This week, our favorite comedy block was in reruns. So instead of recaps, I'm singling out characters from each show who seem to be in a rut, and how they can get out of it.
Community's Shirley: In last week's episode, the Greendale gang accused Shirley of having an identity based on baking pies and pleasing others. I can't say that is really Shirley's fault. Her status as a wife and mother precludes her from getting entangled in "googly eyes" (i.e. flirting) with anyone else, and unless she embraces villainy like Pierce did last season, Shirley seems destined to be on the group's sidelines, either cooing at the others in her high-pitched voice or throwing judgment at them.
It's rare to see a character with strong religious convictions on primetime television. But that defining characteristic also seems to be putting Shirley on the outside looking in. The show's writers attempted to give her character a story arc last season by having her sleep with Chang, reunite with her ex-husband and worry that her baby's father was Chang. But even though Malcolm Jamal-Warner was brought into play her ex, that storyline focused more on Chang than her.
Now that her personal life is settled, it would be great if Community would address Shirley's collegiate aspirations. So far, we know Britta has decided to major in psychology. What if Shirley did something completely out of character, like major in film studies? (Abed's reaction would be priceless.) Or perhaps a crisis of faith that has her tempted to drink again? At this point in the show's run, any new insight or revelation would be welcome if it gets Shirley out of her pie-making routine.
Parks and Recreation's Ann: The ensemble on Parks and Rec is strong this season, but if there's one character who's been a bit lost in the shuffle, it's Ann. She seems to be devolving into a loser lately (her subplot for the past two episodes was her trying to win the approval of other people). The is always try to integrate her into storylines, first through her relationships with Mark and Chris, then by actually having her work in the same building as everyone else. Still, Ann remains an outsider on the series, rarely driving the action.
In contrast, Tom left the Parks and Recreation office to start his own company, yet he still feels vital to the show. Ann is great as a confidant and friend to Leslie, but doesn't have similar chemistry with the rest of the cast...except for Donna. (As this Bitch post attests, Donna makes everything better.) The season two episode that featured them at a singles night together was a blast, and Ann was never more fun to watch then when Donna reluctantly became her dating mentor. Those two should be paired up again, but in a longterm storyline, not an episode one-off. Perhaps this would help rid Ann of her sad-sack status once and for all.
The Office's Dwight: In The Office's heyday, the show had two compelling relationships: Jim and Pam, and Michael and Dwight. The latter pair had a dysfunctional but genuine bond, and with Michael's departure, Dwight has been somewhat rudderless and deflated without having someone to either thoroughly despise or idolize. Robert California could be an ideal candidate for this, a new authority figure that could get the devious gears turning in Dwight's brain again.
Or perhaps Jim and Dwight can become friends. While Jim still enjoys pranking him, Dwight isn't really fazed by it anymore—perhaps because its become tired and routine for everyone, viewers included. They're actually more enjoyable to watch in the episodes when they have to work together. Whenever the two have partnered up in the past (remember their attempt to throw Kelly a birthday party?), its almost always been delightful. They've been working at the same office for eight years, so it might be time to explore a new dynamic for them. Not only would it rejuvenate their characters, it could rejuvenate the show.
Whitney's Roxanne: Roxanne is Blonde Single—forced to go on wacky dating adventures every episode—and to use her solely to demonstrate the travails of the single life is a waste of her character. She's the only pragmatic one in her group of friends, and deserves to have her character deepened. Like, how do she and Whitney even know each other? What brought them together as friends? Of all the show's characters, Roxanne is the most intriguing and has a point of view that doesn't seem to be born out of Whitney Cummings' stand-up routine.