The Office: Goodbye, Tobey
May 15, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Its Funny Because Its Oh So True.

Meet the old boss, not at all like the new boss.  With Tobey moving to Costa Rica, Dunder Mifflin Infinity sends a new HR rep to DMIS.  Holly seems like she’s going to be an interesting addition to the crew.  And all it took for Michael to fall head over heels in love with her was her patronizing ribbing of Tobey.  He wanted to make her a mix.  Did anyone else laugh out loud when he told her he wanted to make a mix?  But, I can’t deny that seeing Michael try to impress her was fun.  And her reciprocating was even nicer.  Yoga.  Yoda.  Turns out she’s the best thing to happen to the company since World War II.  Excellent.  But Michael Scott just can’t have everything he wants, can he?  Is there any insult greater than finding out your ex went to a sperm bank WHILE you were together because she wanted to get pregnant but just not by you?  Wow.  And didn’t Michael’s hurt just seem so real?  Michael does “the right thing”, which is bizarre because it isn’t his kid, but is expected, because its Michael Scott.

I have to admit, the bit with Dwight telling Holly that Kevin was slow was pretty hilarious.  How it kept playing out was even more funny.  Kevin is seriously one of the best of the B-cast.  What did made me sad was when Holly decided to sit in on Tobey’s exit interview.  I’m pretty sure everyone wanted to see the “bruisin'” that Tobey was surely “cruisin’ for”.  

Jim Halpert.  Man, when you get a head of steam going, you just keep going with it.  He even left Ryan a voicemail saying that he won’t back down.  Unfortunately, Ryan had bigger problems as his failed website inevitably lead to fraud.  And arrest.  From temp, to executive, to jail.  The classic story.  Speaking of classic stories: Jam.  Pam’s going to school for the summer and Jim decides its time to propose.  And Pam even sees it coming.  The smiles on their faces right before he was going to ask.  Then Andy grabbed the mic.  He asked Angela to marry her, and she said “ok”.  Dwight’s admission that it was his own fault…killer.  This stopped Jim dead in his tracks.  And made Pam think that he was never going to ask.  Dang it!

And then there was the ending.  Could’ve never called that.

This show had a home run fourth season.  And I’m thoroughly excited to see the fifth season.  Exactly what a season finale should be.

Final Grade: A

How I Met Your Mother: Everything Must Go
May 12, 2008

CBS, Mondays at 8:00PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: 20-something.

Britney Spears returned as Abby the receptionist tonight.  Initially infuriated by Barney sleeping with her and never calling again, Abby and Barney bonded over the fact that both have been jilted by Ted.  (The one thing I couldn’t figure out was whether Spears was playing a part or just playing herself.  I expected the latter, but, was it just me or did her voice sound different?)  Barney decided to show Ted what he looks like by proposing to Abby, who doesn’t realize its part of the game.  Barney resolved this by tell her that Ted truly loved her, further increasing her stalker behavior.  Thought Spears didn’t bring much to the ep, I wouldn’t mind seeing her again.

Meanwhile, Marshall and Lily are desperate for money so they can have their apartment floors fixed.  Marshall decides that Lily needs to sell her expensive clothes to make it happen.  As a guy, I have to admit that I would have gone the same route.  Lily, appalled by the idea, suggests that she instead sells her paintings.  At that point, Marshall’s mouth outmoves his mind as he blurts out that her paintings aren’t “real paintings” and thus won’t make any real money.  And the bet was on.  After several misses, Lily sells her painting to GCWOKs (Gay Couple Without Kids).  This didn’t really work out, but in classic HIMYM style, one thing led to another before Lily finally found her target audience.  Whenever you have some free time: http://www.lilyandmarshallselltheirstuff.com

Final Grade: B

30 Rock: Cooter
May 12, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:30PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Less About SNL and More About Tina Fey Not Having Time To Write SNL.

What does it mean when a show’s regular cast is regularly outdone by their reoccurring characters?  The abbreviated second season of 30 Rock came to an end in an episode which was a metaphor for the season as a whole: hit or miss.  

The hits were obvious.  Dean Winters was barely in this episode, but absolutely owned every scene he was in.  When Dennis found out that Liz may be pregnant with his child, he returned into her life and was hilarious with the few lines he was given.  I really like Floyd because he just has great chemistry with Lemon, but Dennis is the funniest person on this show.  Make him regular cast.

Picking up from a joke earlier in the season (as 30 Rock does so well), Paul Scheer returned as Donny, Head of the Pages and Kenneth’s sworn enemy.  Both were vying to be the NBC page sent to China for the olympics.  Again, Scheer wasn’t given many lines to work with, but went miles with the ones he did.  The Kenneth/Donny rivalry is one of the better inside jokes this series has found.  Scheer should team up with Winters to get a nod as regular cast.

