The month of May brings many a season finale to our airwaves; over the next couple weeks, I will recap the finales a few of our favorite shows here at Collider, and use that as a jumping off point to discuss the direction of the season and the show as a whole. Thursday is always a crowded night for TV, and tonight held the 2-hour finale of Grey’s Anatomy on ABC as well as the season sendoffs for the NBC comedies Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock.
Hit the jump for a spoiler-filled dissection of the finale and overall season arc of each show.
Grey’s Anatomy, “Sancturay” and “Death and All His Friends”
I am shocked that I still watch Grey’s Anatomy each week. This should be the kind of show I lose track of between seasons, not out of disinterest, but in the absence of passionate interest*. Maybe its ability to stay in the headlines keeps the show fresh in my mind, but Shonda Rhimes and Co. keep providing new reasons to watch each week.
In particular, they’ve been doing a good job at replacing the cast. The loss of TR Knight and Katherine Heigl over the past year should have been a serious blow to the show, but Jessica Capshaw is enchanting as Arizona, and Kevin McKidd brings a gravity to the proceedings that Grey’s had been lacking since Isaiah Washington bigoted himself off the show after season three. Plus, virtually all of my favorite characters from the initial seasons (Alex, Miranda, Sloan) have stuck around.
I always respect a creator who can make an event out of the finale, which Shonda can do in spades. Even though I knew that the episode revolved around a shooter roaming the hospital, the moment of the first shot was superb, and truly shocking**. The lingering shot of the newly hollow head of Dr. Reed? Perfect.
“Whiny” Meredith always got on my nerves (no matter how justified her emotional issues are), so I’ve really enjoyed “Tranquil” Meredith this season. Now that we’re done with the will they/won’t they of Mer and Der, I was on board with the pregnancy story line. I think I would enjoy watching the two start a family, so I was disappointed that the high-stress situation induced a miscarriage. Although, it almost would have been cool to kill off Derek in the episode rather then tease it fairly convincingly, but I ‘m pretty sure I don’t actually want that. It works better as a theoretical finale moment then an actual plot development.
Maybe baby won’t make three for the Shepherds next season, but I’m sure Rhimes will provide some other reason to keep me from lapsing.
*It happened with Ugly Betty, The Mentalist, and Fringe this year
**It reminded me of the death of Brian Austin Green’s character in the final hours of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, in a good way.
Community, “Pascal’s Triangle Revisited”
The character of Abed is every bit the revelation that Sheldon Cooper has been over the past couple seasons on The Big Bang Theory. Perhaps even more so. If you’re interested in the content on Collider, I’d like to think that you have a pretty solid bank of film/TV knowledge. As I write for Collider, I’d really like to think that I do. Abed — and his unyielding barrage of movie references — is made for us*. Kudos to Danny Pudi, though, as Abed as a character is very much a creation of sitcom writers. He could very easily turn into a mouthpiece for writers’ room asides that don’t actually belong on television, but Pudi sells it. I don’t mean to discredit the writers, though, who do a fantastic job of integrating all those references into the plot.
I was kind of sad that there wasn’t Troy/Abed tag at the end of the episode. Those have brought so much enjoyment to my life, and I’ve come to count on their silly bromance in the closing minutes of each episode. (May I suggest a web series, NBC?) The episode was unfortunately light Abed in general**, though it was wonderfully heavy on Troy with the great sight gag/half-hearted metaphor that was the giant cookie.
(Side note: there is a special place in my heart for Starburns. He’s played by Dino Stamatopoulos, who is more writer than actor. Before writing for Mr. Show and creating the disturbing Adult Swim claymation series Moral Orel (a personal favorite), he was a staff writer on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Very pleased he got a couple lines in the finale, and double pleased that the first was the self-referential “Bring Conan back!”)
Let’s say that, as the writers seem to suggest in the finale, that I have to choose between Jeff and:
I’d choose c) every time. I like that it’s a relationship that grew out of cast chemistry rather than a plot point in the pilot à la Jeff and Brita. So I’m glad that once the writers placed that fork in the road early in the episode, they turned left in at the last minute. It should make for an interesting season two premiere. Community was my favorite new sitcom of the season: let’s see if it can become my unqualified favorite by the end of next.
