Television: The Office & 30 Rock

So two of NBC's comedies are finishing up their seasons this year. 30 Rock will wrap up shortly and The Office will end its run in the spring. I've enjoyed both these shows and will be sorry to see them go, but I know it's time for them to end. My biggest fear is that there will be nothing to fill the holes they leave behind.

In truth, The Office has been weak since the loss of Steve Carrell. It's clear they'd exhausted the use of his character, but perhaps the show should have ended with his exit. Instead there has been watery attempts to fill that corner office with limited results. James Spader's turn as Robert California was funny and strange but difficult to sustain. And Andy Bernard taking over has been a small disaster; his character has become not only unfunny but downright unlikable, especially with his vendetta against Catherine Tate's Nellie (she, I must say, has been a fantastic addition to the show), which I suppose might be designed to mimic Michael Scott's (Carrell) hatred of Toby but here seems far harsher. The show has benefitted greatly from Andy's absence the past few weeks.

As for 30 Rock, again, very tough to sustain that kind of absurd comedy. How many insane situations can one come up with? Well, a lot, and as 30 Rock slides toward its finale, things are getting ever crazier and yet . . . Saner? The show has hit a fabulous sweet spot, like the glory of the sun touching the ocean right before it sinks into darkness. The proverbial "beautiful sunset" as Liz gets married and straightens out her life while still being the character we've all come to love making fun of.

Comedy is truly a difficult genre because the goal is ultimately to up the stakes while always maintaining balance and the status quo. Characters in dramas are allowed to grow and change, but in comedy the rule is to keep things the same. It's only now, as The Office and 30 Rock are ending, that the characters can do things like find new jobs, move away, get married, and generally be happy. For characters in sitcoms, the end of a series is a release. Fly free, Dwight, Jim, Liz, Tracy! (Just don't poop on anyone, okay?)

I hope NBC (now on an upswing after years of being at the bottom of the heap) can find more funny fare to fill the voids of these two shows. I won't mourn the passing of The Office and 30 Rock because I know it's their time to go, and it would be far worse to cling to the moldering bodies. But they leave two big holes to plug in the schedule, and the typical zany family sitcom won't suit these audiences. Fingers crossed something just as fun and antic as The Office and 30 Rock be found.

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