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Thursday Night 'Lights: Who Won Must-See TV's Battle Royale?

In a kooky coincidence, the phrase "battle royale" was uttered on both Community and Parks and Recreation last night. In the spirit of the strange competitions exhibited on both shows this week, I'm going to crown one of our NBC comedies the winner of the Thursday Night Battle Royale. 

(Spoiler alert: It wasn't the show filmed in front of a live studio audience.)

COMMUNITY

"Is he your father or your lover?"

This was very much an Annie/Jeff episode, which found Jeff in a protective role when he saw Annie's sense of self threatened by an Asian student also named Annie who is equally smart and competitive. (Perhaps this "Other Annie" should meet Glee's "Other Asian.") It's hard to deny Jeff and Annie have chemistry, but it's odd that the show keeps acknowledging their attraction to each other before backing away from it because their age difference makes it creepy. 

In last week's blog, a commenter talked about upcoming developments with another pair in the study group that could cause ripples in their relationship. I really hope this is true, because having Jeff support (or stand in the way of) Annie as she takes on Model UN or the debate team or student council president as a way for them to explore their feelings for each other has become a bit boring. It also means the rest of the cast are relegated to supporting characters, rather than the group acting as an ensemble. 

As I noted last week, I'm not invested in the Jeff/Annie relationship, but I would welcome any forward movement in their storyline, even if it means the two elope in Reno and honeymoon in the KFC space shuttle.  

Random asides:

  • Martin Starr was hilarious as the Political Science teacher obsessed with Model UN. Hard to disagree with his assessment that non-Asian Annie's team won because the real United Nations is all about "high-minded rhetoric and empty gestures."  
  • Everything that occurred during the Model UN Battle Royale, including the floating head montage, represented all that is to love about Community
  • Of course Pierce would pronounce Uruguay as "Uragay."
  • Britta trying to rachet up her anti-establishment credentials by kicking a trash can and locking herself in a cage with a globe? That's just so Britta. Would someone please start a Facebook support group for her?
  • Shirley and Troy spoke so fast during the study room scene I barely understood them. But that could just be me. 

PARKS AND RECREATION

Ron and his mom standing in the office while Leslie and April are passed out from drinking too much moonshine

"To beat Godzilla, we need Mothra."

Talk about Battle Royales: The Tammy Showdown was one for the ages. Tammy Zero, Tammy One and Leslie have an "old-fashioned prairie drink-off"  to see who will take possession of Ron Swanson. (I was really hoping that Megan Mullally's Tammy Two would show up so we could see the ex-wives go toe-to-toe.) 

Back to Tammy One for a second. The backstory of how she and Ron met (she helped deliver him when she was a candystriper) explained a lot about their relationship. No wonder Ron seems brainwashed just from being in contact with her, although his abrupt change to "neutered wimp" bordered on cartoonish. But ultimately I went with it because Tammy One has been an authority figure throughout Ron's life (she was also his Sunday school and math teacher) and because of Clarkson's performance. 

The Tammy Battle Royale was hilariously epic, and any chance to see Amy Poehler play drunk Leslie is always comedy gold. But how interesting to see that Ron is able to break out of his Tammy-induced neutering when April takes part in the drink-off. It was a nice, subtle reminder of their bond and his paternal feelings for her. Based on this episode, it seems that April might be the Mothra to the Tammys' Godzilla.

Random asides:

  • I still can't believe that Ron Swanson said "cool beans."
  • Just like the episode when he moved in Andy and April, once again Ben is given a subplot where he plays truth-teller. This time, it's for Tom and Jean Ralphio and their company Entertainment 720. Even though they'll be bankrupt in a month, how can you not love an office that has a "dance party" button and hands out iPads like candy?
  • I also love that retired NBA star Detlef Schrempf has sort of become a recurring character on this show. If the NBA lockout continues, perhaps Indiana Pacer Roy Hibbert will become one too.
  • Nice to see Ann have some perspective on her relationship with Chris, given their super-awkward split. (To refresh your memory, Chris broke up with Ann so politely she didn't realize she was being dumped.)
  • I respect that Parks and Rec didn't cast a big name to play Tammy Zero, but instead chose a character actress to play Ron's mom. Paula Pell, a longtime SNL writer who also recurs on 30 Rock as Pete's wife, was a hoot in the role.  
  • Did I miss it, or was there no mention of Leslie's upcoming campaign or the Leslie/Ben breakup? If so, how odd.

THE OFFICE

"I guess I'm in one of those classic ass-tattoo incentive situations."

This episode wanted to prove why Andy Bernard was the right choice to replace Michael Scott as manager of Dunder Mifflin. Instead, he proved he was the worst choice possible. 

