When's the last time NBC didnt over-advertise a very special episode of Wedding? And they wait until now to tell us there are only two episodes of Scrubs left on their very special network until it moves next season to ABC, which isnt famous for 2-hour comedy evenings. So, we're going to be left with live tv and another Saturday Night Live spinoff combined into the same wobbly fall hopeful. And for what.
And something tells me that The Office "you're fired" teaser is just that. But halfway through Scrubs I'm actually starting to like the thing again. So lets enjoy it while we can before we commit to the sad disappointment of another season fast-forwarding through all of that Full House alum's terrible acting examples on the second-best hospital drama left in the world. It's a good sign when Scrubs has the ball to make fun of itself. Although I still dont know whats going on with Chief Dr. Cox's wife's face.
"My Name is Earl" is still surprising and it's quite a feat how the writers manage to work with all the relationships in each episode as they expand and contract like one of those plastic spheres that hang from toy store ceilings. Michael Rappaport is perfect as usual and they're giving Alyssa Milano just enough to stay in the scene. The slapstick is working and the in-between jokes keep it flying when the story starts to drag — Joy giving the kids shots of milk, her son responding to "dont forget to carry the 3!" with "I'm doing my spelling homework," Randy's apple slices, the list goes on. And the lesbian tease was inspired. Or maybe thats just me.
Wow — well, I was right, but it was still a great episode of The Office. It's rare, I think, for a comedy to proceed with such balance. It threatened us with heavy themes and then backed away just in time — a near mirror reflection of what it gave us last week. Its timely lack of focus on Jim made for a hilarious little swing through the more depraved minds of Scranton. It might be a stretch to call The Office an ensemble comedy — it nearly always narrows in on two or three main characters. But it might be the deepest comedy since Soap. Nobody here remembers Soap — thats ok, I dont either, but I remember the group photo and there were a lot of people in that show. And these very funny actors sit in the background of The Office — in the office — making seldom one-liners but when their time in the spotlight arrives, they hit every beat.
And for anyone thinking that the only way for either Tracy Morgan or Jane Krakowski to be in a scene is to overwhelm it, and speaking of ensembles, they both fit right in tonight, letting the team or the star take the credit. All in all, a good fun time. The inside jokes on 30 Rock excel — whether it's "a sign in Chelsea" or getting back to Cleveland to meet with Peter Venkman — say aye if you caught that before Liz did. And if you've never eaten a great New York City sandwich, you might have found the ending of 30 Rock less believable than it really was. These local comedies are really hitting a stride, and suddenly I'm reminded how much I miss "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
When I watch Comedy Central lately I get discouraged about contemporary American comedy. It doesnt seem like anyone is doing anything different anymore. They're stuffing more overfed veteran road comics into 3-piece suits than is ever necessary. But the smart funny we get on Thursdays cant help but appeal to the best that's out there right now. And along the way has been the steady hand of Saturday Night Live, not always on the money, but at least at the table. So maybe next season's grand experiment won't fail after all.
And we shouldnt forget, even while the show is in decline, that what brought all this on was Scrubs. The cameras, the farce, the allusions — it opened the door for what we're watching now. Dont forget — "Arrested Development" had its entire run in between the premiere and halfway point of Scrubs.
Bringing us right back to 30 Rock and the 12th floor — right out of a J.D. fantasy — "No Nut Food," the eye-patched receptionist and the gerbil wheel — and they almost broke into song again — another shoutout to the best hospital comedy still on television — we'll miss ya soon.