Friday, May 11, 2012

THE GREY THURSDAY HALF-MASSACRE: By now you've heard that NBC is killing Community and 30 Rock with 13-episode final-season orders, and that it may or may not be doing the same with Parks & Rec (eta:  NBC renewed P&R; Sepinwall says 13 episodes "for now"). It would be unfair to compare this to [BRIEF REFERENCE TO SCENE FROM LAST WEEK'S GAME OF THRONES EPISODE] Theon Greyjoy incompetently hacking away at somebody's neck, having pronounced a sentence he's not competent to carry out, [END OF SPOILER REFERENCE] so I definitely didn't just do that. NBC is a business, and apparently having several of the best comedies on television is bad for business, so NBC has to do what it has to do. Better that we had X.5 seasons of those three shows than none at all.

But it's still a bit of a head-scratcher for me. Community, I get. It's dark and sometimes deliberately obtuse, it relies on the memories and the intelligence of its viewers, and even when it zeroes in on things like the compassion and friendship of its characters, it approaches those matters from an unpleasant angle -- compassion for our friends' deteriorating mental state; friendship as a defense against outsiders. It's like a grown-up version of all of those Maurice Sendak sound bites this week -- the world is a cruel and scary place, and sometimes your family (in Community, your surrogate family) is the scariest part. And 30 Rock, I get that too. It's too superficial, too slick for audiences accultured to expect different rhythms and different sentimentalities.

Parks & Rec, though, that I don't understand. It is the TV version of the kind of person that everybody likes. It is positive and rarely has a mean word to say about anybody. It is optimistic and sentimental and nice. It is romantic. It is funny and smart. It is familiar. It is naturally pretty, but not so made-up that it makes you not like it. If Parks & Rec were a person, it probably would not be prom king or queen, but it might win most likely to succeed and best smile and it would be a mortal lock to be elected student body president. To switch metaphors, its closest comp is Cheers -- no surprise given Michael Schur's love of that show -- a workplace comedy where almost everybody liked each other and they all supported each other. Its closest tonal analogue among active shows is not The Office (which, despite its common lineage and workplace setting, has for several seasons now been a show about people who barely tolerate each other), but Modern Family. Cheers was, and Modern Family is, a huge hit. Parks & Rec lives under the constant shadow of cancellation.  Unfair.

Anyway, let's celebrate it while we can. [SPOILERS FOR LAST NIGHT] We always knew Leslie would win. This show embraces change (bringing in Ben and Chris; breaking up Ann and Andy for good; marrying April and Andy; putting Ben and Leslie together without too much URT), and, frankly, it seemed like Leslie losing an election wouldn't have squared with the tone of the show. So I wasn't as moved by her victory, which I saw as a foregone conclusion. What I did find moving was the way the episode paused to show Leslie's emotion when she got to vote for herself. Sepinwall thought that Poehler's acting upon hearing the result(s) was her best work yet; I thought the few beats she took to savor the act of voting were even better. And it was quite a nifty bit of writing, too. The demonstration that Leslie's dream was not to win an election, but rather to be the kind of candidate worthy of her own vote, felt perfect as an encapsulation of a great character.


  1. Jordan11:28 AM

    Wait, where are you hearing that?  Sepinwall and Todd VDW both say that the only one to get a final order is 30 Rock.

  2. The Pathetic Earthling11:34 AM

    "I have had 11 whiskies."

    I do wonder who on Parks and Recs is such a great fan of Lagavulin, but it's the *only* scotch whisky Ron Swanson has ever consumed on that show.

  3. isaac_spaceman11:36 AM

    I guess I'm garbling it a little.  Community got a 13-episode order, but Sepinwall says it's not a final order, so there's still a chance of a full-season pickup or even another season.  But isn't it the lowest-rated show on NBC?  I'm not holding my breath on the back nine. 

  4. Yeah: Community's is "13, and not necessarily final."

  5. I enjoyed reading in Alan's interview with Schur that this season was based on season four of FNL: You knew East Dillon - SPOILER ALERT - was going to take out the Panthers at the end, but that didn't make it any less enjoyable.