Nothing made that more apparent then when Andy sits cross-legged on Jim's desk, begging for ideas to increase profits. That cheerful desperation to be liked and respected was vintage Michael, but Andy's lack of business acumen is all Nard Dog. I imagine the writers feel like they can yield a lot of comedy out of Andy's ineptitude, but the fact that he was chosen over the other salespeople, especially Jim, is just plain annoying. 

Especially when Andy's incentives plan was terrible, but only starts working once Jim provoked the situation for his own amusement, the same way he used to do with Michael. The office worked together quickly to accrue the 5,000 points required to see Andy Bernard get a tattoo on his backside, so I took issue with the Andy and Jim heart-to-heart (also a patented aspect of Jim and Michael's boss/employee relationship) when Jim stated no one expected Andy to get the tattoo. I call foul: Would they really have worked so hard otherwise? 

The Office writers tried to explain away Robert California's reasons for choosing Andy as boss by having him say, "there's something about an underdog that really inspires the unexceptional." No matter how much they try to rationalize it, Andy becoming the manager seems more like writer machinations than a real choice made by a person as smart as California. If anything, this episode proved why Jim should have received the promotion. 

Random asides:

  • As much as I didn't like this episode (especially compared to the season premiere), I did enjoy a few little things, like Pam's Nard Dog tattoo for Andy, Darryl singing about making up with his ex-wife, and Erin and Kelly's goofy run out of the tattoo shop.
  • I wonder since Pam's on baby number two, will The Office give into TV tropes and have her give birth in an unlikely place like the elevator, conference room or warehouse? 
  • Speaking of Pam, I hope that pregnant Pam and pregnant Angela are given their own episode. I can totally picture them having competing baby showers at the office. 

WHITNEY

"Relationships take work. Whitney doesn't."

I disagree, NBC announcer guy. This episode was as difficult to sit through as the pilot. Maybe it was even harder, because at least in that one, Whitney and Alex had a relatable relationship quandary about their sex life (even if it was executed poorly). This time, Whitney is lamenting the fact that she and Alex never had a first date, and then orchestrates a fake first date that makes Alex look like a saint for putting up with her crap. She acts like the kind of irrational nitwit that would be on Mindy Kaling's list of romantic comedy archetypes.

As for the supporting characters (whose names I still don't know, but think of as Blond Single, Cop Dude and The Schmoopie Couple), they are needlessly shoehorned into a plot that doesn't really require anything of them. I think if Whitney didn't act so flighty and needy, she and Alex could actually carry the show themselves. Alex is a likable character, yet he's on track to have to prove himself to his girlfriend every episode, based on her bizarre flights of fancy.

If the show can break that cycle and give Whitney something else to focus on besides her relationship, maybe it can get off the ground. (Seriously, how does Whitney have the time to hang out in her lobby looking like Hello Kitty's ne'er-do-well older sister? As much as the friends on Friends sat around in their apartments for the majority of episodes, even they were shown at work on occasion. )

Random asides:

  • Having someone order for you on a date is supposed to be romantic? Really?
  • This is the second episode in a row that begun with an intro filmed without a studio audience. It's like getting a taste of what might have been if the showrunners decided to produce it as a single-camera show.

BATTLE ROYALE WINNER: The Tammy showdown makes this an easy win for Parks and Recreation. But I'm really hoping that Community and especially The Office improve, based on the potential glimpsed in their premieres. 

Previously: Thursday Night 'Lights: NBC's New Must-See TV (and Whitney) 

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Comments

5 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I believe Jim was offered the

I believe Jim was offered the position last season but declined when he found that he wouldn't get a raise?

You are correct! Even though

You are correct! Even though he turned it down, for some reason I still thought the writers were considering Jim for the top position along with Dwight, Darryl and Andy. I double-checked this though, and Jim wasn't in the running.  

While they gave Jim a good reason to not want the position, I still think he's the best candidate for the job. I actually liked him during his time as co-manager because he had something different to play besides being the office jokester. 

I thought it was really

I thought it was really stupid for them not to give Jim the job but i remember why he turned it down. He could make more money off the commission in sales plus his regular salary. Pam isn't making enough so he has to pick up sme of the slack. He says it was for his daughter.

Isn't there an earlier point

Isn't there an earlier point in the show when Andy explains that he seems to always get things without really deserving them? He tends to be successful for no apparent reason; I was pretty sure this was why he was offered the job. At least, I thought the writers were playing on that earlier disclosure (one I thought was pretty hilarious, because seriously, how often do generic white boys become successful for seemingly no reason?)

I hope no one is offended by my "generic white boys" comment. :-)

Also, "everybody pants now"

Also, "everybody pants now" was one of my favorite drunk Leslie moments. Ever. I will be singing that all day.