The Week In TV: Enough Already, Gene

Why don't the people on The Walking Dead just call the zombies zombies? We all know what they are. Anyway, this was the week in TV Land:

• Another week, another disappointing episode of The Office. Despite a few bright moments earlier this year, last week's episode returned to the favored template of "Michael is a jerk for no reason and then finds unearned atonement." The Glee-watching story had plenty of fun moments that didn't involve Michael -- the battle of wills between Jim and Dwight was perfectly done, and an example of how to do smart comedy that's been shaped by characters we've known for years -- but every time the action returned to Michael, the show grinded to a halt. His innocence has turned to ignorance, and his immaturity has given way to petulance. He's just a dick, you know? It's tiring. Maybe this is all a really convoluted plan to make us hate him so much that we won't miss the departure of Steve Carell, but I'm too bored by Michael's actions to care.

• Things are not boding well for Running Wilde, but given that it's a Fox series created by the men behind Arrested Development, it'd be weird if things were going well. Fox announced last week that it's going to keep the show off the air through the November sweeps period and likely replace it with Breaking In, a sitcom starring Christian Slater. I dug the pilot but soon lost interest: The show is cute enough but feels largely lifeless, so while I can't help but shake my head at Mitchell Hurwitz's continued bad luck at Fox, I won't exactly miss the show.

• Speaking of Fox and creators of cult, short-lived shows: Veronica Mars mastermind Rob Thomas has landed a single-camera comedy there called Little in Common, which will revolve around three different families who enter each other's lives through their involvement in youth sports. It sounds a lot lighter than a show about a teenage private eye investigating murder and incest, and more family-friendly than the similarly cult-adored Party Down. Just glad to see the guy's still working. That Cupid remake died on arrival.

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• In happy news: Gene Shalit, the hacky and relentlessly terrible movie "critic" at NBC's Today Show, is retiring after a staggering 41 years of shitty puns and brain-dead observations. Shalit's known for sporting a questionable mustache and littering his quasi-reviews with the dumbest wordplay imaginable, and it's impossible to believe anyone takes him seriously. Shalit, perhaps wanting to beat the American people to the punch, said about his retirement, "It's enough already." Preach.

• In AMC news: The Walking Dead, which continues to solidly execute a fantastic premise, has been renewed for a second season of 13 episodes. Unfortunately, the network hasn't yet set an airdate for the next season (or even a start date for production), so after this six-episode round ends, it could be a little while before the action resumes. The network also announced last week that it cancelled Rubicon, bringing an end to the slow-burning conspiracy series. The network said that it was "not an easy decision" to ax the show, but it's tough to extend the life of a deliberately paced 1970s-style quasi-thriller when you're used to making headlines with Don Draper. Did anyone see the finale?

The Simpsons has been renewed through the spring of 2012, which will carry the show through its 500th episode. Yes, the current incarnation of the show might never match the freewheeling genius of its first decade, but let's all just take a moment to reflect on the staggering achievement of producing 500 episodes. Only two primetime series have ever produced more: Gunsmoke, at 635, and Lassie, at 588. The Simpsons is such a cultural touchstone, such a shaper of comedy and communication, that it's impossible to imagine TV without it. Just try and go a week without talking like Comic Book Guy. I dare you.

• I leave you with one of John Slattery's amazing campaign ads from 30 Rock:


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