*Brendan wrote condescendingly.
**Although “Banana Same Elliot” was hilarious
Parks and Recreation, “Freddy Spaghetti”
It’s a common supposition that Parks & Rec has improved since its first season, but I think a lot of that perception can be attributed to our deepened familiarity with the characters. Most of the laughs from this show are of the “Of course Ron Swanson would have a shotgun ringtone” type, which land better when we’ve spent a couple dozen episodes with the cast.
The writers have learned to play to the strength of the actors, as well. Leslie has become a funny, astute, and admirable lead; I’m still not exactly sure how Parks pulls that off, even with the considerable talents of Amy Poehler sicked on the task. Likewise, I found Andy to be a completely obnoxious character in season one, but now that he is a good-natured overgrown child rather than an ignorant imposition on the benevolent Ann, it’s a delightful character.
Like Jeff/Annie on Community, the relationship between April and Andy works against all odds. Color me disappointed that the finale featured a seemingly plot-motivated kiss between Ann and Andy, but I’m willing to see where they take it next season.
Speaking of which, it’s too bad Paul Schneider will no longer be a regular next season, but Adam Scott is a great get for the show. His sardonic style suits Parks incredibly well. Natalie Morales will continue to be adorable for however long she sticks around, and I’m completely neutral about Rob Lowe on the show. Sum that up, and the season three gets a slight upgrade in cast.
The Office, “Whistleblower”
I still like the low-key comedy of The Office, but it invokes more eyerolls than any other show on my weekly viewing list. I no longer find Dwight funny. At all. Ever. I don’t know if the character slowly became broad to the point of caricature, or if I have just grown tired of his antics, but I cringe when he comes on screen. Dwight throwing the IT guy’s head against his desk with zero provocation is just not funny to me. Rainn Wilson will probably be nominated for a fourth-straight Supporting Actor, and I’ll be annoyed. So it goes.
I feel similarly about Michael at this point, though I’m more ambivalent. “Date” Mike was obnoxious, but Steve Carell infuses the character with a fair share of nice moments to keep him from (I liked his giddyness at the prospect of fifteen minutes of local news fame in the cold open).
In that sense, Erin has been a great addition to the Dunder-Mifflin gang this season. She plays off Michael better than any character in recent memory*. he’s a big part of what kept me on board this season. Jim and Pam remain engaging, and I think it was smart to pull the trigger on the baby plotline, but the show benefits from a deep bench. Love each and all of Creed’s utterances and again, Erin is a breath of fresh air for The Office.
Steve Carell may leave the show after the next season, and that may actually end up being a good thing for the show if they manage it well. I like the idea of The Office as a strict ensemble comedy with no true lead, even if that path is unlikely to be travelled.
*Save for maybe Holly. I hope that Amy Ryan returns in some capacity next season, given the tease at the end of the episode.
30 Rock, “I Can Do”
I’ve seen some critics suggest that the quality of 30 Rock is on a downward trend this season, which I think is an odd concept. I don’t know that it’s a show that you should think of season by season, maybe not even episode by episode. With such a farcical approach to comedy, I suppose it’s a “good episode” when there are plenty of memorable gags, and it’s a “good season” when there are plenty of memorably “good episodes.”
There have been some plotlines that were a complete miss for me (the labored janitorial parody of the Conan/Leno debacle comes to mind), but I don’t think there’s ever been an episode where I haven’t laughed. Every viewing is enjoyable, even (especially?) when the laughs are mere empty calories. Alec Baldwin has earned his Emmys, Tina Fey is a straight woman for the ages, and you either find Tracy Morgan’s stilted shouting funny, or you don’t. I do.
Likewise, the guest stars have been solid this season, especially with several weeks of Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, and Michael Sheen in a recurring status as of late. Will Forte had a nice return tonight, and Matt Damon fit right in after some practice on the similarly wacky set of The Informant! last year.
So was this a subpar season? No. I think I can say that conclusively. Maybe the jokes aren’t as fresh as they were in season two, but I feel that is due to familiarity rather than an objective decline and quality.