The Morning Round-Up: '30 Rock,' 'Big Bang Theory,' 'Up All Night' & 'Grey's Anatomy'
It's morning round-up time (afternoon, really), with quick thoughts on last night's episodes of "30 Rock," "The Big Bang Theory," "Up All Night" and "Grey's Anatomy" coming up just as soon as I tell Pat Riley the Funmeister says hi...
"30 Rock" on the whole wasn't as satisfying as either of last week's episodes(*), as I didn't enjoy much of either the Kenneth or Tracy/Jenna storylines (other than Kristen Schaal's presence in the former and the Gina Gershon gag in the latter). But Jack negotiating against himself — first via the Jack-trained Liz, then literally — was a lot of fun (and not just because of the inevitable "playing with myself"/"Jack-off!" joke), as was the brief return of Liz's incompetent, juvenile agent Simon.
(*) My DVRs failed to record this last night, and based on the Twitter reaction, I wasn't alone. It seems the problem was that the listings for this episode and last week's second episode were identical, so even though this was listed as a new show, many DVRs treated it as a repeat anyway and didn't record. Very annoying, but less so than if it had happened with a show like "Chuck" that wasn't available any other way.
"The Big Bang Theory" did something I've wanted the show to do for a very long, long time by having Leonard push back against The Roommate Agreement once and for all. (Raj's sister got him out of it temporarily last year, but Sheldon got it reinstated by the end of the episode.) The show tends to walk a very fine line between Sheldon being amusingly oblivious to social niceties and Sheldon just being an ass, and pretty much every story or joke built around the Agreement tended to be the latter. So that was welcome. Even though they ended in a place where Leonard is likely going to keep doing many of those favors for Sheldon, it's now going to come out of choice rather than obligation. I'm also enjoying the tentative steps the show is taking with Leonard and Penny hooking up again. They're adults, they live in close proximity, and they like each other. Not everything has to be a great bit of drama.
"Up All Night" did an episode combining two of my least favorite sitcom stories: parents go to elaborate lengths to get their kids into an elite preschool, and a character or characters sticking to a lie that's both self-destructive and easily-discovered. You can make either of those work from time to time (Will Arnett was involved in an amusing variation on the preschool bit on last week's "30 Rock," but that story was much less about the school than about Jack vs. Devon), but neither of these really rose above the cliches. That said, the casting of yet another "30 Rock" recurring player in Dean Winters as Chris' competitive older brother was a good choice, and I enjoyed watching Winters and Arnett together.
Finally, the "Grey's Anatomy" alt-universe episode reminded me very much of the pattern of Marvel Comics' old "What If?" series, where stories ended one of two ways: 1)The new timeline eventually becomes a nightmare (often with lots of characters, if not the entire universe, dying), or 2)Despite all the changes to the timeline, things move back as much as possible to the status quo. In either version, the message is simple: it's fun to think about how things might have gone differently than what the writers originally did, but the path they chose is much better than this new one, and it's the path the characters were destined to be on. In this case, even though we start out with the characters in very different places, much of what seems fun turns out to be a mess (Karev cheating on Meredith and sabotaging Bailey) or exactly how things were in the series itself (Meredith and Cristina wind up getting drunk and being dark and brooding together, Addison keeps sleeping with Mark, Ellis is an egotistical bully even with Richard in her life and without the Alzheimer's). As late-in-the-run experiments go, it was entertaining enough, but about what I'd have expected.
What did everybody else think?