Sadly, when you start with the B and C story characters, it says something about the A stories.  As mentioned, Liz had a pregnancy scare.  Turns out the chips she insists on eating from the Spanish deli use bull semen, which tripped the tests.  Meanwhile, Jack was adjusting to a life in politics.  Or more accurately, trying to find his way out.  Matthew Broderick played Cooter, an aide that would have been his rival, if not for the fact that he was just as desperate to get out.  Unforunately, Cooter just wasn’t a funny character, nor was the storyline as a whole.  The only plus: we got to see C.C. again.  Ok, Dean Winters, Paul Scheer, and Edie Falco: make them all regular cast.

Final Grade: B-

The Office: Job Fair
May 8, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Its Funny Because its Oh So True.

Ah, Michael Scott.  Man, I don’t know about you sometimes.  Tonight’s episode found Michael, Pam, Oscar, and Daryl heading to Pam’s old high school for a job fair.  Apparently Dunder Mifflin Infinity Scranton (hereby known as DMIS) needs a summer intern.  And Michael was looking for the best.  Not someone who’s meant to be a cashier or whatever other things Michael listed.  Besides Oscar’s great “Why wouldn’t you say that to her face” line while Michael was telling a kid what he really thought of Pam, this aspect of the episode was slightly a letdown.  Anytime Michael is out of the office, he really steps his embarrassment game up a notch.  “The Convention” was a perfect example of this.  However, this episode was just kind of gag after gag, none of which really landed.  Even Michael’s microphone moment, though it made me squirm, not in the funny way that I’m sure it was intended.

What saved this episode was the golf course.  In the wake of Ryan’s warning last week, Jim took the greens to stir up  new business.  And he brought Kevin and Andy with him.  This was just good stuff.  The Office rarely does physical gags.  But when they do use them, they use them well.  Andy’s golf cart crash actually made me laugh out loud.

But this was truly and Jam episode.  The only reason Jim was on this golf course was because he needs to succeed before he can actually give Pam that ring he has.  After his first overture with their golf partner was shot down, Jim had pretty much accepted it for what it was.  But then Pam called.  And Jim redoubled his efforts.  And weren’t you proud of him when he pulled through.  Last week I said that you can’t deny that Jim’s a slacker.  But you also can’t deny that you want to see him win.

We also saw Pam back in her old art room, looking disappointed when her old work was gone.  But more important was what happened right before the credits.  Pam was going to apply for a graphic design job before she found out she was very underqualified.  The only places she could get qualified are Philadelphia and New York.  And there, ladies and gentlemen, we have the conflict for the season finale and to fight over for the summer.  Pam wants to move forward with her life.  But if that means moving, can Jim afford to do it.  Or are we going to reverse season 3, where Pam is away while Jim is in the office alone?

Final Grade: A-

Scrubs: My Princess
May 8, 2008

NBC, Thursday at 8:30PM (Never Again)

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Imagine If Grey’s Anatomy Was Funny…And Just Better

To start off, Natalia Imbruglia had two good songs: “Torn” and “Wrong Impression”.  I’m just saying.

Ok, I missed the teaser on this episode, but can someone explain to me how we moved back in time?  All of a sudden, we’re only a month from this season’s premiere, Kelso is still chief, and Keith returns from his post-strike banishment.  My guess is that this episode was ready before, but realizing it was going to be an abbreviated season, the show decided to use this as the series finale.  I just wanted to know if they explain the time shift in the beginning.

So Scrubs takes its bow on NBC.  And it does so with a concept show.  In the last two seasons, Scrubs delivered two excellent concept shows.  “My Way Home” was a truly clever ode to “The Wizard of Oz” which was funny and very subtle in a lot of its funnier jokes.  “My Musical” was a highlight of the series.  Its easy to make a musical episode.  Its hard to do it well.  Scrubs did it well.

“My Princess”, which was by far the biggest in scope concept episode thus far, was a clunker.  Dr. Cox is telling Jack a fairy tale using the cast as characters.  This is where Scrubs misses first.  “My Way Home” and “My Musical” both used clever conceits for the episode.  This was the exact opposite.  Most of the episode referenced JD and Eliot’s unresolved feelings stemming from their near miss in the season premiere.  Again, the fact that this episode can be time misplaced by several episodes and that still be true is further proof that this “Will They Won’t They” thing is tired and needs to be abandoned.  I’m pretty sure EVERYONE preferred JD & Kim and Eliot & Keith to JD & Eliot.  The only bright spot was that Zach Braff finally seemed to find his voice as JD again, as that had been missing since the end of last season.  Per usual, Janitor and Turla (that’s the Turk and Carla connection for those who don’t know) really stole the show throughout.

And with that, Scrubs is done on NBC.  The cast as we know it is probably done as well.  Budget cuts are probably going to demand that some of the casts background players (Laverene’s sister, Ted, and…dare I say it…The Todd) may have to go.  Its sad that they couldn’t leave NBC on a note that really showed how great this show was for showing that single-camera comedies could work.