    Great episode, great show. I'm glad NBC is planning on replacing it with pilots featuring Anne Heche, Matthew Perry and Bill Pullman, a wonderful strategy for a network that desperately wishes it was the 90's again. (No offense meant to any of those individuals. I'm just being bitter.)

  6. Anonymous11:50 AM

    My hope/guess is that NBC at 9:30 pm Thursday (after The Office) is going to be similar to FX at 10 on Thursday. FX rotates 3 or 4 fantastic comedies there, between Archer, Louie, Sunny, and The League. At this point NBC Thursday has cable ratings anyway, why not keep three of the best comedies on television alive using a similar format?


  7. At least last Thursday, Community had better ratings than 30 Rock and Awake, and last Wednesday's Rock Center did worse in the demo than Community, though it had fewer viewers.  I'll likewise be shocked if it gets beyond the 13, unless NBC really really wants to be in business with Alison Brie (Joel McHale has a long-term contract for The Soup).

    Parks and Rec is the tougher call long-term, and kind of reminds me of CBS's problems with Good Wife--it's the only show on the respective networks that has any sort of critical love, but just cannot find a ratings groove.

  8. Duvall11:55 AM

    Not sure Community has been NBC's lowest rated show since its return from hiatus, though it may be the lowest show that NBC hasn't cancelled or given a final order.  But the real question is how the six (and counting) new comedies ordered by NBC will perform.  If they flop (and it's NBC, so that's pretty likely), an extended order for Community might look pretty good, especially if Sony gives NBC a great deal to get a full set of episodes for syndication.

  9. I highly doubt that's the case.  The Office remains one of NBC's only potent leadins (with the other one being The Voice).  I expect that it will be paired with a new show (as it was for most of this season) for that very reason.

    I do think it's possible you could see a rotating cannon fodder slot in the NBC Thursday lineup at 8, where, between X Factor/Idol and Big Bang (assuming Big Bang stays there), anything they put there is gonna get CRUSHED.  ABC kind of did that for much of the fall/spring with the disposable/cheap Wipeout there.

  10. Carmichael Harold12:03 PM

    I don't know, exactly, why P&R hasn't caught on, as everything that Isaac writes about it is true.  If I had to guess, though, it probably ties into the systemic change in the way people watch television, and, in particular, NBC. 

    Though I think P&R is a good (season 4), often great (seasons 2 and 3), program, it wasn't when it premiered in season 1.  In the current television environment, I believe that it is tougher to grow hits then it used to be (Seinfeld; Cheers), as I would imagine that people are much less likely to repeatedly sample the same program if they don't like it at first (too many choices competing for time).   I think this is particularly true for NBC, as I would imagine that NBC's reach (number of people tuning in at all in primetime) is significantly lower than the other broadcast networks, so the universe of people who might repeatedly sample the show are tiny.

    Regardless, I maintain the hope that P&R is going to get picked up, and that it's 13 episode order will do better than the comedies that NBC debuts in the Fall.

  11. Duvall12:07 PM

    Nick Offerman: "I drink a lot less than when I was a Chicago theatre troll, but when I do, it's Lagavulin scotch, Jameson's Irish, a Guiness, or an Old Speckled Hen."

  12. What's odd is that as Parks and Rec has gotten richer, its audience has gotten even smaller, but while Modern Family has gotten more ridiculous, cartoonish, and formulaic, it's maintained and even grown its audience--seriously, at this point, I'm not sure I could tolerate hanging out with any of the adult characters on Modern Family (save maybe Mitchell).

  13. isaac_spaceman12:23 PM

    Yeah, I get that -- Cam and Claire are two of the worst human beings on television, though, unlike Chloe on That Fucking Bitch Who Lives Right There (am I getting that title right?  I can't remember), the show isn't winking at us when it shows that.  But what I mean is that MF is largely a feel-good show whose cast bickers, but ultimately supports each other. 

