All three of my fave Thursday night NBC shows --The Office, Community, and Parks And Recreation -- are being taken over by outsiders this season. Will these changes augur a new period of creative growth to these returning shows, or do the cast additions reveal a lack of faith on the part of the network? Every case here is a bit different (and spoilers are likely so be warned).
Despite the high "meanness" that California's experiments brings out (sort of on the same level as the stuff in the Will Ferrell episodes), "The List" ends on quite a touching, genuine note as Andy bravely confronts the new CEO and sticks up for his "loser" staff members. While Andy becoming manager may seem like an arbitrary, random choice (I'm always pulling for Pam, pregnant or not), he grows a lot in this episode in a believable way, making his story arc throughout the series really count for something. At the same time, a list of Jim's own, delineating what's most important in his life, will just about make you cry. And no, I'm not pregnant, though like Pam I do get weepy at certain television commercials.
California's presence in this show is still one inch away from being too surreal to fit in -- he basically acts like a God of sorts -- but it's sparking some interesting character developments, so I'm rolling with it.
Unlike Robert California, John Goodman's Vice Dean Laybourne threatens nothing but doom for our beloved community college. Head of an economically-thriving air-conditioner repair school annex of Greendale, Laybourne cuts funding to the college itself at the end of the episode, making Dean Pelton face the seemingly impossible task of running classes and hiring staff with no money. One must wonder, with Community's continuing ratings struggles against mass-market juggernaut Big Bang Theory, if Dan Harmon isn't seeing his own show as being in a similar plight as that of Greendale -- that the public would rather watch the equivalent of a vocational school rather than the more edgy and intellectual antics of Community.
It will be interesting to see where the storyline with Tammy 1, played by Patricia Clarkson, goes. Will her influence break apart the Parks and Rec team, or give them a new spark? Certainly, she's got her head together a lot more than Tammy 2, and seems to know what she's talking about -- her stern but motherly advice to April at the end to straighten up her posture as to make her boobs stick out more really works -- who knows what other much-needed pearls of wisdom she has to impart? With Knope busy with campaign plans, Tammy 1 might just fill that vacuum -- or drive Ron to suicide. Or both.
It's at this point that I must point out that the big premiere day for Community & Parks and Recreation was somewhat disappointing in the ratings. While The Office performed decently in its 9:00 timeslot (giving a boost to new sitcom Whitney -- which I am just avoiding like the plague for some strange, undefined, probably unfair reason), the other two shows were slaughtered by back-to-back Big Bang Theory eps on one side of it and American Idol clone The X Factor on the other. Without a change in timeslot, I really worry about Community's and Parks and Rec's future. Certainly, if non-traditional TV viewing methods (including watching the shows the day/s after the initial network airing) were counted, I'm willing to bet these ratings would be higher. Maybe the fan campaigns to increase viewership for both should proactively start now. While I don't think Parks and Rec would be up for the ax just yet, quirkier Community is definitely approaching that bubble, and needs some fan support stat!