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Comedy Night Done Right Reviews: Weeks 4 and 5

Here’s the fourth and fifth weeks of NBC’s fantastic Comedy Night Done Right, after the jump…

COMMUNITY

2.04  – “Basic Rocket Science”

The study group is tasked with cleaning Greendale’s newest flight simulation unit, a purchase made out of desperation in order to ‘best’ the school’s rival, City College. But the group becomes trapped inside as the simulator is towed – and the only way to get out safely is to complete the space simulation.

Done in the same vain as last year’s ‘Modern Warfare’ (1.23 AKA the paintball episode for those not in the know), the entire episode uses the catch-all comedic net of straight-faced, deadpan commitment pretty effectively. But unlike its season one counterpart, the stakes didn’t feel very high. Understandable, when you think about it – ‘Modern Warfare’ exaggerated a game of paintball into a no-holds barred, life-or-death battle of epic proportions, whereas this episode only has the dignity and reputation of Greendale College to lose. And for a school that piles on the self-deprecation and regularly submits to mediocrity, losing an already battered and bruised rep seems like small potatoes. Overall, though, this was an excellent concept and a fun episode to watch.

2.05  – “Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples”

Inspired by Shirley’s desire to create a ‘Christian’ viral video, Abed creates a feature-length meta-film that has the whole school entranced. Pierce comes to terms with his age and has a run in with a rough crowd comprised of Greendale’s senior students.

There comes a time in every fledgling sitcom’s career when the topic of religion must be covered… or at least glazed over. From there, the writers of the show must figure out which character should don the Jesus-weave-and-beard getup and preach about compassion for 22 minutes. In Community’s case, the natural choice seemed to be Abed. Though as he went about making his meta ‘film-within-a-film,’ the show became less about religion and more about how obnoxious the new wave of artsy film kids can be. As the whole school bought into Abed’s hype, they became intent on worshipping him and expressing their love of his artistic prowess, and thus they became incredibly annoying – and I loved it. To top off the hilarity, we get to see Pierce joyriding in what looks like an old Toyota Camry with his new senior friends – at 5 miles per hour – before “crashing” into a light post and bailing for fear of getting caught and arrested.

30 ROCK

5.04 – “Live Show”

Liz becomes upset when the entire cast neglects to observe her 40th birthday. Tracy decides that he would like to try “breaking” – that is, laughing at your own joke during a broadcast and thus breaking your character – on the show. Jack struggles to give up drinking as a show of solidarity for Avery, who’s pregnant.

I know, I know – most people completely hated the live aspect of the show. Let’s mark it down as a fun one-off novelty and take the show for what it was, shall we? It’s not about to become a regular thing, so there’s no need to rail on the show for its one-time format. Live aspect aside, having watched both broadcasts the west coast version was exponentially better. You’ll know which version you watched by who sang along with the theme song off the top of the show: Jenna sang for the east coast, Danny for the west. The show felt tighter and yet more relaxed at the same time and the cast seemed to be genuinely having fun rather than walking across eggshells. The episode also hosted a slew of guest appearances, which some have chalked up to the gimmicky nature of the episode. I chose to ignore this, primarily because there was Jon Hamm and Bill Hader and Matt Damon and Chris Parnell and a slew of other very funny good-looking people on one show in front of me and I was having major sensory overload. It’s safe to say that I fangirled out on this one you guys. I’m sorry.

5.05 – “Reaganing”

After a particularly good morning, Jack finds himself on the path to “Reaganing” – that is, finding a solution to every problem that confronts him within a time period of 24 hours.  All goes well until he is confronted with a problem from Liz Lemon’s love life. Desperate to “Reagan,” Jack attempts to work through Liz’s problems and patch things up with her and Carol before the day is out.

Liz Lemon’s traumatic childhood stories generally add lots of solid comedy to a 30 Rock episode, and this time is no exception. Her psychiatric session with Jack is full of weird, deep-seated childhood issues that leave absolutely no room for imagination. Though most of the episode takes place in the back of a limo, the episode loses no pizzazz whatsoever and remains completely watchable, partially due to the two (physically active but slightly less funny) subplots. Maybe this episode was a little filler-y, but it’s worth it for the Liz-as-a-child gags. Trust me.

THE OFFICE

7.04 – “Sex Ed”

After spotting a cold sore on his lip, Michael contacts all of his ex-lovers and informs them that they should be screened for herpes. Spotting this as an opportunity to win Erin’s affection, Andy organizes a sex education workshop for everyone.

I see you tying up loose ends, NBC! This episode could have also been called “mega foreshadowing goes here.” Michael’s heartfelt message on Holly’s machine left me wondering if that’s Carell’s exit strategy – would Mr. Scott leave his wonderful job for the woman that he loves? It seems likely now. There’s also a bonus appearance from crazy Jan and her daughter, Astrid – who’s all grown up and gives me the baby-stealin’ tinglies (a legitimate medical condition in which a usually sane person sees an adorable child and immediately gets the urge to pick it up and run far, far away). I’m also a fan of herpes jokes, so it was really hard for me to find things wrong with this episode. Heh. Herpes.

7.05 – “The Sting”

Desperate to snag some sales tips from the region’s hottest salesman – and Dunder-Mifflin’s top rival – Michael arranges a ‘sting operation’ in an effort to catch the man’s pitch tactics on video.

Did we mention that the sales guy is super good looking? And that Meredith was the undercover conducting the sting? No? Well, that should push you over the top. With last episode’s blatant tying of loose ends, it’s time for the show to focus on fleshing out minor characters that are about to come to the forefront – and the sting was a perfect vehicle for this. Each character’s actions and reactions when recruited into the mission speak volumes to their personality and contribution to the show. I was questioning The Office’s abilities to survive in a post-Carell world, but now I’m taking that back. They have all the tools necessary to thrive past the star’s departure next season, and with episodes like this one in their arsenal, they may be able to hold onto those elusive ratings.

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