NBC Thursday Night Comedy 4/21/11 Recap: “Is That a New Stereotype?”

We’re nearing the end of the season and it’s starting to show. In this past Thursday’s NBC lineup, we get two pseudo-flashback episodes, another “Will they or won’t they?” from ‘Parks and Recreation’, and a strong but over-indulgent episode of ‘The Office’. There’s also an episode of ‘The Paul Reiser Show’, but it’s the last. That series has already been canceled.


‘Paradigms of Human Memory’ is a strange episode that works in some parts and fails to do so in others. It’s constructed in the same way as a typical sitcom flashback episode, with the main difference being that the clips are from episodes that never existed.

When it works, the episode is truly funny. It’s almost like watching several mini-episodes. In particular, Abed’s obsession with ‘The Cape’ is strong, since the story evolves over the course of several flashbacks. I also quite like the flashback analysis where Jeff and Britta try to paint painful memories as good ones.

It all stops working at the midway point when the slow motion recaps of relationships start to hit. They go on far too long – well after we’ve already gotten the joke. It’s a cute idea, but it works better in theory than it does in practice.

One thing that does work out very well is the compilation of Jeff’s speeches through all of the different episodes. “The only sharks in that water… are the emotional ghosts that I call fear.”

The Office

Michael is leaving, but not without giving his final Dundies. The award ceremony is a good way to send the character off. It’s not only something he loves, but something that the audience loves too.

The episode is a strong one from the beginning, when Michael and Deangelo deliver the Dundie award nominations to the employees. Meredith is the only one who’s actually excited for the nomination and offers the pair breakfast, stating “I’ve got Vienna sausage and napkins.”

Michael coaches Deangelo to prepare him for the Dundies, but it’s all in vain. The new manager just doesn’t have the flair for performance that Michael does. It’s a funny start, especially when Deangelo is laying on the ground and screaming his speech, but it never really resolves.

The Dundies are broken up and the Dunder Mifflin crew is kicked out of the restaurant where they were hosting the awards, but they’re not done. They head back to the office to finish off the ceremony and to send Michael off with a song. They borrow the melody from ‘Rent’ with new lyrics made by the staff. It’s a little unbelievable, and the song choice itself is a little strange, but it’s a nice enough sendoff.

Parks and Recreation

I like Leslie Knope and I like Ben Wyatt. They’re strong characters, they both have hidden depths to explore, and they’re both very funny. I even think they’d be good together, should they ever decide to move their relationship forward.

But it needs to happen, or it needs to not happen. A slow buildup of a major plot development is something that ‘Parks and Recreation’ does beautifully, but the Leslie and Ben relationship has already been built. From a character standpoint, this should have happened by now. Unfortunately, it’s not up to the characters, so they must wait until the season finale, or closer to it.

The portion of this episode that isn’t about Leslie’s relationships is about a challenge between Ron and Chris. Both men believe they’re capable of making the best burger around, and they have a cook-off to determine which will be carried by the cafeteria.

In the end, Ron’s “hamburger made out of meat on a bun with nothing” wins out over the meticulously crafted turkey burger from Chris. The buildup is fine, but the finale is lacking. Unhealthy food wins out over healthy food. That’s fine and all, but Ron’s main gripe isn’t with people that eat turkey, it’s with people that don’t eat meat. Facing off against a veggie burger of some sort would have made a lot more sense. In fact, many of Ron’s comments would have made more sense. After all, Chris’s burger is made out of meat too.

30 Rock

The hundredth episode of ’30 Rock’ is a somewhat unnecessary hour long. It’s full of flashbacks, the reintroduction of old characters, and a gas-leak story that loosely ties everything together.

There’s a lot going on in the episode, too much to really follow or build up. It’s as if the writers took every idea from a brainstorming meeting and said, “Hey, let’s do everything!” The result is a show filled with half-executed ideas.

Take the Danny flashback sequence, for instance. The character of Danny, who is barely on the show at this point anyway, starts having flashbacks to earlier seasons. Since he wasn’t in those seasons, he flashes back to Josh, the cast member he replaced. There’s a lot of potential for comedy here, but the joke happens and is never explored. Instead, we’re rushed into another scene.

Jack starts hallucinating multiple alternate versions of himself. Liz has flashbacks, tries to deal with Tracy, and calls up Dennis Duffy. Jenna wants the attention that comes with having a child. Hank Hooper wants to cancel ‘TGS’, and Tracy tries to get people to stop respecting him.

This season was an odd one, and a little disappointing overall. For next year, the folks at ’30 Rock’ need to calm down and get some focus. Wanting to do everything is admirable, but there’s only so much you can cram into a show.


  1. I loved the fake clip show on Community. I want to watch all those episodes that don’t really exist! I imagine that someone who wasn’t a die-hard fan of the show might not get the joke at all and assume those were real clips.

    30 Rock… Geezus, that really didn’t need to be an hour. It was just a slog to get through that episode.

  2. Adam

    I LOVED the Community clip show. I was terrified when I read the blurb on my DVR that it would be one of those asinine clip montage shows like The Office ran last year, that are just pointless and fluff when the producers are too cheap and/or lazy to produce a real episode. I really enjoyed the flashbacks to episodes we never saw, and parts of actual episodes that were never shown. Some of it was kind of ehh, particularly the Chang bits (am I the only one that thinks that the allure of Chang has been slaughtered by his move from Senor Chang to just Chang? He’s just become annoying.). I’d love to see the old west “episode” and definitely the St. Patrick’s Day episode. Jeff’s speech was pretty awesome too. I just like the fact that Community is willing to do something DIFFERENT from the same old formulaic episodes of every other show.

    It’s weird to me that NBC shows have so many parallels between each other, often on the same night (two Lady Gaga costumes, the same guest character on two different shows [Fat Neil on Community and then a character on 30 Rock or The Office, if I remember], and then two different flashback episodes). Just weird.

    • Even though they’re produced separately, I’m pretty sure the creators of Community knew that this episode would be aired the same night as the big 30 Rock 100th ep clip show, and planned accordingly.

      I also liked the return of Annie’s Boobs.

      (It was Perfect Couples that the Fat Neil actor appeared on, by the way.)

      • Adam

        Thank you Josh, for the life of me I couldn’t remember the second show. He was like a pizza guy or something, I think. On the same night as that Community did the D&D episode, if I remember correctly.

        I was surprised that Annie’s Boobs was not referenced by his proper name once in that episode. Maybe fallout over the last time?

        Also, I wonder if the the two clip shows were designed to air at the same time, or if it just happened that way, since episodes get swapped around and schedules changed from time to time. Curious.

        • Yeah, he was a pizza guy on Perfect Couples.

          I could have sworn that Troy called the money by name. It was definitely wearing the collar with “Annie’s Boobs” written on it, in any case.

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