The Office: Hands down, the finale "Company Picnic" was the best thing on television last Thursday. It was able to balance the multiple strengths of the show, including sight gags and verbal jokes, outrageous caricaturizations (which Blogspot informs me is not a word, but then again, neither is Blogspot) and quiet moments of heart-tugging goodness. Steve Carrell and John Krasinski really brought their A-game to this episode, and the writers pulled off a wonderful showcase of the often times overlooked or ignored supporting cast. Stanley had the winning line of the night: "I usually don't enjoy the theater, but this is delightful." The episode began with a wonderful prank on Michael -- wonderful because it's based in reality (what office employee doesn't dream of taking advantage of their boss and skipping out on a full day of work?) -- and it was nice to see Dwight get in on the prank. And yes, I enjoyed Dwight's awful pun while changing the clocks, "Like clockwork." And then the episode follows our favorite Scranton Branch into the Dundler-Mifflin company picnic, where hilarity ensues on the volleyball court and we discover, through one of the sweetest moments of the show, that Jim and Pam are pregnant. It's a scene that is right above the proposal (for its style of execution) and just below the kiss from "Casino Night" (only because nothing will ever touch the awesomeness of that moment). The reveal came through a window in the hospital (begin watching at the 20:14 mark), and we see the look of shock and awe on Jim and Pam's face, right before they kiss each other and Jim starts crying. Then he comes out to call Dwight with the sweetest line of the episode, "Dwight, send in the subs." Way to make my heart swell, Krasinski.
Below are some of the highlights:
• I loved the introduction of Dwight's best friend, Rolf -- "I met him in a shoe store. I heard him asking for a shoe that could increase his speed and not leave any tracks." -- mostly because I will never tire of anyone calling Angela a whore.
• Michael wrote down a list of why he and Holly are soul mates -- "Holly and I are soup snakes, and the reason is... in terms of the soup... that doesn't make any sense. We're soul mates." -- and was smart enough to know he should wait to tell her of his affections. Michael Scott is only as self-aware when he's around Holly.
• I'm going to miss Idris Elba as Charles, Michael's interim manager while Michael created the Michael Scott Paper Company. In this episode, his competitive nature really heightened his character's contempt for the Scranton Branch, namely Jim. This is a very specific type of character that would work well within the Office universe. Best line: "It must be nice to get a rest from all your rest."
• Michael and Holly's skit, "Slumdunder Mifflinaire," worked so well despite its obvious awkwardness (Michael announces the closing of a branch, when said branch is present without any knowledge of the layoffs) because of Steve Carrell's Indian accent and because they made torture into comedy. This skit, by the way, really showcased why the show will suffer the loss of Amy Ryan next season. Michael and Holly chanting "Dun-der, dun-der, dun-der" to the tune of the Jaws theme song was as sweet as anything Jim and Pam have ever done.
• Pam played volleyball in junior high, high school, college, and went to a volleyball camp most summers -- and she's proud of it.
• Best site gag: As Kevin is speaking into the camera -- "It's 6 to 6. It's a nail biter." -- he gets hit by the volleyball. Unexpected physical pain is always welcome. (And this was followed by Angela asking Kevin, "Now it's 7:6. Or is that too much accounting for you," to which Rolf says, "Here's an accounting question for you. What does one fiance plus one lover equal? Answer: one whore.")
• Second best site gag: To delay the game while Jim takes MVP Pam to the hospital, Dwight kicks the volleyball into the woods with such anger and then yells, "I'll get it!" and saunters away. I laughed embarrassingly hard.
Grey's Anatomy: The finale "Now or Never" was certainly the talk of Facebook on Friday. (Sadly, Facebook statuses have replaced "watercooler talk.") I don't have much to say outside of George and Izzie's storylines -- other than someone needs to give Chandra Wilson (Bailey) an Emmy already, and then more Emmys for the previous seasons that she hasn't won -- so I'll stick to those major characters. (1) Izzie: When she emerged from her surgery with short term memory loss, I immediately thought back to a previous episode where a woman had to be told every 30 seconds that her husband died on his way to the hospital. At first I was peeved because I thought they were recycling material, but then I realized the familiarity of the storyline was supposed to evoke a response to tragedy. What if Izzie had to be told over and over again that the tumor was removed? It's not as heartbreaking when compared to the woman whose husband died, but the source of one's identity is very much rooted in memories. Eating jello (action) is not as defining as remembering whether or not you like jello (memory). We all knew that Izzie's memory would eventually come back, but it was wonderful to see it come back in such an honest way. Her husband Alex delivers one hell of a speech about his fears, which makes Izzie hold on to his words and thus focus on remembering. His speech, delivered so well by Justin Chambers, included thoughts on leaving her, on feeling helpless, on her not being the same person he married. It wasn't sweet; it wasn't romantic. It wasn't anything anyone would ever want to hear after going through brain surgery. But damn was it honest.
