Back in the 80’s, Thursday Night was “must see TV” on NBC with the comedy block of The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers and Night Court leading into Hill Street Blues. Later on, Seinfeld and Friends were anchors that bookended a myriad of other followers – some successful (Will and Grace, Frasier), some not (Joey, The Naked Truth). Eventually it seemed like the concept had run its course.
But it’s clear – at least in my house – that the comedy block of 30 Rock, Community, Parks and Recreation and The Office is and has been worthy of the “must see TV” crown. While it’s unclear how The Office will survive the loss of Steve Carrell, the final episodes provided many great options (including a genuine cliffhanger!) and it certainly has more gas in the tank. Ditto 30 Rock, which continues to be consistently well-written, although it’s becoming clear that some storylines are more dependable than others. But with a gaggle of recurring guest stars like Jon Hamm, Matt Damon and Dean Winters dropping by, brilliance is constantly right around the corner.
But this season proved that Community and Parks and Recreation can hang with the big boys. Community’s pop culture parodies are so clever and so deep that it takes multiple viewings to pick up every double-entendre, sight gag and trivial reference they’re layering into each script. And the cast on Parks and Recreation might just be the best comedy ensemble of them all; the show has skyrocketed after the growing pains of their inaugural season. Now we’re adding Whitney Cummings to the mix? Yowsa!
I’m going to have a lot more spare time now that these shows have completed their seasons, but it’s nice to know that among the annoying celebretard reality programs and the absurd elimination contest shows, there’s still room for well-scripted, well-acted prime time comedy. Kudos, NBC.