Well, those days are dead. Cable, video games, TiVo and the Internet forever have altered the idea of appointment television, not to mention the ratings dominance of the Big 3 networks. Ironically, Thursday nights on NBC are much funnier today. Well, as long as you throw out “Outsourced.” For the purposes of this review, we will, focusing on three of the peacock’s current comedy crown jewels, all hitting DVD at roughly the same time: “Community,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”
“Community: The Complete Second Season“
UP TO SPEED: Finding its footing, the sophomore year of Greendale Community College proves funnier than the first, as shamed lawyer Jeff (Joel McHale) leads his merry band of study buddies through even more shenanigans.
DISC-TO-EPISODE RATIO:* 1:6
HIGHLIGHTS: Most of one episode is comprised of the gang tackling an entire game of “Dungeons & Dragons,” and it’s executed with the panache of a stage play. One of the funniest half-hours is a clip show that cleverly parodies that most boring and lazy of sitcom troupes: the clip show.
LOWLIGHTS: The stop-motion animated Christmas show would work better as one scene, but it’s much easier to take than the paintball two-parter.
BEST EXTRA: The 10 minutes of outtakes prove that everyone in the cast is genuinely funny. And that Alison Brie looks a fun girl. A really fun girl. (Call me.)
GRADE: I feel like “Community” is on the verge of a major breakout. If only those who stopped watching it after its pilot would give it another try.
UP TO SPEED: It’s the final season for Michael Scott (Steve Carell) as the manager of Dunder Mifflin’s branch in Scranton, Pa., and you can bet the transition will be anything but smooth. New faces to an already large cast are added, without problems. Also, WUPHF.
DISC-TO-EPISODE RATIO:* 1:5
HIGHLIGHTS: More than any other sitcom, “The Office” continues to subvert viewer expectations. Any other show would make Michael Scott’s last day the season-ender. Here, there were three more to go, infusing a lot of energy. Plus, in his guest arc, Will Ferrell did not do Standard Will Ferrell.
LOWLIGHTS: I thought the sixth season’s “Mafia” was the series’ worst episode ever. Then I saw “Threat Level Midnight.”
BEST EXTRA: I’m going with the extended episodes, “Training Day” and “Search Committee.” Methinks editing this show every week must be like killing babies.
GRADE: I still love it so much, it hurts. (That’s what she said.)
“Parks & Recreation: Season 3“
UP TO SPEED: It was a late-season start, but the wait was more than worth it. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) aims to save her department — not to mention the entire city — by staging the impossible Harvest Festival. Adam Scott and Rob Lowe get upgraded to full cast members; both are brilliant. If only we could get the same for Ben Schwartz as slick dick Jean-Ralphio.
DISC-TO-EPISODE RATIO:* 1:5
HIGHLIGHTS: The return of Megan Mullally as the sex-napalm librarian did not disappoint (and makes up for those terrible butter commercials of hers). And who ever thought in the 1980s that one day, we’d see pretty boy Rob Lowe sick and staring in the mirror, as we do in “Flu Season,” commanding himself to “Stop. Pooping!”
LOWLIGHTS: Honestly, I can’t remember any, so I’ll say any episode that literally didn’t feature enough Rob Lowe. The 1980s me can’t believe I just typed that.
BEST EXTRA: The gag reel is so good, it has its own commercials.
GRADE: Awesome sauce. This remains the current funniest show on TV. Why is no one watching? —Rod Lott
* rounded to decimate decimals