(2) George: I didn't realize George was the John Doe on the table until the Chief said he sent O'Malley home early to be with his mother before he departed for Iraq. Creator Shonda Rhimes has noted that the writers deliberately edged George out of major storylines so that when he was absent in the finale, nobody would take notice. Well Shonda, it worked. I was completely taken by surprise. (Rhimes has also noted in previous seasons that she pitches the season's finale before they even begin writing that season, so I believe her when she says it's merely coincidence that Katherine Heigl and T.R. Knight have been publicly scrutinized for their roles in the show and that they're the ones who end up flatlining at the episode's end.) There are two reasons why George's storyline broke my heart. The first is all due to Ellen Pompeo. Her delivery of "007? 007! 007! Oh my God, oh my God. It's George!" will forever be etched in my memory. Broke. My. Heart. (Best thing Pompeo's done on the show yet.) And second, in the first hour of the two-hour finale, George-as-John Doe is on the operating table, being poked and prodded by all of the major surgeons, including his ex-wife Callie, his mentor Owen Hunt, and his friend Meredith Grey. John Doe stepped in front of a bus to save a complete stranger from being hit, and someone wonders aloud if anyone thinks they could ever do that for someone else. Callie says, "We like to think we would, but... [we wouldn't]." That's our George. George is the type of person to step in front of a bus for someone else. The way that these scenes were set up -- thinking of John Doe as some random patient in the beginning, then realizing that the patient is our heroic George towards the end -- was extremely well plotted. For the most part, the finale was a typical episode... but the last few minutes, where Izzie and George both simultaneously flat line, left a lot of fans screaming at their television, "SERIOUSLY?!?"
30 Rock: My biggest issue with this show is that the jokes are often isolated within specific scenes -- and further, those scenes are isolated from other scenes -- so it was nice to see Liz's fifth grade kidney performance brought back to reveal she went to school with Sheryl Crow. Overall, the episode was just okay, but I didn't care for the forced catchphrase storyline (despite it being funny, it was so self-aware that the irony was quickly replaced by the idea that NBC is making 30 Rock catchphrase central -- even their website has "It's a deal breaker, ladies!" everywhere), or Tracy Jordan going back to high school to deliver a commencement speech. The episode did have one great moment, and that's the closing charity song ("One song. One man. One kidney."), filled with the voices of Mary J. Blige, Elvis Costello (alias of an international art thief), Clay Aiken, Cyndi Lauper, Adam Levine, and many others. It was more parodic than the straight-laced "The American Dream" song from Wag the Dog, and I do enjoy a good mocking of consumer capitalism.
• Dr. Spaceman was used remarkably well in this episode, from "Kidney transplantation is no laughing matter, so I apologize... (insert childish laughter)... kidney is just such a funny word" to yelling "Opposite! Opposite!" at the kidney transplant form.
• Here's a complete list of the catchphrases Liz Lemon offers to various women throughout the episode: "This guy's making you talk like a crazy person. You have sexually transmitted crazy-mouth. That's a deal breaker." "Your fiance's gay. Look at him, look at you. Classic case of 'fruit blindness.'" "He thinks he deserves a va-jay-jay upgrade. He doesn't; he's not Tom Brady. Shut it down." "There's no such thing as bisexual. That's something they created in the 90s to sell hair products." "Only one snake in the bed. Deal breaker!" "Not on my watch, beyotch." "S to the D. Shut it down." "Talk it out before you walk it out." "Long distance is the wrong distance."
• Say what you will about Tracy Morgan as an actor or a human being, his performance as Tracy Jordan makes even the worst storylines so much better. The "When have I ever cried" montage was hysterical. In case you've ever wanted to revisit some of Tracy's best lines, you can go here and read every line he's ever uttered.
• Here are the lyrics to the charity song:
Sometimes life brings pain and strife, and all seems wrong. That's when you find a friend and write a song. So give the gift of giving, and give it far and give it wide. Take the leap pushed down deep inside. And just give a kidney to a father or a dad. Just give a kidney. We hear it doesn't really hurt that bad, and we know you want to give it to a super human being (?). So get it done. We just need one. For Milton Green. This country has six hundred million, and we really only need half, which still leaves three hundred million kidneys. Do the math. Milton Green (x a lot). He needs a kidney. Milton Green. Don't ask why, he could die if you don't call today. Listen, when someone starts talking in the middle of a song, you know it's serious. So give Milton a kidney. We all believe in this cause so much that we're doing it for free. Except for Sheryl. And only three of us are drunk.The song continues, but it moves so quickly between the celebrities... but the highlight was Cyndi Lauper exclaiming, "I'm one of the drunk ones!"