Thursday Comedy Roundup: 30 Rock 7.10, Parks & Rec 5.10, & Archer 4.1

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30 Rock, Season 7, Episode 10, “Florida”
Written by Tom Ceraulo & Matt Hubbard
Directed by Claire Cowperthwaite
Airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on NBC

“Florida” proves a nice bounce back from “Game Over,” whose title, it now seems, overstated things. Over the last year or so, 30 Rock has proven to be better at doing focused, character-driven episodes rather than sprawling omnibus episodes that attempt to incorporate every character, and that is the case here. Jack talks Liz into accompanying him to the titular state in order to tie up the remaining affairs with his mother’s estate and Tracy and Jenna realize they are in charge of things, which goes about as well as you would expect it to.

The A-plot serves to deepen Jack’s understanding of his mother while addressing any sexual tension that may have built up between he and Liz over the past seven years.  The B-plot tracks Hazel’s attempt to exact her revenge while 30 Rock is at its weakest, helped along by Kenneth Parcell’s inability to lie about the iniquitous happenings behind-the-scenes at TGS. That his struggle with this inspires a brief turn as a greaser is only icing on the cake. If there’s one thing the writers have down in season seven that they struggled with last year, it’s writing Kenneth Parcell.

This is a hilarious episode, featuring gems like “Hold my calls giant bee!” “Where are my manners? Let me boil up a pot of hot Gatorade. Is blue okay?” and “I once saw Kenneth Parcell naked. It was horrible. His body is a smooth beige tube with a head.” While Hooper’s cancellation of TGS and Liz’s spontaneous adoption of not one but two children look to make the next two week’s eventful ones, it’s going to be difficult to say goodbye to a show that seems poised to go out at the top.

Parks & Recreation, Season 5, Episode 10, “Two Parties”
Written by Dave King
Directed by Dean Holland
Airs Thursdays at 8:30pm ET on NBC

Parks & Recreation is a show that excels at party episodes. One doesn’t need to go too far back into the archives to stumble across series highlights like “End of the World,” “The Fight,” or “April and Andy’s Fancy Party.” This week we are blessed with not one but two parties, as Ben and Leslie have their respective Bachelor and Bachelorette parties. The latter alerts us to the fact that gummy penises apparently require censorship on network TV, while it’s only natural that Ben’s Bachelor party would involve an all-night game of Settlers of Catan.

The bachelorette party is flummoxed by Councilman Jamm’s attempt to build a Paunch Burger on lot 48, but as the men grow tired of board games and decide to experience each member of the party’s perfect bachelor party it affords some great moments: Ron completely out of his element as the waiter at the bar Tom takes them too massages scotch into his hand, Jerry deciding to celebrate at an ice-cream parlor, Andy playing catch with Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne, and a sing-along to Salt-n-Pepa’s underappreciated Shoop.

Meanwhile, the Bachelorette party furthers the Councilman Jamm and Lot 48 arc that has been developing all season, with some assistance from the Wamapoke Indians. Episodes like this make it easy to remember why, not so long ago, Parks and Recreation was indisputably the best comedy on network TV, and it’s making an argument that it still deserves that title.

Archer, Season 4, Episode 1, “Fugue and Riffs”
Written by Adam Reed
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on FX

It’s difficult to imagine a season premiere more satisfying than “Fugue and Riffs.” Right from the cold open—which incorporates the much-discussed Bob’s Burgers crossover, implying that entire show takes place while Archer is in a fugue state—the show is firing on all cylinders, and it never lets up. Naturally, Archer’s amnesia is triggered by his mother, who has apparently married Ron Cadillac, Cadillac King of New York, in the offseason.

The entire plot builds to this reveal, and it works so well because it grounds the absurd plot in a real emotion that has been developed over the previous three seasons. While Archer is a rather formulaic show, its twists on the spy-genre better experienced in the moment as a gleeful, rapid-fire barrage of jokes than analyzed after the fact, it is touches like this that allow Archer to rise above being just another comedy, just another spy spoof, etc.

Another way the writers frequently play with formula is to get people out of their element. We saw that last year when Cyril ended up in the jungle in “El Contador,” and it is in play here again. Archer being Archer, but not being aware of the fact he is Archer, creates some great dramatic irony, perhaps best exploited when he nearly utters “danger zone.” On top of that we have some great gags involving ostriches and Lana’s recently developed inability to keep her top on. All in all this was an extremely fun reintroduction to these characters, and with Timothy Olyphant appearing next week, it’s hard not to be excited for the season to come.

Justin Wier

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