has changed his sex life. Also, he keeps calling one student “Fat Neal.” Neal: “Neal’s just fine.” Duncan: “Not from an actuarial point of view.”

Guest Stars of Note: Malcolm Jamal Warner (Theo Huxtable on The Cosby Show) playing Shirley’s ex-husband/current boyfriend.

Smiles: –
Chuckles: 6
Laughs: 3
Wheezes: 0
ROFLs: 0

6. Outsourced – “A Sitar is Born ” (1.11)

This show got panned when it debuted. And I, too, was initially lukewarm on the concept of a show set entirely in India. But the premise (a call center for novelty gifts) has provided a good background for an Office-Lite show, with zany characters and budding romances. A little heart too. So I’ll keep watching, though it’s not a homerun quite yet. As you can see from the chuckles and not laughs. A fine episode, with a main plot about a singing competition and another about fixing their hold music. Meh.

Best Voice: We heard a lot of them, and I liked Madhuri’s angelic voice. But as a character actor myself, I was also kind of impressed by Parvesh Cheena’s (Gupta’s) purposefully bad singing.

Smiles: –
Chuckles: 4
Laughs: 2
Wheezes: 0
ROFLs: 0

 

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CJ’s Best TV Actresses of the Decade

Posted by CJ Cregg on December 20, 2009

Here goes.  Finally the women get the credit they deserve.

1) Tina Fey (30 Rock, SNL)-Thank Sarah Palin for this one.  See Mr. Feeny’s post on how Tina Fey became the actress of the decade.

2) Allison  Janney (The West Wing)-Mr. Feeny has hit the nail on the head with this one.  The reason CJ is such a compelling character on this show is that Janney portrays her with a passion that is unparalleled.  CJ never hesitates to speak her mind and get involved with the issues.  When something just doesn’t feel right, she lets us all know.  And, she can hang with the boys like the best of ’em.  She also lets her fun and quirky side out.  See this clip from season one if you doubt Janney’s versatility:

That's so Carrie

3) Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City)-Are you a Carrie or a Samantha?  That most people understand what this question even means is a testament to Sarah Jessica Parker’s portrayal of Carrie Bradshaw.  Sex and the City aired from 1998-2004 and was capped last year by the movie.  Parker’s insightful voiceovers about sex, love, men, and Manolos resonated with viewers and made the actress and the character one of the most popular of the decade.

4) Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls)-Quirky, sarcastic, and confident, Lauren Graham’s portrayal of Lorelai in Gilmore Girls made her everything mothers could hope to be.  Graham’s skill made Lorelai a down-to-earth, if totally strange, character.  Her humor was one thing that did not fade throughout the seasons.

5) Sally Field (Brothers and Sisters)-I know Mr. Feeny will argue with me over this one, but I sincerely believe Sally Field is the best part of this show.  Field’s portrayal of Nora Walker, the matriarch of the crazy family, really brings the whole family (nay, show) together.  When her eyes glisten with love for her family, it is hard for me to believe that Sally Field is anyone but Nora Walker.

Sally Field Brings the Walkers together

Honorable Mentions

Sarah Chalke (Scrubs, How I Met your Mother)

Alyson Hanigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, How I Met your Mother)

Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, The West Wing)

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Best Actresses of the Decade

Posted by Mr. Feeny on December 17, 2009

Continuing our list of Decade Bests…and to show I don’t hate women after I kept them out of my Best Characters list…here are the five actresses who shined above all others from 2000-2009. Technically, I guess if someone was on a mostly 90s show but had an amazing season this decade, that could count. But I don’t think we’ll run into that. Unlike my character list, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the performances that defined the decade. Just the ones that really stood out.

I see the actor/actress lists more like a sports dynasty. Were the Yankees the best team of the decade? They won the first and last World Series and performed well almost every year in between. The Patriots? The Lakers? Every year’s a little different,  but a dynasty is created. That’s the case with this list. Great actresses boost their significance to the decade by being spread across multiple shows and platforms. Which is exactly what THE Actress of the Decade did.

1) Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock) — There is no doubt in my mind that Tina Fey was the biggest actress of the 2000s. Let’s look at it chronologically. First off, she had nothing on her TV resume before the end of the 90s and now she’s one of the most famous actresses in the country. She ascended to the top of Saturday Night Live’s pecking order early this century, quickly becoming a fan favorite. She transitioned that success into the incredibly popular movie Mean Girls (which she wrote…as she did most skits on SNL). And after leaving Saturday Night Live, what did Fey do to keep up? Created and wrote 30 Rock, a hilarious comedy that has won the Emmy every year since it’s creation, and given Fey two individual nods. Oh, and if that’s not enough, Fey became even more popular with her spot-on impression of Sarah Palin during the 2008 election…also earning her an Emmy. She might be the funniest actress since Mary Tyler Moore…and is definitely the best female writer. It’s Tina Fey’s world and we’re just watching it.

2) Edie Falco (The Sopranos) — How do you play the devoted wife of a killer and not seem like a naive sap? The way Falco did. Carmella always knew what was going on. She saw through Tony’s BS and chose to stay with him, because she herself had problems. But Falco fought to make her character strong, not just a victim of circumstances. Every decision Carmella made, be it small (getting her kid’s form signed) or large (having or not having an affair), Falco showed the power inside her character. Scenes with Gandolfini were always riveting, and unlike some other acclaimed dramas, I never screamed for the lead female character to get off the screen (ahem, Mad Men). The whole range of human emotion could be seen in Falco at any given moment. A flicker of her eyes could tell you what she was thinking. Fantastic dramatic actress.

3) Allison Janney (The West Wing) — The actual West Wing — and all of DC for that matter — is a boy’s world. And fast paced scripts from Aaron Sorkin seemed almost intended for those good old boys. But CJ Cregg was just as much a part of the decision making and fast talking as anyone else in that White House. And that’s thanks to Janney. She managed to find in Cregg the difficult balance of professionalism and compassion, often finding pet concerns or uncovering painful realities that she, as a political outsider, struggled with. When she disagreed with a decision, she let it be known before going about her job. I still don’t like the writers’ decision to promote her to Chief of Staff, but even in that role Janney evolved and gave CJ a new outlook. She almost became Leo. If you need proof that Janney belongs on this list, watch “The Long Goodbye.” The only episode of the series where one character goes off and has an entire episode just to her or himself. The acting in that episode alone is one of the best performances of the decade.

4) Glenn Close (The Shield, Damages) — I love Glenn Close’s masterful performance in Damages but was hesitant to include her after just two seasons. Then I remembered she was in The Shield, which I heard fantastic things about…plus it earned her an Emmy (as did Damages). A pair of Emmys is a good place to start for being one of the best TV Actresses of the Decade. I can’t speak on her Shield performance, but as Patty Hewes, Close dominates every scene she’s in. You can’t take your eyes off her. You never know what she’ll say next or, more importantly, how she’ll say it. The most common phrase can become a biting judgment. Her eyes will turn you to ice, her smile make you squirm. It’s actually very similar to her role as Cruella de Vil…only much more dramatic.

5) Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) — After three seasons, it’s criminal that Britton hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy. Especially in an awards association that relies so heavily on critics over viewers. As Tami Taylor, Britton exhibits every single quality that makes the others on this list award-winners. She has the resolve of Close, the complexity of Falco, the compassion of Janney. Even some humor…though not on Fey’s level. Plus, she improvises a large part of her scenes with Kyle Chandler, showing her natural acting chops. She makes her role as a small town coach’s wife and school principal seem about as realistic as a show can get. And as anyone who acts knows, “not acting” is one of the toughest skills there is.

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