By the way, Bill Lawrence, more Dr. Cox and Jordan next season, please.

Final Grade: C

Samantha Who?: The Butterflies
April 22, 2008

ABC, Mondays at 9:30PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Remembering How Entertaining Christina Applegate Is.

You really can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Even if that old dog gets amnesia and forgets her old tricks.  Whereas last week was about the Funk in Chapman&Funk, this week Chapman took center stage, telling Samantha about he was interested in Dena and that she should make it happen.  Andrea sees this as the perfect opportunity to get an “in” with the boss so they can get stuff that they need (like a new ergonomic desk chair).  Sam, however, was not willing to pimp out her friend (literally) to get what she needs.

That is, until she realized that Pre-mantha signed a mall development deal which would lead to the destruction of a very rare species of butterflies.  The only way she can undo it is to either come up with the $200 Million that Chapman&Funk would lose, or get Chapman to change his mind.  And that’s where Samantha and Pre-mantha join forces and set Dena up with Chapman.  Oddly enough, they really take to each other.  However, Dena isn’t able to make Chapman change his mind, and in trying to get it done, she gets caught.  And Dena hits it right on the head when she says Sam only did it “because she could”.  The gap between Samantha and Pre-mantha isn’t as wide as you’d think.  Eventually the butterfly lives, Samantha gets fired, and all is well between the friends.

The Todd thing from last week gets truly short shrift.  Todd freaks out, tells Samantha that it will never happen.  Samantha kisses Todd and says it will never happen.  And that’s that.

Final Grade: A-

How I Met Your Mother: Sandcastles In The Sand
April 21, 2008

CBS, Mondays at 8:00PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: 20-Something

Huh.  If you had told me the end of this episode at the beginning of the episode, I wouldn’t have believed you.  But more about that later.

Going into tonight’s show, there was one real draw: Robin Sparkles.  The first music video of this little known Canadian pop star was pretty amazing.  If you haven’t seen it, you must:

So Robin’s Canadian accent was creeping back, and so was an ex-beau.  And as the gang pointed out, whenever you see an ex again, one of them has to “win”.  This is one of those great truths that the show pulls out.  The second proof that they addressed is that we see those we once admired as if we were seeing them in the past, and so while the gang saw that the ex was balding, overweight, and stuck in a delusion of making it as a rock star, Robin was stuck in her own delusion of who he was.  This story pretty much went the way you’d expect.  Actually, it went exactly how you’d expect.  And it wasn’t exactly interesting getting there either.

Meanwhile, the revelation of the ex also brought up the existence of another Robin Sparkles video.  Which set Barney off on a task to find it.  This was the only draw of the episode.  We knew if we stuck around long enough, we’d get to see the video.  Barney walks in on Robin, who just got dumped.  And guess what: he was caring.  And charming.  And completely un-Barney.  And it really worked.  And exactly as you’d expect, Robin let him watch the video.  What a disappointment.  Whereas “Let’s Go To The Mall” was fun 80’s garbage, “Sandcastles in the Sand” was…nothing at all really.  It was so underwhelming that it took the air out of a rather aimless episode.  But Barney and Robin kept watching it.

And then they kissed.  Which honestly, even if you had a feeling it may happen, didn’t seem like it was going to.  But when it did, something about it felt…right?  The thing is, I don’t know how much that has to do with it actually being right, or with the writer positioning Barney as charming and consoling so it would be right.

Regardless, that was the only highlight of the rather bland episode.  Here’s hoping the show goes somewhere worthwhile from here.

Oh, here’s the new video:

Final Grade: C+

Scrubs: My Manhood
April 18, 2008

NBC, Thursday at 9:30PM (for now)

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Imagine If Grey’s Anatomy Was Funny…And Just Better.

Man, that had to be the most uncomfortable first 10 seconds of an episode ever.  I just wanted to say that.

JD goes through a crisis of testosterone when Dr. Cox reminds him over and over of how unmanly he is.  While this may seem like old ground, its all new because now JD has a son he has to butch up for.  Which results in JD landing a accidently punch straight to Turk’s nose, which JD takes credit for.  This show really does work the best when JD and Turk are the focus.  And then it went completely elsewhere.  Turk was the one actually needing his manhood reinforced, after he had one of his testicles removed (BTW, one of the best fantasy sequences in a LLOOOONNNGGG time).  This also resulted in one of the more truly touching moments in a long while.

The Brain-Trust gets together and decides to put our their own paper, cleverly called the The Janitorial, about the comings and goings around Sacred Heart.  Perry does the very Coxian thing of insulting the paper and incurring Janitor’s (the person, not the paper…but the paper as well) wrath.  According to The Janitorial, Perry is all warm and gooey under his tough, rough, springy curl exterior.  To rectify the constant outreached arms that Cox feels now, he finally apologizes and lets Janitor right a real story about Perry.  Without Perry being needed to for the interview.

