Tonight, NBC returns to its normal Thursday night comedy schedule for the first time in several weeks, and I, like many of you out there, am thrilled. This two-hour block has long been a highlight of my TV-watching week, not only because of the quality of the four shows -- Community, Parks and Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock -- but also because of how NBC has figured out how to broadcast these four shows in precisely the right order.
Now, if you'll bear with me, I'll explain how these four programs are set up exactly like an expertly-made sandwich:
Community is the first of the shows to air, and like the first part of every sandwich you make, it's the bottom piece of bread. Just as comedy clubs have opening acts to get the audience going, NBC puts Community first in order to get us warmed up for the more entertaining shows to come. For years, My Name is Earl held this opening spot, and also did its job well -- being mildly entertaining without being as funny as the other shows in the lineup. Currently in its first season, Community has proven itself to be consistently solid. Nevertheless, it's still probably the least entertaining of the four shows. It relies too much on references from a singular movie over the course of each episode; if you haven't seen the movie, you miss a lot of the jokes. The characters are alarmingly one-dimensional and cliched. Still, Pierce's off-color comments and Troy and Abed's strange-yet-amusing interactions make this show worth it, if only because it's warming you up for the rest of the night.
The Possum". It'll be up for another week or two, I think. If you're not laughing when they show Ron Swanson's death trap of a workshop, then there's something wrong with you. Without Parks and Recreation, NBC would have a vegetarian sandwich on its hands, and no one likes that -- it's just not filling enough.
The Office is up next, and it makes up the sandwich toppings. For years, this show has been the mainstay of the comedy block. Don't get me wrong, it's still a funny show -- but in the past year or so, it's taken on a more serious tone, with the whole wedding and baby storyline. It's still got its hilarious moments -- whenever Kevin or Creed is talking, I'm listening -- but it's definitely the most unique of all the shows in that it's the only one that takes itself seriously on a regular basis. While a sandwich with just bread and meat is still a sandwich, adding some veggies and some spread on top brings a whole new dimension to the sandwich, which is what The Office does for this two-hour block.
30 Rock rounds out the schedule. For a long time, this was my favorite show of the block. Recently though, the quality has slipped, as they've shied away from the witty jokes and snappy dialogue that made the first season or two so great. In the past year or so, the writers have seemed more interested in spoofing current events and making the same old jokes (yes, we get it: Liz likes food, Tracy is crazy, Jenna is self-absorbed, Jack is a republican...) in place of the thinking man's humor that had some people comparing it to Arrested Development, which it is most definitely not. Still good for a weekly gem or two, 30 Rock is the top piece of bread. Without that top piece, you've still got a perfectly legitimate open-faced sandwich, but an actual, two-pieces-of-bread sandwich is much more enjoyable (not to mention, much easier to eat). 30 Rock is no longer essential to the comedy block, but its presence is a perfect way to top off the night.
Finally, as a side note that people who watch 30 Rock will enjoy: for a while, 30 Rock held the last slot, but was also the best of the shows. It was definitely the meat of the sandwich. So, meat as bread....where have I heard that before? Oh, you're talking about the KFC Double Down, right? No, actually -- I'm talking about the Tracy Jordan Meat Machine. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but I like to think that 30 Rock knew exactly what it was doing when it proclaimed meat to be the new bread.