Media Mediated: NBC Sitcoms

I don’t watch much TV. At least not in the radio-wave-receiving-box-in-my-living-room sense. I never have, really–but as streaming video has come into its own over the past five or so years, I’ve been watching more TV shows on the internet, simply because I’m on my computer so much. Most notably NBC comedies.

I first got hooked on The Office, coming in on Season 4: so that I only enjoyed the good Jim-and-Pam stuff retroactively via Netflix streaming. Then, after watching a handful of episodes with my friend Anthony, I got into 30 Rock. Tina Fey’s meta-in-a-box skewering of network-television weirdness and celebrity insanity seized me like an epileptic fit and didn’t let go. I gave Community a try, and while it’s an amusing and only occasionally painful diversion, it lacks the verisimilitude of The Office, and hasn’t become a regular watch for me.

(That’s right: Community is less believable than The Office.)

I don’t catch my funny on Thursday nights, either. I watch on Saturday morning, sometimes tweeting a running commentary that I call “Saturday Morning Office Cereal.” This past weekend I caught up as usual, getting some good laughs out of Jack’s attempts to fix Liz’s sex life, and Michael’s “return” to sales to compete with a rival salesman. But despite their better spots (including a brilliant cold open from The Office’s season premiere), the current seasons seem pretty mediocre to me: recently we’ve had a lackluster and somewhat gimmicky live show from 30 Rock, and the Office writers employing contrivance after contrivance to drag out the Erin-and-Andy dramatic tension now that Jim and Pam have been relegated to Beta Couple status.

No, what I’m really looking forward to is Parks and Recreation.

Parks and Rec focuses on small-town government, specifically on the Parks Department’s Deputy Director, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). Leslie is a gung-ho worker with a can-do attitude who believes in the power of government to positively affect the community. Episode after episode, her optimism runs headlong into the bureaucratic reality of limited budgets, apathetic officials and citizens, and her boss, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), who firmly believes that the government operates at its best when it does as little as possible. Most of the first two seasons centered on Leslie’s attempts to turn an enormous pit into a park, but what’s kept me coming back after the filling of the pit is the cast of characters. From womanizing wannabe-slickster Tom Haverford, to meathead musician Andy Dwyer and his blossoming relationship with apathetic office assistant April Ludgate, everyone is endearingly ridiculous and almost entirely self-unaware–as with The Office at its best. And why should we be surprised? It’s from the creators of The Office.

So: I love Parks and Rec, and I’m looking forward to new episodes this season. If my blatant fanraving has made you curious, you can catch the most recent episodes online. I recommend “94 Meetings” as a good jump-in point.

In other news, new comic tomorrow! Hooray.

Shameless Shilling: Sketch Comedy Subscriber’s Edition

Incredible cosmic power over elves and robots

Good afternoon, friends and readers.

Did you know you can get Sketch Comedy…in color?

Did you know you can get Sketch Comedy…delivered early?

Did you know you can get…even more Sketch Comedy?

Well, you can! Sketch Comedy Subscriber’s Edition gives you all of this–full-color strips delivered to your inbox in advance, bonus subscriber-exclusive strips, and things so cool I haven’t even thought of them yet. Comics are professionally colored by professional colorist Joe Harris, and I have to say he is knocking it out of the park.

SCSE can fill your life with more ridiculous comics for just $2.99 a month. I know you were thinking about making an extra trip to Starbucks this month, but seriously, you drink enough caffeine as it is.

</sales pitch>

Retired, Extremely Dangerous

I went to see RED over the weekend, at my brother’s suggestion. David’s been looking forward to this movie, owing to the all-star cast, the fact that it’s based off a DC comics property, and the trailer showing Helen Mirren with a gatling gun. As we headed out, I figured I’d give the movie a full-fledged review and grabbed my notebook.

I always take notes when I’m going to do a serious review–Gordon McAlpin recommends it, and it’s served me well. With notes, it’s much easier to remember specific examples to support your critical summations. But a funny thing happened at RED: as I was scribbling in the dark through the whole film, it ended up diminishing my enjoyment. RED was a lot funnier than I expected, and even though the conspiratorial convolutions of its plot were pretty standard fare, it did have plenty of fun action scenes and entirely likable characters. But with my attention to scrawling notes and thinking ahead to my review, I found my attention divided, and I missed some of the fun.

So, here’s my review: don’t review this movie! If you’re looking for something substantial–a film that reaches to your core, that says something about what it really means to be human–you’ll want to look elsewhere. But if you think it’s a little early to say goodbye to the summer action flicks, RED will be well worth your bucks. Plugged In has a review of it describing it as “a chocolate-drizzled deep-fried Twinkie of a movie.” Honestly, I couldn’t agree more with that.

And, lest you think that’s entirely a positive thing, allow me to quote another line, this one from our friend Gordon: “Too much junk food rots your teeth. Too much junk storytelling rots your brain.”

Gordon McAlpin On Reference

Gordon McAlpin is the creator of Multiplex, a webcomic about the staff of a fictional movie theater in suburban Chicago. As I often say about Multiplex: you come for the movie jokes, you stay for the characters.

Multiplex is rated R for adult situations and pervasive language. Readers under 17 should be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.