Parks and Recreation 1.1 “Make My Pit a Park”
This pilot was kind of a letdown, filled with maybe a total of four things I found amusing, most of which were not amusing enough to actually vocalize laughter. I will list them:
1. Amy Poehler’s entire attempt to remove a drunk man from a children’s slide. There’s just something funny about poking a drunk man with a broom.
2. Loudon Wainwright III popping up as a local nutball who uses public forums as a way to rattle off his own conspiracy theories. First of all, I love Big Daddy Wainwright, even if, as a Rufus fan, I shouldn’t. (Listen to “Dinner at Eight” off of Want One if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Second of all, I come across a fair number of public forums at my current job and this is exactly what they are like. There’s always one guy who pops up to share his theories on Laura Linney.
3. That painting on the brutal slaughter of Native Americans by the pioneer women of Pawnee, Indiana? That I laughed out loud at. And then I was suddenly filled with white guilt.
4. “Sweet lady Marmalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarde.”
I wasn’t fond of the pilot for The Office, either, and television wasn’t nearly as important to me then (probably more important? drinking) as it is now, so I didn’t bother to give myself a chance to warm to The Office, which I’m told by many people I should be watching. For as affable as Poehler is as Leslie Knopp, and as much as I like Aziz Ansari and Rashida Jones, there’s just something about these mockumentary-style shows I can’t get into. And this one seems imminently less relatable than The Office does. I’ll keep watching, because even though this episode was something of a letdown, it’s better than Kath & Kim.
30 Rock 3.17 “Cutbacks”
The celebration of TGS‘ 50th show is quickly snuffed when Jack announces that the Sheinhardt Wig Company is making cutbacks, and departments can either make them on their own, or let someone from corporate come in and do it for them.
“Enjoy your decorative airholders. You deserve them.” – Jack
So Liz is ordered to turn in a budget for her show, and even Jack has to make some cuts, firing Jonathan and asking Kenneth to do double duty as both NBC page and his assistant. But when it comes down to it, Liz can’t find any room in the TGS budget to scrimp. I mean, they need those straws, for the soda cans are the bathroom for all of the vermin infesting the halls of 30 Rock since Jack cut the exterminators out of the corporate budget. Enter Roger Bart as a corporate hatchet man to whom Liz must pander to save her show. She starts by giving an Apple-esque presentation about why TGS is awesome (it’s really conserving resources, you see, for it is a live show, a comedy show and a musical!), but Roger Bart remains largely unimpressed, although I don’t know how considering how freaking awesome Jenna’s Suri Cruise rap is. He orders Liz to cut 25% of her operating budget, and do so in a day, lest he do it for her.
When she is unable to make her cuts, Roger Bart goes ahead and fires a large percent of her staff, including the announcer who can’t really talk correctly anymore (but needs the insurance, that’s why Liz keeps him on). Liz decides to take a cue from Sheryl, a middle aged woman from another department who is ready to trade sex with Jack to keep her job (and, in fact, suggests to Liz that they team up and lez out a bit so they can get more out of it), and slut it up for Roger Bart in the hopes that he’ll show her department favor and give back her staff.
Like an 80s prom combination of William Wallace, Norma Rae and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Liz heads out to take one for the team:
“They may take my dignity, but they’ll never take our straws!” – Liz
But the next day after Liz offers Roger Bart some top front action, she finds that TGS is now the headquarters for Telemundo’s soccer sportscasts.
“Top front? Good Lord, Lemon, that’s your worst quadrant.” – Jack
She confronts Roger Bart about this and realizes, sadly, that what she thought was a business exchange was actually the first time he’s slept with a woman since his wife died. Heartbroken, he rails at the heavens:
“She’s a monster!”
Meanwhile, because Kenneth is busy juggling two jobs, he asks Tracy to feed his bird, with the stipulation that Tracy not enter Kenneth’s bedroom. Naturally, Tracy starts thinking that Kenneth is a serial killer, hiding bodies in his bedroom. I mean, why else wouldn’t you allow television star Tracy Jordan to enter your bedroom?
“Neither he, nor his bird, will let me go into his bedroom.” – Tracy
So Tracy does what one would naturally do when one suspects one’s coworker might be a serial killer and tells Jenna about it. She informs him that, based on the knowledge she gleaned about serial killers while playing Detective Jill St. Ferrari in the Lifetime original miniseries Hushed Rapings, Kenneth is most definitely a serial killer, especially because he has an inability to read facial expressions.
“I admonished him for that earlier!” – Tracy
After attempting to confront Kenneth about it, who is now speaking rather oddly because he’s not sure if he has to be Kenneth the Page of Kenneth the Assistant (he’s much tougher). Kenneth makes it seem like Jonathan is dead, and Tracy and Jenna go to feed the bird and investigate, ignoring warnings not to enter the bedroom. When they do, they see no bodies, but a bug bomb:
“Oh, no! Kenneth’s a killer or the Riddler’s coming!”
The bird drops dead, and they decide to confess their misdeed to Kenneth, who is so angry that he is forced to yell at them in his barn voice. I mean, they killed the bird he kept for over 60 years. I’d be upset, too. (60 years? Wow, the air in Appalachia has been good to Kenneth.) To make it up to him, Tracy and Jenna decide to buy Kenneth a whole bunch of birds, which he takes great delight in naming (Balthazar, Lorne, Michael, Donna).
Because of Liz’s sexual harassment of Roger Bart, she gets put on a mandatory two-week unpaid suspension, and she has to start the budget review process all over again – this time, under Jack’s supervision. See? Everything works out exactly the way you want it to when you harass sexually in the work place! Screw what that HR guy said!
As always, there is no such thing as a bad episode of 30 Rock. In the long run, I don’t think “Cutbacks” is going to be a classic episode of this show, but it was funny enough. I have a feeling I’ll be talking about Hushed Rapings for a long time to come.
I think if you’re looking to a Greg Daniels show (The Office, Parks and Recreation, King of the Hill) for loud, extended guffaws, you’re going to be disappointed. With the exception of the dialogue from some of the sillier Office characters, none of these shows are meant to make you laugh so hard your sides hurt in the way that 30 Rock does. They are clever, amusing, uncomfortable and true to life. They cause one to smirk, shudder, wince, chuckle, and, most of all, think. His previous shows work because they are about real people, not one-liner monkeys. My issue with Parks and Recreation wasn’t that it wasn’t this laugh-out-loud riot, but simply that, so far, I can only relate to the Paul Schneider character, and that may just be because I love his film work, especially David Gordon Greene’s All the Real Girls.
There are just different types of humor out there, and to expect one thing from something that it’s not may seem a tad unfair. But I do think that, had my wife stuck with The Office, she would have been better prepared for P&R.
It’s fine to not think something is funny, because humor is entirely subjective. But each show is entitled to reach its own form of funny the way they know how.