I started “Who Won Thursday,” though, because I thought that, any given week, any of NBC’s Thursday comedy lineup had a shot at offering the night’s funniest episode. That premise is no longer true.
Outsourced is not funny. Even giving it some freshmen-year leeway, it is not in the same league as the other NBC comedies.
Outsourced is dumb. Really dumb. So dumb it’s almost confusing.
Take this little exchange, for example: At one part in the show, main-dim-bulb Todd is explaining what American novelties are to his Indian staff, and why they are funny. One of the items is a mistletoe belt. Todd thinks it’s hilarious. He explains what mistletoe is. Someone on his staff asks why someone would then put mistletoe on a belt. Todd explains some more. The staffer is all, “That’s how you celebrate the birth of the son of your God?” and Todd is all offended that she doesn’t think it’s funny.
This scene leaves me with complicated feelings. Is it true that people in India don’t know what mistletoe is? I don’t know—possibly. But, once it’s explained, is it weird that the staff needs further explanations of why it’s cheeky to put mistletoe on a belt? Have they really never heard of blowjobs, either? Or was it because Todd did a bad job of explaining the purpose of mistletoe? And are they thick for not finding that sort of thing funny, or is Todd thick because he does? Who is the one that’s being made fun of in this situation? I don’t think, as the show’s creators would like you to believe, that they’re givin’ it to both sides equally. It’s just a confused, poorly written scene that’s so murky it’s hard to even pinpoint how offensive it is. But, most of all, it’s not funny. It hardly approaches funny. It can’t compete with shows that actually are. And so, I’m taking it out of the running, because I am not watching it again. (If you want more of a rant about the many failures of Outsourced, read my PopMatters review.)
Enough about Outsourced. Let’s move on to the actually good shows—all three of which posted strong premieres.
Community: Anthropology 101
Often, the fuzzy-wuzzy aspects of this show bother me, so it’s good to see the claws come out this week. And, even though the characters were being downright mean to each other, it still managed to get the most out-loud laughs all night. (Although, I admit that many of those came out during the end credits, when they were all singing Toto’s “Africa.” Man, I love that song.) Still, I could’ve done without a lot of the gimmicks: The multiple Twitter feeds, Abed’s meta-meta comments about how being meta was so last season, and the stunt-casting of Betty White.
30 Rock: The Fabian Strategy
I wish 30 Rock were still on after The Office. (That’s another thing you’ve robbed from me, Outsourced.) Like TiFaux Maggie once said, you need a 30 Rock chaser after the grimness of The Office. Then again, this time, it’s 30 Rock that feels like it has the cloud of doom hanging over its head. I know that Matt Damon’s character can’t be on the show forever–because it’s Matt-Friggin’-Damon—so the relationship with Liz is doomed to fail. For me, the whole arc is just waiting for the shoe to drop. I don’t want to become too invested, no matter how—or especially because of how—great Matt Damon is. Then again, it would open the door for a return appearance by Wesley Snipes. Gang way!
The Office: Nepotism
Mostly, I love the return of Jim the Prankster. He wasn’t the stressed-out co-boss or the put-upon new husband and father. I think it’s been a while since we’ve even seen Jim smile. (And, come on, his Peanuts dance in the beginning for-no-reason musical number was pretty great.) I also love how Jim described the prank as his Christmas present to himself. I also like how there were subtle changes since we last checked in on the Office staff: Dwight bought the building (and got drunk off a moderate amount of power, like in that Kids in the Hall sketch), and Gabe and Erin started dating. Hopefully that’ll give Gabe more to do, and not just be yet another stolen girlfriend for Andy. (Also, the show has to be careful with how they treat Erin’s intelligence. I like it when she’s goofy and naïve, but not flat-out stupid.)
So, who won Thursday?
Community might have made me laugh harder, but this episode of The Office just felt good. The “lip dub” was high-energy and fun and exuberant, even it was completely pointless. It was my favorite kind of Office segment—where every character gets to jump in and do one joke. And, even though it wasn’t on screen, you can kind of imagine all of the characters getting together to work it out. That’s also my favorite kind of Office episode, where they’re all united around one problem. That continued with the rest of the episode, with everyone hating Michael’s nephew. The result of that—the spanking—was an embarrassing, mortifying kind of Michael Scott thing to do, but it didn’t make me want to crawl into a hole and hide from the rest of the episode. I was really down on The Office last year, but this looks like the signal of a triumphant return.