The classic line-up of “Community,” “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office” is familiar to most as a solid two-hour block of comedy that rarely disappoints. The quartet shines in a mash-up of both veterans and relatively new shows: “30 Rock” and “The Office” are well into their sixth and eighth seasons, respectively, while “Community” and “Parks” are navigating their third and fourth seasons.
Much of the quality of these shows can be attributed to the talent attached to them. “30 Rock” has the hilarious Tina Fey and surprisingly funny Alec Baldwin; “Parks” features another strong female lead in Amy Poehler; “The Office,” has survived the departure of Steve Carrell; and “Community” has Joel McHale of E!’s “The Soup” fame.
But behind these leads are even stronger secondary cast members. Every show on NBC Thursday features an ensemble cast that exemplifies the wayward worlds that are being depicted. What would “30 Rock” be without the antics of Tracy and Jenna? How much fun would Leslie Knope’s campaign on “Parks” be without Tom, Andy and April? How dysfunctional would “The Office” be without Stanley, Meredith and Dwight? And where would the Greendale Human Beings be without their resident study group on “Community”?
The tragedy is that “NBC Thursday” reads as code for low ratings despite its high critical acclaim. Week-in and week-out, the ratings display horrendously low numbers even though the two-hour block is home to some of the freshest series on television today.
Critics and fans alike have hailed season three of “Community” as refreshingly innovative TV that is otherwise absent from network television. With episodes like “Virtual Systems Analysis” and “Basic Lupine Urology,” “Community” is pushing viewers’ emotional, comedic and imaginative boundaries. I applaud NBC for showing commitment and taking chances, for keeping “Community” on-air even though it regularly brings in low numbers and seems to be watched by (sadly) only a small segment of the population.
Similarly, “Parks” churns out superb episodes each week, as season four chronicles Leslie Knope’s path to city council election. Episodes like “Live Ammo” and “The Debate” all easily balance the serious with the goofy. The antics of the Parks Department have merely shifted and seamlessly become the antics of Leslie’s campaign team. Romance, heartbreak, triumph and competition have been the subtle themes of season four, but comedy has been at the forefront with high-octane laughs at the hands of our favorite Pawnee public officials.
The current seasons of both “30 Rock” and “The Office” have indeed had their (few) ups and (many) downs, struggling more than normal to orchestrate a coherent series of events. Both have had standout episodes: “30 Rock” had the fantastic “Leap Day” themed episode, while “The Office” excelled in their “Special Project” episode.
NBC has long been the home of my favorite comedies, but with “30 Rock” and “The Office” on their way out, the door is open for other networks to secure spots in the comedy race. I anticipate that the next legion of Saturday Night Live alumni will lead the way with fresh comedies, in the way that Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph have all done.
Though I’ll be sad to see some of my favorite shows exit, I’m excited to see what comedy television has in store for us next. Hopefully the future will bring comedies that push the envelope and take risks in the way that “Community,” and ergo NBC, have done.