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Jim and Pam and Earl Impress and Disappoint

I find myself impressed by Jim and Pam. These two kids actually went out and helped Dwight Schrute last night. I find Dwight to usually be an irredeemable character and deservedly the butt of numerous jokes. Even so, feeling bad for him, Jim and Pam did what they could to make Dwight feel better about losing Angela. Even more strangely, they did so after spending a night at Schrute Farms Agro-Hotel or whatever Dwight was calling his bed and breakfast.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's fantastic that they went out and helped a guy in need, but it was Dwight, so I can't promise that it's the sort of thing that I would have done given the opportunity. However, I think The Office was trying to show that they are a show with heart (and perhaps a soul) and therefore they made sure that our favorite couple did what they could for a coworker (I won't say "friend") in need. But, I already knew the show had heart, so I didn't need to see it displayed in quite this way.

I think the real people in need are the nice folks over at My Name is Earl. They have to figure out a way to get Earl out of jail soon. Don't get me wrong, I think that last night's episode was utterly hysterical (one of the funniest in a long, long time), but they have really moved far afield from the notion of Earl's list. Last night the list never came up, not even as a little side joke.

My Name is Earl initially set itself up with this really narrow mission — Earl must improve who he is as a human being by crossing things off the list. Maybe the producers have gotten tired of that. I think that last night's episode and sending Earl to jail for two years may be their attempt at trying to broaden what the show can do. Of course, sending the main character to jail really limits them, but it is still their effort to get away from the list. I do not believe that a move away from the list is necessarily a bad thing, but there has to be a far more concrete reason given for it. Maybe Earl should realize that he can just give money to the Smile Train in the names of everyone he has wronged and thereby cross everything off the list. That seems like the right way to approach moving away from the list, not to air a show about everyone trying to use their imagination to write a story. The stories in question were hysterical, but really far removed from the general mission.

Lastly, 30 Rock. Ah 30 Rock, that bastion of funny. My main problem with the show is also, quite possibly, the best character, Kenny. I love Kenny. I love Kenny because, as I've said in the past, I was an NBC Page, just like dear Kenny. I think he's hysterically funny and shows just enough humanity to get by as semi-believable. My problem with him is that everyone that knows me watches Kenny, and starts to laugh as he does something stupid (like singing Seinfeld's theme song to Jerry Seinfeld in the elevator) not because what Kenny did was funny (though it was), but because they think I would totally have done that as a Page. I didn't. I wouldn't. I never once quoted a line from a movie or a TV show to anyone I met. I did, after meeting famous people, walk away flushed, giggling to myself all happy-like, but that's totally different. Totally.

Isn't it?

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • nicolas

    i definitely appreciated that little awkward moment between jim and dwight in the stairwell. maybe we’re lucky and dwight gradually learns to be less of a cat-killing d-bag.

    i know Earl has gone downhill when i stop tuning in for the episode and now just tune in to stare at Catalina. (though a few more trips through randy’s imagination wouldnt be too horrible)

  • Mariko

    I think the Office is better as a short show.

    The longer Earl stays in jail though the more people you will see wearing those Free Earl T-Shirts.

    Kenny is my favorite too, although I am still watching Season 1.