Community finally returns tonight for its fourth season, and I, for one, could not be more excited. While Community has been off the air since last season's finale in May, fans' grumblings over changing premiere dates and show times has attracted some serious backlash. What's the big deal with this show, anyway? Folks complained that Community is too weird, too meta, too full of Chevy Chase's sour, unlikable antics (Chase, incidentally, left the show mid-season).
Community's detractors and skeptics take issue with the show's heavy reliance on parody (each episode is loosely organized around a well-known film or genre—Thursday's episode is rumored to borrow from The Hunger Games), sometimes-obscure verbal and visual pop culture references, and constant potshots aimed at the show's shabby fourth wall. But Community's weirdness and fondness for self-reference are precisely what set it apart from other sitcoms' bland, recycled jokes and story lines. Its penchant for parody does more than plant Easter Eggs for film geeks. All of these tactics put Community in a position to be, well… feminist.
A sitcom about a married couple who loves each other, wants a baby, and has wacky acquaintances is hardly groundbreaking new territory for network TV. NBC's new Ryan Murphy show The New Normal is another in a long line of focused-on-the-family television fare, but with one significant twist: The married people at its center are gay men. That's interesting, sure, and I'm all for more diverse representations on the big networks, but it doesn't change the fact that this is a standard, predictable, dare I say "normal," new show.
Valentine's Day is a tricky holiday for TV shows, no matter if the characters are coupled or single, happy or miserable, or somewhere in between. The TNL lineup (and last week's Parks and Rec) all tackled February 14, with mixed results. Here's what worked, and what didn't in the Thursday night comedies' approach to Valentine's Day.
So if you read these recaps with any regularity, I imagine you were relieved when NBC moved Whitney to "cocktail hour" on Wednesdays to be paired with Chelsea Handler's new show. (So avoid Wednesday nights on NBC.) In its place came Up All Night, a mostly charming show about new parents Chris and Reagan. Like Whitney, Up All Night focuses on a couple in a long-term relationship, minus the laugh track and with the added bonus of an adorable baby and Maya Rudolph. The show has been a nice fit with the rest of the TNL lineup, but there are still a few things it can do to fulfill its potential.
This week's lineup was an odd one: two new episodes of 30 Rock, a new episode of Parks and Rec and a repeat of Up All Night. (Even though there was no Office this time, it seems we might have a Dwight Schrute-centric spinoff to look forward to next season, so that's...something). So we'll tackle the shows that had new episodes, starting with how 30 Rock dealt with the Tracy Morgan controversy.
In this week's TNL, it's all about 30 Rock—specifically, the problem that arises from Tina Fey so closely identifying with her character, Liz Lemon. This week's episode especially magnified the havoc this wreaks on her long-suffering fictional alter-ego, in both her personal and professional life.
So with the start of 2012 ushers in a new lineup on Thursday nights on NBC. With Community and Whitney replaced by 30 Rock and Up All Night, we have a comedy block in which three out of the four series are headlined by women, which is pretty awesome. So how did the brand-new TNL lineup fare? We kick off this week's recap with the return of 30 Rock.
Take a look at the photo on the left. Starting in January, Jeff Winger will be replaced by Liz Lemon. No wonder he looks so dismayed in the picture!
In case you haven't heard, Community is being pulled off the schedule indefinitely (boo) and being replaced by 30 Rock (yay for that, at least). Whitney is swapping places with Up All Night, and in celebration I've decided to pretend the show is already off the Thursday night schedule and not bother to recap it anymore. Hope you're cool with that. Let's get started!