I haven’t blogged yet about either The Office or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia yet this year. But the writers clearly knew what I had been thinking. Or maybe they just assumed “he’s not reviewing our shows because he’s not enjoying them.” That’s partially correct. I’m also pressed for time. But unlike Modern Family, I haven’t been that entertained by the early outings of those two long-running comedies.
Until this Thursday. In an attempt to coax me out of my blogging seclusion, both shows knocked it out of the park with episodes about two of my favorite activities: radio and musical theatre.
Here’s a rare peak into my personal life. I work in radio, and in my spare time, perform on stage. I enjoy both tremendously. It’s no coincidence that I created a list of the Best Musical Episodes and also am a loyal viewer of Frasier and NewsRadio. Sunny‘s radio plot wasn’t as good as some of those show’s outings, and “Andy’s Play” wouldn’t qualify for my musical list…but it was still a fantastic night watching these two comedies.
Let’s start with the best episode of The Office in a long, long time. As you could guess from the title, Andy Bernard is in a community theatre production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. As soon as the episode opened with Andy singing, in costume, “Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd…,” I knew we were in for a treat. But not just because of the music (though Ed Helms does have a very nice character voice, singing “Johanna”). This episode was fantastic because it focused on the relationships between characters. It reminded us that The Office, in its heyday, wasn’t about the antics of Dwight and Jim and Michael. It was about people working and living together.
The first part of the episode is spent with Andy trying to convince the office to see his play. I sympathized with him there. When I was in a show last year, not one person from my work came to see me. And this year, only one person from the radio station. It hurts, and Helms portrayed that well. But, eventually, everyone does come. They don’t have to. They could easily skip it (like most did when Pam had an art show…in what is one of my favorite Office scenes, when Michael shows up at the end). But everyone came, even Stanley. And even Erin, who was supposed to be babysitting Jim and Pam’s baby. She was the whole reason Andy wanted people to see the show…to win her back. Who hasn’t tried to impress a would-be lover? Helms nailed every minute of this episode, from his theatre acumen to his highs and lows with Erin (she’s coming, she’s not, she’s here, she’s going to be with Gabe…every moment was pitch perfect).
The writers could have easily made this more overtly funny. A casual viewer may not like it because they’re weren’t that many hearty laughs. But there could have been, if Michael slipped into his toddler-like state when he found out he wasn’t cast in the show. It wouldn’t have surprised me at all. But he actually behaved respectfully. And the only times he caused a disruption were by humorous accident. And at the end, he gave a great pep talk to Andy saying how awesome he was. It was just nice to see everyone hanging out together to support another member of the office.
There were a lot of funny moments, though. Darryl pointing out that they need to listen to the overture or they won’t recognize the musical themes later. Creed writing a critical review for no reason. Jim and Pam sitting in the wrong seats to avoid being next to Michael. Even Andy’s cell phone ringing on stage, which could have been stupid, was played well. I just loved this episode.
I enjoyed this week’s episode of Sunny almost as much. There were two plots. One, Mac wins a chance on the radio to shoot a goal at a Flyers game, and Charlie coaches him. Classic slapstick (pun intended). It was a realistic plot, with a Sunny spin (Mac wants to hit the goal so he could be a Philadelphia sports legend…always taking it to the extreme) that made it enjoyable to watch.
But the other plot was even better. Dee and Dennis decide they could do a better radio show than the one Mac listens to. They just yell and talk about stupid things and play sound effects, they say. If they had a show, they’d talk about issues. So they start a podcast…which inevitably turns into Howard Stern-like radio…complete with yelling, stupid things and sound effects. It also allowed several reoccurring guest stars to return. Reminded me of Kramer’s talk show in his apartment. The reason I probably found it so funny, though, were all the meta radio jokes that most of you might not enjoy as much.
This week’s Community, 30 Rock, The League and Outsourced…not nearly as good. But with 6 comedies on Thursday, I’m fine with 1/3 being funny every week.