Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Just like Sydney Bristow on Alias, I'll use my sexuality as a weapon. To the wig shop!": 30 Rock

(Gotta get to bed early tonight, so I'll get to Scrubs and Prison Break tomorrow night. Hope that's OK with you. But. . .shorter versions of both: Prison Break: Gladiator prison? What the hell?! Scrubs: Hey! Maybe the best of the season, if still a little forced!)

As happy as I am to have The Office back, I'm probably even happier to have 30 Rock back and among us. It may not have the strong emotional core that drives The Office or How I Met Your Mother, but damned if it isn't the funniest thing on the air right now, able to send me into fits of laughter more than any show since Arrested Development (or maybe even Newsradio). Tonight, Will Arnett, Arrested's Gob Bluth, showed up, bridging the gap between what was once the funniest show on TV to what is now the funniest show on TV. Moment for moment, 30 Rock is the only show that comes close to the sheer density of jokes on Arrested. Arnett made a very good foil for Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy, and his over-the-top gay executive also made an amusing pseudo-paramour for the eternally naive Kenneth the Page.

But that wasn't the only thing in this overstuffed episode -- Jenna, putatively one of the show's most important supporting characters, didn't even show up in this episode, and I didn't even notice, so hopping were the other characters with storylines (heck, Twofer got a runner about how his ancestor wasn't a black general in the Union army, as he thought, but in the Confederate army -- and he was a terror to boot).

The showdown between the executives over who would best impress the big boss men with their assorted proposals (and using the Arnett character to spoof everything from cell phone content to Webisodes was inspired, especially the 10-minute Web sitcom), and I loved the title of "The Rockefeller Center Salute to Fireworks" (even if the final joke about it was too much like all of the other big shows that have failed to close episodes this season).

But I think I ultimately preferred Liz chasing her prospective boyfriend all over New York and pretending to be an alcoholic for him (after she was worried he was the kind of guy who went to church every day) before delivering a completely disarming, completely great monologue about how screwed up she was. Tina Fey's work in this episode was probably her best in the series so far, and it really showed just how comfortable she is now to just be herself on screen and admit to embarrassing things like pooping her pants in college (really, it was charming when she did it). Entertainment Weekly and the NBC promos department are both encouraging all of us to think of Liz Lemon as the new Mary Richards, and I daresay that I just might start making that heretofore unthinkable connection (though I'll probably resist it just because it was suggested to me by commercials).

Possibly the funniest subplot was Tracy finding out that one of his ancestors was Thomas Jefferson, complete with a genius throwaway gag taking place at the Maury Povich show and featuring Alec Baldwin as Jefferson himself (getting booed by the audience for saying that he invented America and then flipping them off, no less). The scene even tied in Tracy's insistence from earlier in the season that he was half-Jedi with a Star Wars shoutout from Jefferson.

And then everyone else (except Jenna) had stuff to do too! Pete was living with Liz and accidentally dressing like her! Kenneth was dancing awkwardly for Will Arnett! And Judah Friedlander wore a succession of funny hats!

Really, 30 Rock has just turned into a cracklingly funny show, and it's well worth a look. If you were worried about jumping in because the show might not get a second season, there's no reason to worry about that now. So dive on in. And share your favorite quotes in the comments!


Miztab07 said...

It was actually a 10-second webisode, not 10-minute.

My favorite gag was definitely Thomas Jefferson flipping off Maury's audience.

Kenny said...

"What's that? MC Light just MURDERED Danny Bonaduce? Thanks, PHONE!!"

Todd VanDerWerff said...

Mitza -- D'oh! I'll fix that tonight. Thanks for the catch.

Kenny -- I loved that line, but Arnett's delivery made it even better. When 30 Rock ends its run, Tina Fey should create a sitcom for him. I know he's in movies now, but I need a weekly dose!