This TV season is proof that we shouldn’t give up on solid comedies just because they get stuck in a rut. They all have ups and downs.
The stock report:
– Saturday Night Live: The cast has slowly evolved into one of the best in the show’s 3.5 decades. Bill Hader is the glue guy, like Phil Hartman or Dan Aykroyd before him, capable of filling almost any role. The female cast, still empowered from the Tina Fey era, includes versatile talents such as Kristen Wiig and Nasim Pedrad. Andy Samberg brings the viral video, Seth Meyers is a solid Weekend Update anchor, and the supporting cast is deep.
– The Simpsons: Erratic in recent years, sure, but sometimes first-rate. Fine example: Tonight’s episode with Marge’s hair.
– Family Guy: Suffering through its worst season. Brian has been transformed from the voice of reason on the show to an irredeemable prick. Seth is indulging his love of musicals, old films and Star Wars films into bland shot-for-shot remakes in which the writers simply forget to write jokes.
– The Office: Up and down. The last two weeks, centering on Michael and Holly, have been terrific. On the downside, Jim and Pam have been pushed into the background. (What is it with these shows and the voice of reason?)
– 30 Rock: Always erratic. Frankly, I’ve never forgiven them for dumping Rachel Dratch from the original cast. But they usually manage to have a few memorable lines.
– Community: Brilliant. Not every week, because they take a few risks and occasionally miss. But again, that’s the point.
So that’s why I have no patience with the “Oh, SNL hasn’t been good since Belushi/Hartman/Ferrell/Fey left” or “I can’t watch The Simpsons any more” crowd. They’re just confusing cynicism with intelligence.