Thursday Comedy Roundup: 30 Rock 7.11, Parks & Rec 5.11, & Archer 4.1

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30Rock

30 Rock, Season 7, Episode 11: “A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World”
Written by Lang Fisher & Nina Pedrad
Directed by Jeff Richmond
Airs Thursdays at 8pm ET on NBC

The final scene of this penultimate episode of 30 Rock is perhaps the most affecting thing the show has done. Finally free of the obligation to play mom to Tracy and Jenna, Liz rushes to the airport to greet her adoptive (and, in an amusing gag, interracial) twins, Terry and Janet, who come across as younger clones of TGS’s co-stars. What could be laughed off as just another joke in an episode chock-full of them, an attempt to suggest that Liz just cannot get away from these crazy people, creates a deep emotional resonance, relating the idea that her entire life and career has been preparing her for this moment, preparing her to be a mother.

The central dilemma in Liz Lemon’s life over the last seven years has been her inability to balance her work and her personal relationships. It has only been recently, with the show’s end in sight, that the writers have threated to tip this balance, and the results have been endlessly rewarding.  It’s difficult to find happiness when your only relationships with other people are professional ones, rewarding though they may be. Thus, it is only fitting that her colleagues are the ones that ultimately give her the final push.

There are some other nice touches in the episode, notably Kenneth taking command of NBC in Wonkaesque fashion, complete with a Slugworth impersonation to test someone’s faith to the Gods of Television, but this is a mere diversion on the path to that exceptional final scene. 30 Rock’s final season has threatened to unseat whichever of the first three was considered the consensus “best” season, so there isn’t any reason to worry about the final living up to expectations. However, after that final scene, it’s hard not to wonder where they will go from here.

Parks and Recreation - Season 5

Parks and Recreation, Season 5, Episode 11: “Women in Garbage”
Written by Harris Wittels
Directed by Norm Hiscock
Airs Thursdays at 8:30pm ET on NBC

It’s undeniably a coincidence that Parks and Rec ended up airing an episode concerning women’s ability to satisfactorily complete jobs typically considered the responsibility of men on the day Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles in the United States Army, but it’s an intriguing one.  It’s hard to ignore some of the parallels between the more egregious reactions to that news and Councilman Milton’s responses at Leslie’s council meeting. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, these attitudes continue to persist in our society. It’s an unfair assumption that Parks has never been shy to challenge.

The plot that results, consisting of Leslie and April running a garbage route, is quite amusing, and it’s rewarding when they are met with a challenge that is beyond their strength and solve it with sheer ingenuity, creating a result in the process that is more beneficial to the community than the initial outcome would’ve been. The other plotlines don’t work quite as well. Tom’s inability to comprehend the rules of basketball has already been documented in a hilarious fashion, and the attempt to tie it to his burgeoning Rent-a-Swag business never quite comes across.

Ron watching Diane’s kids, while minor, does provide some great moments. Not only her daughter’s curt “no” when Jerry attempts to  play with them , but Ron’s declaration of love for Dianne. It’s all the more affecting for the way he sheepishly whispers it through his mustache. Ron has never been lucky in love, and it’s nice to see things turn out well for him. Even if the sharp edges of his gruff exterior are sanded down in the process. This episode isn’t the comedic tour-de-force “Two Parties” was, but it there is enough here to keep it afloat.

Archer Season 4

Archer, Season 4, Episode 2: “The Wind Cries Mary”
Written by Adam Reed & Chris Provenzano
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on FX

The idea of Timothy Olyphant as Archer’s best friend and rival agent Luke Troy is so rich with possibilities that it’s a bit disheartening to see the show reduce it to a series of puerile jokes about Archer’s homophobia. Sure it is in line with his character, but the endless repetition of sub-Apatow level jokes reaches the exhaustion point pretty quickly. However, the episode is not without its charms. The highlight is likely Lana and Cyril’s attempt to extract Archer, punctuated by Cyril’s continued insistence on filling out Pam’s peer review sheets mid-mission, but there is also a laugh-out-loud Entmoot joke uttered by Archer.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming feeling is one of missed opportunities. There are interesting threads in Archer’s relationship with Troy combined with his mother’s jealousy surrounding the relationship that are never really developed, only mentioned and passed by. A guest spot by Raylan Givens himself seemed like a surefire way to follow up the season premiere’s Bob’s Burgers crossover, but unfortunately Adam Reed & Co. were unable to clear that hurdle.

Justin Wier

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