I have long defended the American version of The Office against critics who deemed it too sappy, too optimistic and too soapy. I’ve decried those, like our own David Simon Cowell, who have claimed it was a pale substitute for the British version and hasn’t been funny in three seasons.
More to the point, I’ve argued that it’s been a superior show to 30 Rock. Tina Fey’s sitcom, while the funniest show on TV when at its peak, hasn’t been at its peak often enough, I argued. Only Season Two was a standout from beginning to end, with the show taking a while to find its groove in Season One, and experiencing by a minor but legitimate dropoff in Season Three.
Moreover, 30 Rock, even at its absolute best, was often nothing more than a series of gags and one-liners, a sitcom with situations that existed only to lead to the punchline. The Office had characters you cared about, it had heart, and it had a dark, depressing edge. Yes, The Office has had its ups and downs over the years, but I would still hold its five-plus seasons up against almost any American sitcom of a similar duration.
Well…I’m calling bullshit on myself.
Last night marked a major turning point in my life: the night I stopped believing The Office is better than 30 Rock.
For last night, 30 Rock continued a very strong recent run of episodes (part of an overall Season Four Renaissance) with one of its best-ever outings. And The Office? The Office ran a clip show.
Yep, a good, old-fashioned, Keatons-sitting-around-the-living-room-reminiscing clip show. Seinfeld ran a clip show as part of its grand finale celebration, but no other decent sitcom has run a brazen, 80’s style flashback-fest since the days of Growing Pains and The Cosby Show. And worse, NBC marketed the clip show as a “brand new Office.” That’s the network’s fault more than the show’s, but Greg Daniels and company still produced, wrote and created the “episode.”
And this clip show is only the latest debacle in what has been a dreadful season for The Office. Jim, supposedly the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for, has become an absolute douche. The show’s trotted out such horrible, hackneyed plotlines as “Michael thinks an Italian guy is in the Mafia.” They’re relying far too heavily on the “wackiness” of Dwight and Andy. Most importantly, the funny moments are fewer and farther between than ever before.
Meanwhile, 30 Rock fired on all cylinders last night. They had me at “Your neighbors named their daughter Belichick.” Or any one of the other Boston jokes strew over the course of 22 minutes of sheer joy. Every character got at least a couple good lines in as the ensemble worked as well as it ever has – while still allowing Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy to take the lead. Even Jenna wasn’t annoying. Also, we got to see Lutz do The Truffle Shuffle.
So…yeah. I’m on Team 30 Rock now. Sorry I ever doubted you, Liz Lemon.