Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Oh What's That About? Thursdays on NBC

I'll be honest--for a long time, NBC was the last channel you'd find me on come Thursday night. There was just something about Steve Carell, Alec Baldwin, and Joel McHale slammed up against each other that I...didn't care about. I didn't think it was all that funny, and frankly, I didn't like that everyone was wetting themselves over Rainn Wilson's "Dwight Shrute" character.

But I was young and naive then (and by then I mean maybe 2 years ago).

Now, I look forward to Thursday nights. And it stinks that based off the headlines, I won't have much to look forward to come next season. The media have been jumping up and down about the Thursday night line-up getting hacked to bits next season. Some think it's because Alec Baldwin's an ass (which, I'll admit, he kind of is). Some are still in the mindset I was in thinking the shows just weren't funny. But regardless of why--a good chunk of these NBC documentary-style comedies are seeing the light at the end of their tunnels.

But what shows am I talking about? What's so special about the NBC Thursday night line up?

Let's start from the beginning of the line up (NOTE: The line up of shows to which I am referring are not airing at the moment, they're in between seasons. So don't turn to NBC Thursday night and be dismayed at another round of performances on America's Got Talent).


Starring Joel McHale of "The Soup" and Chevy Chase from every great Hollywood classic comedy ever (i.e. "Clark Griswald" in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"), "Community" is about a rag tag bunch of students at Greendale Community College who form this hap hazard study group. In the beginning, McHale's character is pretending to be a lawyer, until someone finds out he never actually got his degree. So he goes back to college and meets this dysfunctional group of people, and they become an odd group of friends. There's Troy and Abed, best friends who are obsessed with pop culture, and Britta, who's knack for messing things up is uncanny. Then there's Chevy, another student who doesn't get along with McHale but they seem to put up with each other more because they have to rather than they want to, and Annie, a perfect goody-two shoes who has the hots for McHale and can't seem to overcome her perfectly nerdy ways to tell him that. There's Shirley, the sweet but fierce 5 ft tall bucket of crazy, and then the awkward and uncomfortable Dean Pelton and Senor Chang--the less than formidable staff of the college.

With such episodes as the 2 part "Paintball War", the show creates a world where the ludicrous is acceptable. And the humor is quirky enough to draw you in, and the characters are just human enough to keep you there.

Unfortunately, the show has wavered on the brink of cancellation for years, and it looks like the hammer might actually fall--the upcoming season is rumored to be it's last.

30 Rock 

Starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock" is about Tina's character "Liz Lemon" producing a show for NBC, under her hyper ego-tistical boss, Baldwin's "Jack Donaghy". Lemon does her best to keep her head above water in a studio filled with demanding actors, needy writers, and outrageous circumstances. But sometimes just can't juggle that many things at once. There's an insane amount of characters and actor cameos throughout the seasons, and Lemon's own quirks match those of her co-workers perfectly. Between her struggle to find a stable love life, and Jack's struggle to not get choked by his own ego, how they produce a show at the end of the day, I have no idea. But I do love watching them try to get the "job" done. 

After being supposedly "stalked" by an NBC news team, Baldwin went so far as to tweet how excited he was to be "done" with the network shortly. This was what started the rumors of cancellations. Most of the cast of "30 Rock" has a contract ending after next season. And with that looming over everyone's head, it's been announced that next season will be the last season. Though some have reported a shorter season has been ordered, I won't really give much heed to that. 

Parks and Recreation

A spin off of sorts of "The Office", "Parks and Rec" is about a city office, rather than a private company. Amy Poehler stars as Leslie Knope, the Deputy Director for the city of Pawnee, Indiana's Department of Parks and Recreation. Among her co-workers are another batch of crazies with quirks, one being Ron Swanson, a rough and tumble guy who has no time for nonsense unless it's his own, and Rob Lowe playing a super self-obsessed version of a city official. To be totally honest, this is the one I know the least about. I think that's mainly because my own father is a city employee, and the similarities/discrepancies between the two are just too much for me sometimes. But the humor is along the same lines as our other shows. 

So is the rumor that it too might get canned. 

The Office 

Originally done in the UK with Ricky Gervais, the US equivalent starred Steve Carell as the barely qualified to lead a group of rats, let alone an office of humans, "Michael Scott". I'm no expert, but I understand it to be the first show of it's kind here in the States, a mock-umentary of sorts. Here's where we first see the oddly mismatched group of quirky characters put in real life situations and asked to deal with it. It's "The Office" that first asked us to accept these people as actual people, to assume and maintain the idea that they are real. Adding the documentary aspect to the show helps to visualize the concept that "Dwight Shrute", who would never be as successful in the real world as he is in the show, is actually a competent employee. Of course there are moments in the show when Dwight is put to the task and fails, but the idea of him being able to function in any kind of office space alone is unsettling enough of a reality. 

And while the show has yet to be cancelled, many of the actors are leaving after next season. And who knows what legs the show will have to stand on then? 

There are alot of similarities between these shows, but the one alot of us miss is the smart humor. We see the quirks and the pop culture lines (i.e. Liz Lemon's "I want to go to there") that are recited back to us daily. But we miss the small moments of intelligent humor that pepper the show and pop up when you least expect it in a refreshing way. Okay, maybe a little less refreshing after 4 shows use the same style of humor--but still, you get what I'm putting down. So, since next season might be the last for some of these shows, I highly suggest giving them a chance. 


1 comment:

  1. my heart will be broken when Parks and Recs goes. It is an amazing tv show that I love dearly. Ron Swanson is the man!!