Friday, September 24, 2010
NBC's Thursday night comedies...three veteran shows and one much publicized newcomer...came back with amusing but uneven results.
Community went "meta"...becoming self-reverential almost to the point of distraction...but the able cast was able to keep it on track for the most part. The guest appearance by the ubiquitous Betty White had its chuckles but wasn't really essential to the proceedings.
30 Rock came back with its trademarked blend of absurdity, sharp dialogue, and fast pace. Matt Damon's guest turn as the love interest of Tina Fey's Liz Lemon had its comic charms.
The Office opened its final season with star Steve Carell with a "wacky" musical number featuring the entire cast that may have gone on just a bit too long (my favorite bit was Jim and Pam dancing like characters from the old Charlie Brown cartoons used to dance.) Laughs were fairly consistent throughout the episode. (I enjoy this show but I'm of the mind that if it ended this season with the departure of Carell's indelible Michael Scott that would be fine. Seven years is a good run for a sitcom...but, of course, that's not the way things work on network television where they most prefer to keep going until people are more than ready for you to go already.)
And then there's Outsourced (see cast above). The fish out of water comedy...American guy sent over to manage a ragtag office full of workers in a call center in India...did not really get off to a good start. There seems to be potential...the cast is game and the premise, while creaky and fraught with cultural traps, could be mined for some good comedy...but the first episode was tepid at best (the best bits had already been played...over and over and over...during the summer-long run-up to the premiere.) To the good is the fact that Parks & Recreation, the show displaced from Thursdays by Outsourced, started off slowly as well but found its footing and became a sharp comedy. Hopefully Outsourced will follow a similar trajectory.