Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's Must See TV Again

A few years ago, I wrote a rant on my old web page about how NBC's Thursday nights went down the crapper. I cleverly called it, "Must Flee TV". At the time "Friends" was on but not much else. "Seinfeld" was over and the only decent show was "Frasier". NBC was going through its routine of putting mediocre shows in between the hits, and for years it was getting more and more mediocre. It worked, in getting these bad shows good ratings but after other networks started putting better shows on, people started abandoning NBC in record numbers. "Friends" hung on longer than it should because it was the only hit left on that night and when it went off the air NBC ratings were at third place, When the Apprentice moved to Thursdays, it briefly gave a boost to the ratings but ultimately, the Apprentice ruined Thursday nights. Leave it to Trump to ruin NBC like he did Atlantic City. NBC Thursday night was the home for comedies and the presence of a reality show ruined the flow.

This past season they went back to putting 4 comedies on the two hour block from 8-10. It may be the best set of 4 shows they have ever put on this night. It starts off with "My Name Is Earl" a redemption show with a flannel shirt protagonist who is trying to reform his life by making up for all the evil things he has done in his past. At 8:30, "The Office" follows, a "mockumentry" about life in a dull office supply place in Scranton, Pennsylvania. This show is an American remake of the British show of the same title. 9:00 has the show "30Rock", an backstage look at an SNL like show featuring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. 9:30 has the show "Scrubs", the oldest show of the bunch, which has been moved around the schedule more times than not.

Each of these shows are better than any comedies featured on NBC Thursdays since Seinfeld went off the air. Earl has a wonderfully eccentric cast of actors and stories that involve flashbacks of Earl's unsavory past. It's pokes fun of the lower class trailer set, but doesn't mock them. It's a "redemption" show that celebrates the idea of reforming yourself.

The Office humor is like its British counterpart, dry with moments of awkwardness that can be painfully funny. It started off being mainly a vehicle for Steve Carrell but soon found strength in its background characters, many of whom write many of the show's episodes. The cast includes a former exotic dancer, a former rock star, and talented improv extras. It's rich with character interaction and has found its own niche beyond the British original.

30Rock is the newest show of the block. It is created by Tina Fey, It was the second show this season dealing with the behind the scenes of an SNL like show. 30Rock was the better show, it dealt less with the show and more about the characters, which made for a more interesting show. It has good writing, great acting by Alec Baldwin.

Scrubs has been on for years. It had been at times, on Thursday nights. However, it stood out like a sore thumb at the time because it was the only comedy to not have a laugh track. It would move to different nights and be on hiatus enough times where it seemed like it was canceled. It wasn't but it looked like it was going to be canceled after this season because the ratings were low and the cast were due for a raise. However, NBC announced all these shows are back next year on Thursday, making for the best night of TV viewing since the CBS Saturday night lineup of the 1970's

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