The Week In TV: Just Let The Office Go With Dignity, Please
The humidity is back, the TV season's almost over, and I need a non-gay way to ask you to go camping with me. This was the week in TV Land:
• I saw Conan O'Brien in Austin on Friday. He took his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour through the state briefly, stopping in Austin, because that's the stop for everyone, and Dallas, because nobody told him that plastic hellhole ain't worth the gas. The show was a winning mix of comedy and music, opening with Conan doing a few minutes of jokes before giving way to a steady rotation of video clips (including Triumph), performances from the band and Conan, and random bits from Andy Richter and a comic from Conan's old staff. Conan stayed away from mentioning NBC and Jay Leno by name -- though whether for legal reasons or to keep winning the ground by taking the high road, it's hard to say -- but he did vent plenty about what it was like to lose a show while people like Kim Kardashian are on camera. Whoever came up with the idea for a moneymaking nationwide tour deserves a promotion: the place was sold to capacity, and the merch line took an hour to get through. The best part was seeing Conan trot out old gags like the Masturbating Bear and the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever and give them slight name changes in order to dodge any potential issues with intellectual property claims from NBC. The show was as fun as I'd wanted it to be, and if Conan can take that atmosphere of silliness and entertainment with him to TBS, his new show will be something to see.
• This is upfront season, when the broadcast networks roll out their new lineups for advertisers and press. That also means a raft of cancellations across the board to make room for new stuff or to finally show aging series the door. ABC finally pulled the plug on FlashForward, though they renewed V, likely in hopes that Lost fans will be confused by its absence and just follow the pretty lights to the show about aliens. NBC has also killed Heroes, approximately three years after people stopped caring about it, and Law & Order, which will now die without realize exec producer Dick Wolf's dream of breaking Gunsmoke's record for longest-running primetime drama. (The Simpsons, currently in its 21st season, is the longest-running American primetime show, though whether it should've been put out to pasture ten years ago is a whole other issue.) Anyway, there will now be no more ripped-from-the-headlines episodes about people named Smichael Flackson, at least not on the franchise's flagship show. But honestly, does anyone get invested in Law & Order? Is there anyone out there who views it as anything beyond filler material to be watched while you're sick, bored, or hungover? Who out there rushes home from work and thinks, "Thank God, now I can kick back with a cold beer and Jack McCoy"? I mean, yes, the show's an institution, but is that enough?
• But the worst news from NBC's upfront: Parks and Recreation -- you know, one of the funniest shows on TV -- is being pushed back to midseason to make room for their new comedy Outsourced. Based on the 2006 film, the sitcom is about an American company whose call center gets outsourced to India and the American employee who's transferred there to be the new team manager. On one hand, a sitcom about the very thing that's wound up downsizing so many people in real life is a fun risk to take, especially for a last-place net like NBC; on the other, the show better come up with more story engines and jokes than just "white guy mispronounces Indian name" if it wants to survive. Really, though, it's gonna have to be one hell of a show to justify ditching Parks and Recreation. There's no way I'm gonna make it till January to see what happens with Andy and April.
• We all make mistakes all the time, and I made a big one the other day: I watched How I Met Your Mother. As a dog returns to its vomit, so a lazy man watches bad sitcoms. The show has always existed as a struggle between its more fun and inspired elements (the gradual showcasing of Marshall, the rampant horniness of Barney) and its dull ones (pretty much anything having to do with Ted, ever). Building a successful sitcom around a protagonist who's increasingly tough to like is a risky proposition, so HIMYM should at least be happy it's worked for so long. But as I tuned in last Monday, I was hit once again by a wave of nausea and panic as I realized that I was going to spend another half hour nervously wondering when I would laugh. Worst of all, the episode was all about Ted's douchiness, and it took far, far too long to get him to come to the conclusion that sometimes he lays it on a bit thick. Meanwhile, we the viewers had to suffer through his douchestorm. It seemed at the end that his revelation would be both a nod to the character's douchetasticity while also pushing him in new, non-douchey directions, but after Ted bailed on the douchestravaganza to meet up with his friends for Robots vs. Wrestlers, he was still the same self-centered douchemonger of old. Plus the ep failed on a structural level by introducing the mystery of Marissa Heller, who was much more (stereotypically) refined than her mail led Ted, Marshall, and us to believe, and then dropping the angle altogether for a cheery reunion at McLaren's. I have hung in there with this show for years, and it's had some amazing moments (slap bet, anyone?), but eps like this have me more convinced than ever that Ted needs to meet his damn wife already and end our misery.
• I mentioned a couple weeks back that Steve Carell was making noises about how his contract with The Office is up after next season and how he might want to use that opportunity to move on. Now it seems that NBC might actually be prepping plans to continue the show without him, according to reports coming out of the upfronts. Which: what? The show's built around Michael Scott. There's no way it works without him, even if it's recently had trouble working with him. If Carell does leave, there will be no way to keep even a semblance of the show up and running. That'd be an ideal chance to just let it go, though I doubt the suits will see it that way.
• Finally, with the series finale of Lost fast approaching (whither art thou, Taller Ghost Walt?), here's a supercut of the one thing people will remember most about the show: Hurley saying "dude" all the time. Enjoy: