Thursday, April 29, 2010

Your Thursday Night, Now in Convenient Sandwich Form

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.

Parks and Recreation is the next to air, and it's the meat of the sandwich. I understand that many people stopped watching this during its first season, deeming it a poor man's version of The Office. And yes, at the beginning, this is exactly what it seemed like. But it's evolved since then. The characters themselves, especially the supporting characters -- Tom, Ron, Andy -- have evolved into their roles very well. In my opinion, it's the best show of the four. If you're still skeptical, I recommend going to Hulu and watching the episode "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.


  1. Community right now is the funniest of all these shows. Its a show about 'edgy people' making fun of people for being edgy, but I love it. Earlier Offices and 30 Rocks overall take the cake, but RIGHT NOW, Community is funniest of all. (Not a Parks and Rec fan. I don't really like Amy Pohler although I love Aziz Ansari) You can't look past the unique multi-star dynamic. The study group (of 7 I believe) all play crucial roles and are all funny in their own way. That is hard to keep up. Let us not forget Senor Chang (played by Kene Jeong). A power hungry Chinese and Jewish Spanish teacher. The Office and 30 Rock are in the twilight of their run(getting very repetitive) while R&R is overall sub par. Much love to Greendale Community Human Beans

  2. So I assume you watched 30 rock tonight - what's the third wedding Liz is going to? Did I miss something entirely? I was flummoxed.

    Also, your metaphor is accurate up until the part where it's a sandwich. It would work if you ate sandwiches from the bottom up. Don't eat sandwiches crazily, Sam.

  3. It's less how a sandwich is eaten, and more how a sandwich is made. Bread on the outside, unless you're Tracy Jordan or KFC.

  4. Dr. Spaceman, Is it true that bread eats away at your brain?