Idiot Box: Return of the Sitcoms

This Thursday marks the return of all four of NBC’s sitcoms to the Thursday night lineup (My Name is Earl, 30 Rock, The Office, and Scrubs), with all but Scrubs showing a new episode.

I’m most excited for the return of The Office, one of the earliest victims of the Writer’s Strike. They started off Season 4 with an experiment, of sorts, with three or four (I can’t remember the exact number and I can’t be bothered to, so bugger off) hour-long (read: 45 minutes) episodes that only served to highlight the fact that The Office belongs in the half-hour (read: 21 minutes) range for it to be effectively funny. The more zany Michael Scott/Dwight Shrute behaviors and situations have been compared to the ridiculous Homer Simpson-centered years of The Simpsons, which actually does have me concerned. My least favorite laugh is when they actually had Michael Scott drive his car into a lake because of GPS. It takes a lot for a sitcom to throw me out of the moment, but this really took me out of suspension of disbelief mode and into “What is this show becoming?” mode. Honestly, I worry that they’re dumbing down or awkward-ing down The Office to satisfy the more conventional sitcom fan. we’ll see how or if this changes tonight and maybe we’ll see a shift back toward the stellar second season.

The first few episodes of 30 Rock’s freshman season failed to impress me. Lured back in by claims of brilliance, I’m now a regular 30 Rock viewer despite its marginally above average quality, IMHO. This isn’t to say the show isn’t funny, it’s hilarious. It’s just that the situations are boring and predictable. Tina Fey’s dialogue is where the quality shines through. The great lines will have you clutching your sides and Alec Baldwin is, without a doubt, one of the best comedic actors on air.

I’ll admit straight up that I’m not totally up to date on news about Scrubs, but last I heard they will be forced to finish off the show on ABC next season as rising costs and falling ratings and viewers are combining to force it off of NBC. I’m pretty sure it will be coming back at some point this season to finish off half of its final season, but this is also a show whose antics are beginning to wear thin. I just want them to be able to finish off the story and put what’s been a great series to rest. The show isn’t dead by any means, it’s just not eliciting the same laughs out of me that it used to. We’ll see what the return and rest of the season have in store for me.





5 responses to “Idiot Box: Return of the Sitcoms”

  1. Eric Avatar

    I, too, have been waiting for about a month for this day. Last week I recorded The Office season 4 marathon onto my MythTv so I could get back caught up with what was going on. I definitely agree with you that when the show was running 1 hour episodes I was getting ready to just stop watching it. The switch back to 30 minutes was definitely needed. I’m a little concerned about where it’s going to go since it ended with Michael betraying Jan as retaliation for the diary being brought.

    Yet, according to the program listing, Pam and Jim are coming over Jan and Michael’s place for dinner. I don’t know…the Jan and Michael thing has been a little annoying this season. I liked it better when they had the boss/subordinate thing going on. This season she’s been acting like an annoying, spoiled brat.

    Here’s hoping!

    After watching all six seasons of Scrubs this fall, I was quite annoyed to find out that the seventh season got all messed up by the writer’s strike. I had heard that if they can’t finish it on NBC they’d just finish it on the Season 7 DVD. Putting it on ABC would be an interesting move.

  2. Dan Avatar

    Scrubs has the advantage of being distributed by Buena Vista Television, which is a Disney company. It may go to DVD instead, I could be wrong.

  3. Eric Avatar

    Either way I recorded last night’s episode as I haven’t seen any of Season 7.

    Did you ever see Bamboozled when I rented it or later? There’s a great scene where DelaCrous is trying to come up with a show premise and tells himself, “Idiot, feed the Idiot Box.”

  4. Eric Mesa Avatar

    2 years later:

    I stopped watching The Office. Although the Jan situation was eventually resolved, it appears that Michael Scott’s character is one of those who must never truly be happy. They finally got him with a nice, quirky girl that was perfect for him and then move her to another state. The nail in the coffin for Danielle and I was when Michael Scott started his own company and then was rehired to lead his branch. That whole story arc was a little too absurd for me.

    30 Rock. I don’t remember 100%, but I think it was primarily this post that got me to check out 30 Rock. I then got caught up with the first season via Netflix. I am now a loyal watcher of the show. It remains predictable, but fun to watch.

    While in NY a couple weeks ago, I caught an episode of the recent incarnation of Scrubs. I am not impressed. Basically they got a new group of people have put them into the same character roles as the old cast. So there’s a JD-like character who hallucinates and narrates the show and so on. I don’t know, I just feel like it would have been more interesting to go off in another direction. Also, they appear to have gotten rid of all the newer characters I liked in the previous season. (like the geeky-looking guy with the very deep voice) I doubt I’ll ever get into Scrubs past season 6 or 7.

    Another thing I noticed from my comments – my MythTV computer died. I think it had either hard drive or RAM related issues due to the heat from the cabinet I used to keep it in and that it was a Pentium IV (rather than the newest Dual Cores) and those run VERY hot. Around the time of its death I gave up cable and pretty much all network TV has the last few episodes available for catchup viewing on Hulu or their own site. I really, really enjoyed having the MythTV computer, but setups in the new digital world with all its DRM-related encryption just make it more trouble than it’s worth.

    1. Dan Avatar

      30 Rock REALLY came into its own that season and made it the funniest thing on television right now.

      The Office had a slight comeback since then, but I’m now pretty disinterested in it. Then again, I haven’t watched anything this season since the episode where Michael Scott went to NYC for the investor meeting so it could be brilliant now (doubtful).

      New Scrubs is lame. I saw three episodes and decided I was done with it.

      Your MythTV was pretty awesome (even if you deleted the Beyonce dancer video). Too bad it’s irrelevant with the new way that you consume television.

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