Last night saw some excellent TV comedy. NBC's Thursday night comedy line-up is an incredibly strong two hours (and still will be when Scrubs returns and The Office goes back to 30-minute episodes), stronger than it's been since... I don't know when. Maybe all the way back to the legendary Cosby Show-Family Ties-Cheers-Night Court powerhouse of the '80s. Sure, Friends and Seinfeld dominated Thursdays in the years between, but there was almost always one turkey of a show stuck in there somewhere as well (hello, Single Guy).
What a shame, then, that relatively so few people are watching. According to this, NBC finished a distant third to CBS and ABC in overall ratings for the night -- and fourth place, after Fox, for the 8:00 hour alone. 30 Rock improved a bit on last year's ratings, but then, it was the season debut, it just won the Emmy for Best Comedy, and Jerry Seinfeld was guest starring. Next week's ratings will probably drop off again. That makes me sad.
Oh well. At least it was an awesome episode. As 30 Rock always does with guests, it showcased Seinfeld's strengths perfectly while minimizing his drawbacks (i.e., he can't act). Portraying him as a power-mad, ultra-rich egomaniac was... well, probably not much of a stretch, but at least they got him to play along with it. Several moments of brilliance throughout: Liz sounding like she's mimicking Seinfeld when she cries; Liz calling Toofer "Chocolate Rain"; Liz's wedding dress, which winds up being a "$4,000 ham napkin"; and of course the European nation "Svenborgia," which only rich people know about (as well as the even better country, which only Seinfeld-rich people know about). Even the blatant shilling for Seinfeld's Bee Movie had the sting (HA!) taken out of it by having Seinfeld turn directly to the camera to say, "Opening November 2nd." I still don't much care for Tracy Morgan, though he did crack me up with his line on seeing Liz in her wedding dress: "Oh no! Did a Korean person die?" A hilarious beginning to what will hopefully be many brilliant seasons to come.
The Office was another great hour, with Jim and Pam's relationship becoming public while Angela and Dwight's relationship dissolves (due to, naturally enough, Dwight's putting Angela's feeble old cat in the freezer to die). Loved the return of Ryan to the office, along with Kelly's renewed attempts to win him back, complete with lying about a pregnancy (her knowing head shake to the camera after dropping that lie was a howler). And Michael's insistence on driving directly into a lake because his OnStar system told him to turn right was one of the funniest moments ever on the show. I couldn't stop laughing for minutes after. I love that this show keeps getting better and funnier, even after resolving the Jim/Pam will-they-or-won't-they story (for now, anyway).
Those two shows are so powerful right now, it's making the very funny My Name Is Earl look like the weak link by comparison. A lot of nice moments in this one, from Randy passing the prison guard test with a 55% (the highest score they've gotten in years), to Craig T. Nelson's incompetent warden handing out "One Week Off" coupons to Earl, to Joy's pride at Randy's grudging compliment, "Well, I suppose she does have a nice rack."
Ugly Betty, on the other hand, was just okay. I think the soapy nonsense (frickin' amnesia!) is beginning to overwhelm my enjoyment of the characters and the humor. I don't think I'll be giving up on it anytime soon, but I'm not especially wild about it, either.
As for tonight, the only thing of interest to me, amid all the reairings and Moonlights and whatnot, is the second season debut of Friday Night Lights. "Finally on Friday!" as NBC's promos boast, as though moving to Friday were a promotion rather than a banishment. And hey, won't many of the show's fans actually be at Friday night high school football games, rather than watching TV? This show does not have a long life expectancy. Which is why I'm debating whether or not to tune in. I know from watching last season's finale that this really is a quality program, with great writing, acting, and football action. But do I want to take the chance of getting wrapped up in the show, knowing it probably will be cancelled soon? It's about 50/50 on whether I give it a shot. I'll let you know.
Oh, and also, a new Avatar: The Last Airbender is on Nickelodeon at 8:30. Just a reminder for what surely is several dozen of you who started tuning in after I recommended it a few weeks ago.
One last note: I'm pushing my Pushing Daisies review back to tomorrow. Don't have the time for it today. I will say that I did like it, and highly recommend it, so if you missed it, catch the repeat airing of the pilot tonight at 8:00 on ABC.