The show also picked up on the fact that Dr. Kelso was getting forced out of his job, when Dr. Elliot found her wedgie free self in the guys bathroom.  And then they really dropped the ball on it.  I can only assume that its because they plan on picking it up in a whole episode soon.

I’ll be honest: this show has been floundering for a solid season and a half.  I think its mostly because last season was supposed to be a wrap up season, and they got an extension.  Now this season may be the exact same thing.  However, this episode covered new ground, which was something that has been sorely missing.  Even in the face of a possible jump to a new network, lets hope the show sticks on the path its on.

Ted also had a great re-occurring gap.

Continuity news: MadTV’s Michael MacDonald returns as someone who may or may not have been his same character.  Good to see him, anyways.

Final Grade: B

The Office: The Chairmodel
April 18, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Its Funny Because Its Oh So True.

Man the opening teaser itself was just hilarious on its own.  Especially Kevin sitting on the curb, broken down (though I’m sure the breakup with Stacey didn’t help; nor did Michael’s “You didn’t deserve her” comforting).  These background players don’t get enough credit.

This episode was about Michael moving on, after a less than stellar dinner party last week ended her relationship with Jan.  His plan?  Have everyone in the office right down the name of an available friend for him to try out.  (Kevin gets the award for the best gag: Wendy, a big, juicy Redhead)  Dwight, in classic Dwight mode, made it his life’s mission to find the office supply merchandise chairmodel that sent Michael into this need for love.  Only, she died and broke Michael’s heart.  So in pity, Pam suggests setting up Michael with her landlady, Margaret.  Oh Pamalamadingdong, why would you ever Michael Scott anyone?  It went how you expected: a combination of warm with absolute wrong, ending with Michael’s righteous indignation.  And further ending with Michael’s new plan: wait until next year’s catalogue comes out and find a new chairmodel.  Ahh, Michael.  At least it ended with classic Michael and Dwight.

Which leads to Pam and Jim upping the ante on their relationship.  Who would’ve thunk it?  Michael Scott ends up being the thing the reinforces our fate in Jam…or Pim.  Pam’s the classy girl we want her to be.  She won’t move in with someone who hasn’t proposed.  And Jim…man, that guy makes us look bad, doesn’t he?  By the way, his gag at the end…PRICELESS!

Meanwhile, construction at Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s neighbor, W.B. Jones, lead the employees to park in the satellite lot, which is apparently a fate worse than death.  So Kevin decides its time to bring together The Five Families; the organizations that share the office building.  This was great, if only to see each company’s commercial.  Come to think about it, this was truly a Kevin episode, which turns out to be a great thing.  Especially when Kevin wins one.

Oh, and “Bernard…Andy is me” did a dance at the end.  Which made up for not doing much the entire episode.

Final Grade: A

30 Rock: Subway Hero
April 18, 2008

NBC, Thursdays at 8:30PM

Genre: Sitcom

Conceit: Less About SNL and More About Tina Fey Not Having Time To Write SNL.

“We’re like Ross and Rachel, except not gay.”  There are just some lines that Dean Winters’ “Dennis Duffy” was just born to deliver.  And, as history shows, any episode of 30 Rock with The Beeper King in it is that much better than any episode without him.  When the newly exonerated from his “To Catch Predator” fiasco Dennis seemingly saves someone’s life in the subway, he becomes an overnight celebrity, even warranting a guest appearance from Mayor Bloomberger.  Jack wants the new celebrity to guest star on the show and wants Liz to use her “in” to make it happen.  Dennis, however, wants to have this “crazy on again off again” relationship to turn on again.  And resist as she may, Liz can’t help but be pulled into his blackhole.  Its easy to be with Dennis, Liz tells us; it requires no work on her part.  She’s Sally Field to his Subway Hero.  And just like that, Dennis repels the throngs who worshipped him and Liz in one fell swoop.  Classic Dennis.  And just like that, Liz goes back to Dennis.  Classic Liz.  And just like that, Dennis reminds Liz why they’re not together.  Classic Dennis.

Meanwhile, Jack is trying to find a way to garner more celebrity support for his McCain Fundraiser, supported by the Committee To Reinvade Vietnam.  While this leads to some great Tracey moments, the real star of the show had to be Dotcom, who’s two lines with Jack had to be the funniest he’s ever uttered.

Tim Conway also made an appearance as former TV star Bucky Bright, who Jack initially considered for his fundraiser.  Kenneth, enamored by his hero, decided to give Bucky a tour, only to find out that the star from a more wholesome time of television was pretty unwholesome.  Conway could actually duel Winters for who had the best lines of the show.  Either way, we win.

Final Grade: A+