This summer, I was involved in a disagreement over Matt Damon's talents as an actor. I argued that the subtle variations between his characters in say, the Bourne movies, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Dogma, and Good Will Hunting were enough to show his depth, even though he always plays some form of a creepy loner with issues. The other side of the argument voted for Leonardo DiCaprio, arguing that Matt Damon was too one-sided to deserve any merit. Well, let's try to put Leonardo in an episode of 30 Rock and see how he holds up, because Matt blew prime time away last week. After a fairly dull fourth season of 30 Rock last year, Matt Damon contributed to what I think was a pretty good start to the new season. In order to measure up to Alec Baldwin, your comedic timing and delivery have to be near perfect, and Matt nailed it. So how do you like them apples?
Speaking of starting off with a bang, The Office calmed down everyone who was freaking out about Steve Carell's imminent departure by kicking off the season with the two things the show does best: music and Toby. The absolutely brilliant musical cold open could have aired on its own with 19 minutes of dead air following it, and I think we still would have felt satisfied. And the incredible closing clip featured more Toby, leading me to ask: how is it still funny that Michael hates Toby? It really never gets old. So, combine music and Toby, and we have three of the absolute best moments in The Office history: Toby alone at the office while the rest of the cast is singing in unison on the beach games bus; Michael's rendition of "Goodbye, Toby"; Dwight and Andy's "Country Road"; and now, this cold open.
And to finish out the Thursday night NBC premieres line-up, Community also did pretty well for itself. I was a little skeptical about pulling Betty White out for the first episode (seemed a little desperate for a show that isn't that at all), but it worked. Although I must admit I don't really remember anything other the final scene (yet more proof that musical numbers in sitcoms, when done right, are amazing).