Friday, October 05, 2007

"You could be a freaky deaky and do data entry.": 30 Rock

30 Rock had that episode all critically acclaimed, low-rated shows must have when they return for their second seasons. You know. The one where they try to justify their awesomeness to the general public, so that they can be on the air for seasons to come. You know the one. I'm pretty sure Arrested Development had one, and I know Newsradio, Everybody Loves Raymond and Cheers all had one. Typically, these episodes have a lot of wacky plotlines that are better ideas than they are stories, and they tend to try to work as a second pilot, introducing all of the characters again and so on and so forth. Usually, these episodes don't work, but in the rare instances when they attract viewer interest, it's worth it to have an episode that doesn't fire on all cylinders.

This is a long prologue to saying that this was a very funny episode of 30 Rock, but it didn't quite hit the heights the show hit in the latter half of season one. A lot of this had to do with the special guest star, but in its efforts to introduce everyone in the main cast (except for Frank and Pete, weirdly), the show also got a little too convoluted. There were a lot of stories flying around here, but not all of them ever got beyond their central concept.

To me, one of the things about 30 Rock that's the most interesting is how lonely it lets Liz Lemon be, just how disappointed she seems to be that she can't have it all (the actress who plays her, Tina Fey, seemingly DOES have it all). It's one of the show's bolder moves and one of its most blatant callbacks to the great workplace sitcoms of the 70s (Fey has said Mary Tyler Moore is an influence). To that end, I think I enjoyed Liz's wedding dress story the most of all, even if it removed Liz from the role of straight woman she plays so well. Fey is really good at playing Liz's desperation, and when she spent most of the episode traipsing around in a wedding dress, it somehow seemed exactly like something the character would do instead of the weird sitcom storyline it was. Nothing ever quite works out for ol' Liz Lemon, but she'll keep trying.

The SeinfeldVision storyline didn't work quite as well, simply because Jerry Seinfeld didn't seem to fit into the show's universe. 30 Rock is goofy, fast-paced farce, but Seinfeld's shouting-as-acting technique strained even this show's reality. He just seemed too mannered for the show, where everyone seems to exist in the same universe. I realize that Seinfeld isn't the world's greatest actor, but his mugging worked best in the SeinfeldVision clips and not in the rest of the show, even if it was great to see him dismiss Kenneth with a "Really?!"

I don't think that having Jack collapse in tears at Seinfeld's knees (even if it was, seemingly, another reference to Seinfeld, the show) was the best idea either. Jack is best when he's coolly in control of the whole situation, frustrating Liz with his business-savvy mind and his strange eloquence. The show really only works if either Jack or Liz is completely in control of their lives and what's going on. As it was, the show lacked a straight-man. It just seemed too crazy.

The story of Tracy and Kenneth's devolution, thanks to Kenneth being appointed Tracy's office wife (after Tracy's wife left him), was pretty funny, but it would have felt more apropos in an episode where the main plot was stronger. I had a similar feeling about Jenna's weight gain. It was a great runner (especially the brief highlight from Mystic Pizza: The Musical and Jack's maxim about how much women on television can weigh), but it would have worked better grafted to a stronger episode.

But, man, this was a funny episode anyway. Share your favorite quotes in the comments.

6 comments:

Carrie said...

"Kenneth, I need you to go find out if my wife is sleeping with D.L. Hughley." or something like that. Ha!

It's great to have this show back.

TopTou said...

"Stupid $4,000 ham napkin."

I really missed Tina and Alec and the gang.

Bianca Reagan said...

How I have missed 30 Rock.

That said, where are the recaps of The Office and Mad Men? I have needs, people.

Todd said...

Erik's still recovering from his vacation and will get Office up over the weekend (Grey's/Private will go up then too). I'll hopefully have Mad Men up tomorrow. I want to rewatch it.

Bianca Reagan said...

Super!

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