Has NBC just stopped trying with their Thursday comedies?

Okay, clearly they haven’t, but I’ve noticed things these past two weeks which have disturbed me mightily. They’re things that one wouldn’t think that NBC would let pass, and the fact that they’ve appeared makes me wonder if there’s been a slip in quality from the network that once prided itself that “the quality shows” were on NBC.

Last week, NBC premiered their latest comedy, Parks & Recreation. It was a show that they touted heavily for weeks – if not months – on end, and, I’m sorry, it wasn’t all that funny. It was okay, it’s certainly compatible with The Office, but it wasn’t all that funny. Worse than that though, this show which takes place in Pawnee, Indiana featured a palm tree in the background of one scene. I was completely unaware that there were palm trees in Indiana. I was there once and certainly didn’t notice any.

The scene in question featured Amy Poehler’s character walking into a government office building. It was a wide shot done from far away so as to better stick with the fake documentary style. Poehler, walking up the steps to the building, went right past a palm tree. Now, because the show films in L.A.. and they were on location somewhere and trying to utilize a consistent style we got the tree; if they’d been up close or in a more controlled environment it wouldn't have been there.

The real question though is why they didn’t fuzz it out, shoot from a different angle, do a closer shot, forgo the shot altogether, get rid of the tree in post, or any other of a million things they could have done to eliminate the tree. I think that the answer is probably that they either didn’t see it (troubling) or didn’t care that it was there (disturbing). This was their series premiere, it was the show that they had the longest to work with, and the one that should show the most effort. What happened?

Then we had last night’s My Name is Earl. Randy was in a physical fight in the Crab Shack, taking on last night’s list character. The fight was perfectly fine, with Randy seeming to do much of his work… except for when his body double was clearly doing the work. They barely even tried to hide it, giving us a shot of someone who didn’t appear to be Randy dressed in Randy’s clothes, standing where Randy was standing, pretending to be Randy. Yes, I know that Randy is fictional, but normally Randy is played by Ethan Suplee; in some of these shots he wasn’t, and it wasn’t well covered.

On the upside, and proving that my assessment is overly harsh, we had last night’s The Office. They did a ridiculous thing involving throwing cheese puffs into various mouths. That takes effort, lots and lots of effort. As someone who has thrown their share of cheese puffs, I can tell you that sort of thing isn’t easy. They did an incredible three-person toss involving Michael, Pam, and Ryan (all the puffs involved them) each throwing a puff to someone else who caught it in their mouth all at the exact same time. That’s skill, people. That’s effort. That’s incredible.

It’s also the sort of dedication I like to see. Now, if they could only provide examples on how to learn cheese puff tossing I’d be thrilled.