NBC comedy lineup enters fall season

It’s starting to look a lot like autumn. At NBC, this means not only the beginning of a new season and some new shows, but also the beginning of the end for some of our favorite comedies.

The Office

The Office has been a comedy warhorse since its stateside debut in 2005. Last season, its eighth, attempted to deal with the absence of Steve Carrell’s celebrated portrayal of Michael Scott. Ed Helms, of The Hangover fame, took on the lead role and the inimitable James Spader joined the cast as another socially inept boss. Overall, it seems the show has struggled with sustaining its energy after Jim and Pam reached stasis in their marriage. They built the emotional core of the show in its early years and were responsible for its many great season-closing moments. But there’s another reason to look forward to the ninth and final season. The Office plans to bring back Greg Daniels, the producer responsible for its highly successful first few seasons, and we can expect the return of many characters from Dunder Mifflin’s history to round out the show’s life. The new season premieres Sept. 20.

30 Rock

30 Rock, a reliable comedy about the inner workings of an NBC variety show, is in a similarly sinking boat as is The Office. This season, set to begin Oct. 4, will be the last and will be abbreviated to only 13 episodes. Tina Fey’s writing has earned the show a whole cabinet of awards, still holding the record for most Emmy nominations for a comedy in a single year. While the show has fewer plot strands to resolve than The Office does, the nuanced meta-comedy will be missed. The good news is that 30 Rock has never slowed down. Perhaps it has become a bit monochromatic as a number of characters begin to settle down, but the subtle, smiling satire of Kenneth Parcell still bites and Tracy Jordan’s loose cannon antics continue to inspire the best use of brief flashback since Arrested Development. It’s still a marvelous show and, thankfully, we’ll get to hear more of Jack Donaghy’s election commentary.

Parks & Recreation

Parks & Recreation remains the only comedy that is relatively stable as it enters its fifth season, despite having the poorest ratings of them all. Luckily, it’s only getting stronger as the fictional town of Pawnee keeps developing itself into the most vivid local portrait on television. Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, and Aziz Ansari continue to turn in strong readings of Michael Schur’s writing. As Leslie Knope’s love interest, Ben, takes off for Washington, we will get to see a masterful crew of filmmakers juggle two locations and the physical separation of a great on-screen duo. The absurd antics of Chris Pratt’s Andy Dwyer are as endearing as ever and, as the season four finale suggested, he will be attempting to join the Pawnee police force in upcoming episodes. The new season premieres Sept. 20.

The New Normal

Ryan Murphy, the creator of shows Nip/Tuck, Glee, and American Horror Story, has added a new show to the NBC comedy group that has stirred up plenty of talk since its debut last week. The New Normal wrestles with the desire of a young, married gay couple to start a family. Glee fans will recognize the show’s attempt to deal with multiple viewpoints and arguments while looking to tolerance as a moral scoreboard. The show is based on Murphy’s real-life experience of trying to adopt.