NBC has led the charge in TV comedy since The Office started back in 2005, and tonight’s lineup includes four new episodes of their funniest shows all right in a row from 8 to 10pm. NBC Thursday at its best.
Each show has its own take on the established formula and brings a diverse group of lovable misfits together its own way. We watch their relationships develop past obligatory acquaintances into friendships and usually a little romance too, because what’s a good show without sexual tension?
I’ve probably spent hundreds of hours watching these shows by now – Community is in its fourth season, Parks & Rec is in its fifth, The Office is now in its ninth finale season, but Go On just started this year. Altogether that makes 18 seasons of show and I’ve seen every single episode and most more than once. Some are better than others, but they’re all watchable because they’re dedicated to the characters, to the broken lovable people we can see parts of ourselves in. They’re just way funnier than we are.
The show started as a group of community college students who formed a study group, and it seems like it only happened in the first place because they all thought the group’s founder was the coolest guy in school. He’s a lawyer disbarred for lying about his education – he has great hair and gives moving impromptu speeches that band people together. Even from the beginning, the challenge for this show was to build the relationships so strong that they no longer needed the study group to hang out, because a community college means only four years till they graduate and we’re in the fourth season right now. There have been a lot of jokes about how many years it takes some students to complete community college, and in the last episode the Dean told us that Pierce had been taken 80% of Greendale’s classes more than twice, so he’ll always be around.
Community was wobbly last year in its third season because people thought Abed’s mental problems were let out of control – Evil Abed had a mustache and tried to cut off Jeff’s arm and everything. But last season wrapped itself up in a pretty dramatic fashion and it turned out that Abed wasn’t crazy – the dean really had been replaced, and Chang had taken over the school with an army of teenagers working for college credit. Well, Abed was still crazy with the whole let’s-turn-everything-into-a-tv-episode thing, but he was right about the dean, and in the last episode they busted the dean out of captivity, revealed Chang to get un-expelled.
Now, the characters have sort of banded around the school itself, since the dean thinks Jeff is a Greek god and it seems like somehow they all share life and death experiences at least twice every year at Greendale. So maybe they’ll all just find some sort of affiliation with the school and the show can go on forever with six seasons and a movie. Even Chang is back, but he underwent a mental episode and thinks he’s a completely innocent person named Kevin now. Troy has to teach him how to use the water fountain. And even though there’s been no evidence that Chang is really hiding underneath somewhere, his whole character seems like a time bomb, counting down to the point where the real Chang can’t take it anymore and lets his evil side escape.
Tonight’s episode is called “Herstory of Dance.” Britta plans a rival dance at the same time as Greendale’s Sadie Hawkin’s dance. She’s the worst.
Parks and Rec 8:30/7:30c
Parks and Rec has really mastered the lovable part of the lovable misfits equation, and a big part of that is having characters that are constantly improving, characters with motivation who want to do something good with their time. Leslie Knope leads the pack with dreams of being the first woman president, and we watched her campaign and win a spot on City Council, even after her scandal with Ben made her lose her campaign managers. Her friends and coworkers were there for her, and I cried because of how incredibly cute it was, candy office and all.
Each person on the show has such a special identity – Parks & Rec dedicates most of its time to character development. They’re all warm and nice, except April of course, but best of all they’re honest – they know who they are and say what they’re feeling, which is the best way to get close to people in the first place. So we as viewers are able to get close to the characters, and they’re able to get close to each other while they all find rewarding places in the world.
April wants to become a veterinarian, after realizing how much she loves animals when she runs an adoption fair for the Parks & Rec department. The last episode had the most adorable story line where Ann forced April to hang out with her in exchange for a recommendation for veterinary school. They even sang “Time After Time” and after four years of April really hating and then pretending to hate Ann, we saw her let her guard down and admit that she actually likes her and cares that things in her life work out.
Tonight’s episode is called “Partridge” and it’ll star pop icon Usher as himself, who teaches the whole team how to properly spin in the judges chairs from The Voice.
The Office 9/8c
Ever since the end of the show’s seventh season, The Office has been working to replace the perfect boss, Michael Scott. The eighth season went haywire with Saber’s new CEO Robert California calling for a retail store and trips to Florida. It ended with an annoying bit where he lets Nellie take over Andy’s job as manager when he leaves for Florida to find Erin, so when Andy comes back to a demotion, he conspires with David Wallace to buy Dunder Mifflin back from Saber, so Saber goes out of business and Andy is made manager again. Crazy right?
The show found more of its footing in the ninth season though – Andy had settled into the manager’s position and often recalls the wonderfully tasteless flavors of Michael Scott. But while Michael Scott made it seven seasons, Andy only made it to the sixth episode of this newest season before he ditches the job again and goes off on a boat with his brother for three months. Randomly, instantly setting sail and leaving his new perfect girlfriend Erin behind. Probably the most frustrating part of this season came when David Wallace let him off the hook, once he let slip that he’d been gone for three months – somehow David rationalized it as fair since Andy was the one who gave him the tip about Saber failing in the first place although it really seemed like that favor had already been paid for when Andy was reinstated as manager…
This ninth season has also been seriously debating the role that work can realistically play in someone’s life, since Jim followed a crazy dream and helped found a new sports company in Philadelphia. Pam doesn’t want to leave, and after one interview with Saul from Breaking Bad in Philadelphia, she tells Jim “I don’t know if I want this,” and that’s where they’ve left it since we took a little detour in the last episode to visit Schrute Farms. But Meredith did shave her head, so now she wears disgusting wigs and that’s fun.
The show has also been weirdly hinting at this documentary that we’re watching now might actually begin to air in the character’s world, suggesting that the whole show happened in the past as far as we’re concerned. A few episodes back the camera zoomed in on an ad for the series that popped up on Oscar’s computer screen. Tonight, that’s supposed to be addressed even further in the new episode “Promos,” where the characters actually see promos of the documentary air, and worry that all their secrets could be broadcast to the world.
Fun fact from Wikipedia: Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston directed this season’s “Work Bus” episode.Go On 9:30/8:30c
Go On began this year so we’ve only had time to fall in love with a few characters, but the premise of the show kind of requires that you at least sympathize with all these kooky adults who can’t get their lives figured out. Their obligatory connection isn’t work or community college but a grief counseling group, and the show follows this group and their leader as they work to get better and overcome whatever terrible loss they’ve had to deal with.
Each person in the group seems at least a little crazy, but in a sad, sweet kind of way that’s definitely been brought on by trauma. Lauren is the group’s leader, and she makes it too clear that she hasn’t had the most experience in grief counseling. But she’s dedicated and shows up whenever she’s needed so everyone really appreciates how much she tries and wants to help. The group has a harsh lesbian and a repressed Asian woman, along with a blind old man and an insane sweater-clad Mr. K, and they’re all so weird and funny that you can’t help but want the best for them.
Our main character Ryan is a widower whose wife spookily appears as a ghost sometimes, and we follow him at grief counseling and at work where he hosts a sports talk show that recently became the number one radio show in LA. Like everyone else on the show, he’s in recovery and struggling to deal with being alone, but everyone in the group cares about each other immediately and they all joke about how horribly bleak and sad their lives are – a bizarre kind of camaraderie but probably one of the strongest types.
For more on any of these shows, check out NBC’s website for behind-the-scenes photos and videos.