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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, May 26, 2022
Jake Smasal

Bye NBC Thursdays

Last week, “Parks and Recreation” capped off a glorious seven-season run with about as much pure joy and happiness as you can fit into an hour of network television. Storylines wrapped, Pawnee changed (once again) for the better and Mark Brendanawicz was once again nowhere to be found. In an era where TV comedies increasingly focus on the consequences of our screwups, “Parks and Recreation” coupled this with a love of the consequences of our good decisions, too.  And in a world where many comedies center around the little engine that couldn’t, Leslie Knope and company were the little engine that did three times and had waffles after. From its inception as a sort of spin-off of “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation” immediately became one of the best sitcoms on TV (I even liked season one).  It will be sorely missed. 

For me, however, the end of “Parks and Recreation” signaled the end of something a little bit bigger. When I started at UW-Madison four years ago, NBC’s Thursday night lineup(starting at seven) was “Community,” “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office” and, finally, “30 Rock” at nine. That’s about as good as it gets. Each one of those shows had its own style of comedy, from the quirky pop culture awareness of “Community” to the zippy joke-slinging of “30 Rock.” If you wanted to have an argument about the best exclusively 2000s sitcoms, each one of them would have a legitimate case for the top spot. 

Now, “30 Rock,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation” are off the air, and “Community” has been relegated to Yahoo Screen, which nobody even knew was a thing until it picked up

“Community”—so expectations are not quite as high as they were last year. Do you know what NBC airs on Thursday nights now? “The Blacklist” and their knockoff of “The Americans.” On a related note, can you name any comedy that now currently airs on NBC? I cannot. I did not have any idea what “The Mysteries of Laura” or “The Night Shift” were before I looked them up for this column (which was kind of the point). 

It’s actually become kind of depressing to watch NBC shift further and further away from its great comedic legacy year after year. Not that the other networks have been fantastic over that span, but at least they’re trying. NBC’s last great hyped comedy was “The Michael J. Fox Show,” which was mostly about a guy that has Parkinson’s, a distinctly unfunny malady. NBC seems to have put all of its eggs in the drama basket. For a cable network like AMC, that’s fine. But the networks have both the broad viewership and cash base to at least dare to be better. When they trot out the same tired tropes and retreads year after year, it gets a little harder to see how bright the past was; NBC’s departed Thursday’s are just one example. Thank god for HBO. 

In parting, I plead to the network directly: Please, please reinvest in comedy. It’s what we want, and it’s what you need.

Do you really like “The Mysteries of Laura?” Tell Jake off at smasal@wisc.edu

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