Archive for Thursday, October 8, 2009

Is ‘The Office’ still funny?

October 8, 2009

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Like most everything on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC), the arrival of Jim and Pam’s wedding day brings a mixture of joy and dread. Does this mark the culmination of a notable comedy? Or a sign of its decline?

The original British version of “The Office” ended on a high note after a brief run just as we learned that their version of Jim and Pam had a romantic future. The American “Office” has survived for a much longer tenure and has done a great job of exploiting odd story lines about a larger cast of characters.

But even the best shows begin to flag at some point. After Michael ruined Stanley’s marriage in the season opener, it makes no sense that things between them or things in the office could revert to “normal.” Even sitcom “normal.”

I’m also a tad concerned about Jim’s quest for management status. It makes sense of sorts that he’d try to improve his lot now that he has a baby on the way. But to think of Jim and Pam stuck at Dunder Mifflin for the long haul begins to tilt the balance from comic to tragic.

• A thought-provoking look at the most basic roots of legal rights and economic development, the documentary “The Power of the Poor with Hernando de Soto” (9 p.m., PBS, check local listings) focuses on the world’s 4 billion undocumented poor people who live and work in a shadow economy.

Without basic legal rights, de Soto argues, these people — a majority of Earth’s population — become easy prey for radical movements. He saw his own country, Peru, wracked by the Maoist Shining Path terrorists, who were defeated not by the military but by changes de Soto proposed — creating legal rights and an economic future for Peru’s disenfranchised workers, farmers and entrepreneurs.

Neither left nor right, nor predictable, “The Power of the Poor” conveys too many big ideas to fit into easy pigeonholes. If this does not appear tonight on your PBS station, it should air sometime between now and the weekend. Well worth checking your local listings.

• Speaking of undocumented entrepreneurs, CNBC repeats “Marijuana Inc.: Inside America’s Pot Industry” (8 p.m., CNBC), a look at a black market rich in profit and fraught with danger. This look at marijuana comes sandwiched between two high-calorie profiles, “Big Mac: Inside the McDonald’s Empire” (7 p.m.) and “Biography on CNBC: Ben & Jerrys” (9 p.m.). Gee, what made everybody so hungry?

Tonight’s other highlights

• Somebody pretends to be in an alliance with someone else and then regrets the decision audibly in front of a camera crew on “Survivor: Samoa” (7 p.m., CBS).

• Second sight and Third Reichs mingle as the FBI finds a possible Nazi connection to the big blackout on “FlashForward” (7 p.m., ABC).

• An idealistic movie director (Joel McCrea) gets more than he bargained for when he sets out to find the real working man in Preston Sturges’ 1941 comedy “Sullivan’s Travels” (7 p.m., TCM).

• Shape-shifters go on a criminal rampage on “Fringe” (8 p.m., Fox).

• “E! Investigates: Teenage Trafficking” (8 p.m., E!) looks at kidnapped youth forced into prostitution.

• Missouri hosts Nebraska in Big 12 College Football action (8 p.m., ESPN).

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