COMMUNITY Plays with Puppets, PARKS AND REC Controls Animals, and THE OFFICE Takes the Stairs

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NBC’s Thursday night line-up, while not appreciated in terms of ratings, delivered big laughs yet again tonight with Community, Parks and Recreation, and The Office.

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At Greendale, the gang turned to puppet therapy in this Avenue Q inspired episode as the gang tries to cope with their traumatic hot air balloon accident.

Filled with musical numbers, the gang recalls (through their puppets) how they crashed and landed in the middle of the wilderness.

The show continues with their theme of random guest stars, bringing in Sara Bareilles and Jason Alexander into this episode (Sophie B. Hawkins was a musical guest last episode).

When the group crashes, Abed, who’s quick to make pop culture references, says, “We need to split into two groups: the survivors and the others,” a clear homage to Lost. Soon the gang stumbles upon Jason Alexander in the woods and they all indulge in wild hallucinogenic berries, causing them each to reveal a secret about themselves.

The guilt-stricken Shirley confesses after the fact that she didn’t mean to leave her children in the grocery store, causing the show to take a very dramatic, human turn. The rest of the study group reveals that they had forgotten all the secrets that were told that night, so Shirley’s declaration caught them by surprise.

In typical sitcom-fashion, they each tell their secret – in the form of a song (Avenue Q themed, remember?) and they range from the political activist Britta never having casted a vote, to book-nerd, straight-edged Annie cheating on her history exam.

The fourth season of Community had originally been delayed from September to October due to a lack of ratings, but was then pushed again to premiere in February, causing the untimely Halloween and Thanksgiving episodes. My guess is Christmas is next!

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Over in Pawnee, the Animal Control Department is out of…well, control. Chris, Leslie, and April take on the task of hiring the new deputy to take over the town’s department, only to face an unsatisfying round of applicants.

On the other side of the office, Ron Swanson catches a cold, sparking residential nurse Ann Perkins to take him to the hospital. In typical Libertarian fashion, Ron refuses to divulge specific medical information, which lead to my favorite line of the night:

Ann: For date of birth, you put “spring time.”

Ron: It’s true…

Meanwhile, Ben enlists the help of Tom and Andy to pick up a sponsor for his new job at Sweetums. The client, a cigar-smoking, perfume and fragrance salesman, does not live up to Ben’s expectations, or Andy’s for that matter. After a few mishaps, they lose his bid and Tom decides that portion of his Rent-a-Swag sales can be used for the charity.

At the end of the episode, a hopeless Leslie realizes the perfect person to take over as deputy for Animal Control: April Ludgate. The cynical April then comes up with an idea of her own for the Parks Department to absorb the Animal Control office, thus saving money and ending the crisis. After a brief, but warranted, heart-to-heart, April is named Deputy Officer with a plaque that Leslie had been keeping since her first week on the job.

With Ron discharged from the hospital, Ann advises him to eat well and take care of his body. In the hysterical last clip of the show, he contemplates ways of eating a banana and ultimately decides to stuff pieces in between a Paunch burger. Ron (and Parks and Rec) Swanson can do no wrong.

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The night ended in Scranton, PA, where The Office is gearing up for the release of their documentary that has been ten years in the making. I really like the approach the show is going for in its self-proclaimed “Farewell Season,” and argue that it’s even funnier than the Michael Scott days.

The elevators are broken at Dunder Mifflin, so Andy challenges his employees to prepare for Stairmaggedon (an obvious and irrelevant play on Armageddon) by taking the stairs and getting fit.

Andy receives the first reviews from the documentary, commenting that it will reveal the homosexuality of a public figure, causing an assured Erin to exclaim, “I bet it’s Katie Couric. I’ve been saying this for years.”

Following the trend of the past few episodes, Jim and Pam each seek marriage advice from the office’s most unexpected people: Jim from Toby, and Pam from Nelly. As deemed by my current Facebook cover photo, which is a snapshot of Pam crying and Brian the boom operator comforting her, I want their marriage to end. While others are ardent about living their lives vicariously through Jim and Pam, I feel as though the ending would be best for them to go their separate ways – and for Pam to take the kids.

In a nationally televised press conference, the Senator comes out with a surprised Angela by his side, causing a giddy Kevin to reveal that he knew the whole time.

Meanwhile, the new dynamic duo of Dwight and Clark tranquilize Stanley to bring him to a sales meeting. However, they didn’t factor in the broken elevator shaft or his hefty weight, so they settle by sending him down the staircase cocooned with bubble wrap.

The show ends the night of guest stars with Roseanne Barr playing a talent agent who recruits Andy in a conspicuous scheme, taking $5,000 for a start-up fee.

The Office, while way past its glory, should not be taken out of contention for September’s Emmys, which love to honor exiting comedies. It’s likely to see at least one nod for either this show or the already departed 30 Rock, which ended its six year run back in March.

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