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Idiot Box: Return of the Sitcoms
Apr 10th, 2008 by Dan

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.

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