Film and TV

The Week in TV and Catch 30 Rock as a Cartoon

This was the week in TV Land:

The Office isn't actually ending with Steve Carell's departure, but you wouldn't know it from the way the producers and NBC are acting. Will Ferrell's in the middle of a guest run right now that's mostly pointless but still impressive in terms of the level of stunt casting it achieves, and the season finale is going to be stuffed with guest stars playing a variety of characters vying for the job Michael Scott is vacating. The latest announcement has Jim Carrey showing up for a few minutes, and he's joining a guest roster that already includes Will Arnett, Ray Romano, James Spader, and Ricky Gervais, in a moment that will surely be as mind-bending and universe-imploding as the first time Michael met David Brent. On one level, it's cute when major players show up in other venues like this, but on a whole other, it's just a delay. We as viewers know that Jim Carrey is a movie star and will not be doing sitcoms any time soon; similarly, Will Arnett's been cast in a pilot for next season, which rules him out as a Dunder Mifflin employee, as well. In other words, tune in for the cavalcade of stars; stick around for the totally ordinary resolution.

• This is the era of almost instant renewals for cable shows with big debuts. The latest: HBO's Game of Thrones, which was given the go-ahead for a second season just a couple days after the pilot episode aired to 4.2 million viewers. Now, those numbers are likely to drop as the season rolls on. Last fall, Boardwalk Empire nabbed 4.81 million viewers for its first episode but lost almost a third of those when the second episode earned 3.33 million viewers, and the rest of the season saw averages around 2.8 million. That's not a knock on the show, either; that's just the way things go. Pilot episodes tend to draw big crowds, especially for high-concept stuff with a big promotions budget, like a gangster drama produced by Martin Scorese or a fantasy series based on bestselling novels. Still, networks know that the key to winning with shows like Game of Thrones is to hold onto the hardcore base, and a hardcore base is often easier to find with fantasy material. Hence, we're getting at least two full years of the show.

• On the other side of things, it doesn't look like The Paul Reiser Show is going to be around too long. The second episode of the NBC comedy drew 2.5 million viewers and a 0.9 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic, less than half of what Parks and Recreation pulled in in terms of total viewers and way below what a network like NBC is probably happy with. Sorry, Paul. You'll always have, well, fame and fortune.

• The creative team at Parks and Recreation has been open about the way they've adjusted their show over time as they've found their voice, and it's all been for the better. The show is as fun, smart, and downright winning as ever, and episodes like last week's "Soulmates" are a perfect example of how the series balances longer arcs and stories with fantastic little stories like Chris and Ron's burger showdown. You know that Leslie and Ben will get together, if only for a while, but the writers are still able to make that journey a pleasure to watch. The series raised its game last year, and it's stayed just as strong this season. It might never have had the stamp of approval or hip cachet of The Office or Community, but it's quickly become the best 22 minutes of my week. 

• This looks promising: HBO has picked up Veep, a comedy series from Armando Iannucci starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a senator who winds up vice president. Iannucci's known for creating The Thick of It, a BBC comedy about government ineptitude that spun off into the amazing film In the Loop. In other words, he's got a fantastic, caustic voice when it comes to satirizing the bureaucracy of public office, and it looks like he'll be able to bring that to American cable. Here's a taste: 

• One of the best things you'll see today: 30 Rock as a cartoon.


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Daniel Carlson
Contact: Daniel Carlson