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Jews Watching Television: Glimpsing The Future Of Must See TV

Disclaimer: This week it was announced that NBC is going to pull Perfect Couples before the end of the season to start airing some show starring Paul Reiser and that Outsourced’s star/white dude Ben Rappaport has booked a CBS Pilot for next fall. So both shows are as good as canceled and accordingly we’re not going to talk about them this week. Both had fine enough episodes, btw.

Last night was a great night of TV but was it too great? Four revolutionary sitcoms showed off exactly what makes them transcendent and it was exhausting.

For a lot of people, sitcoms mean turning off your brain and watching two men make dick jokes while a half-man makes fat jokes (RIP). Yet, NBC’s (relatively) big four are actually funny while also pushing the boundaries of what can be done in 30 minutes of comedic TV. So, when they all succeed, as they did last night, the individual impact of each gets lost.

Community pushed its self-awareness further than they ever had with Abed’s bizarre monologue that was four freaking minutes long. In which, he asks,  “If I’m a person who watches Cougar Town how can I be in Cougar Town?” alluding to both to the fundamental conflict of his character, who seems like he is watching Community despite being on Community, and the show’s relationship with its meta universe. The rest of the episode didn’t get any less dense yet a mere 30 minutes later the audience needed to be completely present for The Office.

As was the case with Jim vs. Pam, if a moment is done in-line with the character’s history than predictability doesn’t spoil joyous moments. So when Michael started talking in his Yoda voice there is no way that most of the audience’s eyes weren’t as drenched as the file folders that surrounded the happy couple. Yet, this moment could’ve been missed for the viewer still thinking about how Community used the Pulp Fiction party to show the contrast between mere spoofs and, as Abed (and the show) prefers, “homage.”

The tears wouldn’t have even dried by the time Parks & Recreation started. In the wake of the New York Magazine piece proclaiming it “the Comedy of Superniceness” last night’s episode was classic P&R: touching, pleasantly absurd, and flawless executed. Tom’s SkyMall obsession, Anne’s hot dog pun ineptitude, the inherent conflict of having Ron surrounded by cats were all hilarious moments that were easily overshadowed by the fact that Michael immediately after proposing told his staff “So guys, guys, guys, guys, we’re moving to Colorado.”

By the time 30 Rock’s master class of post-modern comedy writing that was the Aaron Sorkin walk-and-talk happened it was hard to revel in its brilliance. It demands a rewatch to really appreciate how hilarious the scene and the entire episode was. Frankly, all four shows necessitate their own separate viewing and that might be the point.

With NBC ordering a lot of sitcom pilots – including a promising one created by a P&R writer, produced by Lorne Michaels, and set to star Christina Applegate and Will Arnett – it seems like they’re moving to create the anti-line-up. It runs completely counter to the concept of appointment viewing by trading traditional overnight ratings for the DVR, Hulu, and DVD numbers that result from having shows that stand alone.

Last week when Netflix outbid networks for David Fincher and Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards their chief content officer was quoted as saying, “There’s nothing in our model that makes a show more valuable if it can attract a large audience at a specific time.” This is where technology is moving; like how albums became more a combination of mp3s, nightly line-ups are becoming a combination of single shows. And there is no better one than NBC’s Thursday Night Must Eventually See TV.

Still, if there was one gather around the tube episode it was last night’s Office. Few shows in a generation last long enough as to provide the kind of emotional payoff that was that proposal. So brace your eyes, the clip is NSFW since tears make cubicle-mates uncomfortable:

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