  14. Jordan12:40 PM

    Isaac, I think that scene is a fair comparison because (you had to pause the DVR to catch this) the top of Andy's list of places to move?  Winterfell (followed by the chorus of Kokomo).  That was about as good an episode as they (read: anyone) have done. Thankfully, it's on NBC, so it's (I beleive) their #2 rated comedy, if the Office ends next year, it will be their longest running comedy, and it's one of their top rated scripted shows in the demo.  With these shows I get an AD feeling, where people will talk for years about how great they were, and how you should really watch it, despite the fact that they never watched it when it was on.

  15. Also, last Sunday, while Harry's Law had double the total viewers of Community, it did half of Community's ratings in the key demo.

  16. Dave S12:53 PM

    I wonder what you do if you're Dan Harmon in this situation.  Do you plan for graduation at the end of the 13 or not?

  17. Aimee2:35 PM

    New Caprica was on there too!

  18. Jordan3:41 PM

    And P&R gets the full 22!  Not bad, NBC, not bad at all.

  19. 22 for Happy Endings as well. Nice little Friday.

  20. Andrew5:30 PM

    Oops -- I've had this browser tab open since before noon and since then, P&R did get renewed for 22 episodes. But I stand by what I wrote earlier, even if the speculation is truly unncessary now:

    I don't think that Parks & Rec is under any immediate threat of cancellation. If NBC is bringing back Community and 30 Rock, the question about Parks & Rec is whether it will be a 13 episode order or a full 22 episode pickup. Where it goes, I have no idea. Were I running NBC, I'd actually try it out at 9:00 Thursday. Yes, I know that The Office is still the biggest comedy that NBC has, but it's not doing all that much better than Parks & Rec and it's trending downward, quickly. 

    I wouldn't be surprised if Community gets a back 9 pickup for season 4. It does what it does against BBT and Idol. NBC has no smany holes to fill, that they could do far worse than Community (which was consistently higher rated in that timeslot than 30 Rock.) 

  21. I tried P&R out during the first season and hated it. Hated everything about it. But then I saw a bunch of TV critics I read online were talking about it, so I sampled Season 2 during the summer and saw the error of my ways. But if I weren't the type of person who reads Ryan, Sepinwall and Poniewozik, I wouldn't have come back.

    I'm thinking the same thing is happening with Happy Endings. I watched a couple of episodes when it started and hated it. Or maybe I just hated Kim from 24 in a comedy. I'm thinking I'll take some time this summer to give it another shot.

  22. Yeah, I get the feeling that Andy missed the point about New Caprica. If I'm remembering correctly, that didn't work out so well.

  23. bill.8:35 PM

    Isaac, that's probably my favorite description of Parks & Rec. I would only differ in comparing it to Northern Exposure instead of Cheers.

    Or maybe I just have Northern Exposure on the brain. I finally got around to watching Deadwood -- 3 seasons over 2 weekends -- and the horse running through the title sequence reminded of the NE's moose. David Schwartz did the theme for both, which also helped. Then Al Swearengen reminded me of Maurice, Doc Cochran was Holling, Bullock for Joel, Dan Doherty as Ed, Sy Tolliver would probably be Lester Haines, I'd peg Trixie as Maggie, and Richardson as Marilyn. Chris Stevens is a problem. I've tried to fit in Farnum, Bullock, and Merrick, but in the end I think Wu is the better fit for his poetic language and relationship to Swearengen.

    After a recount, you can have P&R = Cheers because I'm a little wrapped up with the other two.

  24. Particularly as it has evolved, Hart of Dixie has become Southern Exposure, though without the seriousness that Northern Exposure would bring from time to time.

  25. isaac_spaceman12:37 PM

    I'm not sure if you had already lost me by then, but Bullock as Joel was definitely the point where I realized I could never find my way back. 

    And Marilyn is Ellsworth, I think.

  26. bill.4:57 PM

    No one works well as Joel, Bullock was the best I could come up with. Maybe Farnum? Ellsworth has too much agency to be Marilyn, though I mainly settled on Richardson because he rarely says anything. I'm pretty settled on Maurice = Swearengen and Holling = Cochran, then after that it's a mess. And the horse = moose, can't forget that.