"A Dog Took My Face and Gave Me a Better Face to Change the World: The Celeste Cunningham Story": 30 Rock
(Sorry this is so late. I've been busy at work and battling an ear infection. I'll try to get up a piece on that remarkable episode of The Office and the latest Friday Night Lights tomorrow. --ed.)
30 Rock broke out its political guns again Thursday night in a great episode that showed the places where conservatism and liberalism waver -- when it comes to impressing a pretty Democratic girl you're sleeping with or when it comes to protecting the lives of those you love from prospective Amazing Race contestants, respectively. It was another riotously funny episode for the show's young season, and it makes me all the more sad that 30 Rock will be leaving us shortly, as it runs out of new episodes to air. This feels like the start of an all-star season, and to see it cut short will be sad.
While this episode wasn't QUITE as subversive as Greenzo, it was in a rather nifty way. One of the most interesting character traits of Liz Lemon is that she's always been a bit of a racist, and situations seem to conspire to bring out this trait in front of people who would be offended by it (like Jack's assistant, Jonathan -- loved how Jack sidestepped her racial profiling while Jonathan was in the room and then immediately gave her the number of someone in Homeland Security after). What's interesting about Liz is that she considers herself a liberal but hasn't done a great deal of thinking about her positions, seemingly. She reacts to everything in a kneejerk sort of way. It's a great parody of what most Americans think of "limousine liberals," and it never fails to make me laugh.
30 Rock always has it more out for conservatives, though. This is not to say that the show portrays them as anything as simplistic as evil, though; clearly, the show's writers have a great deal of affection for Jack. They're just deeply skeptical of his "business at all costs and damn the consequences!" worldview. To a great degree, the central conflict of 30 Rock is the central conflict of American life since the 1980s -- many of us harbor liberal leanings, but changing the system is so hard that it's just easier to go along with whatever works and let men like Jack Donaghy make the hard calls. It'd be a tremendously depressing view of the world if it weren't so funny.
Anyway, the Liz plot was funny, but not half as funny as the plot where Jack (apparently an ex-liberal himself) fell in love, unknowingly, with a Democratic congresswoman who got into politics because a dog shot off her face (depicted, hilariously, as the plot of a Lifetime movie that both Pete and Jack sat down to watch at various points). It was a strange, strange plot, but Edie Falco has a gift for comedy that The Sopranos always utilized in a stealthy fashion, and it was great to see her cut loose. She and Baldwin had a rollicking chemistry, and that made their scenes together tremendously funny (especially when he told her she made love like an ugly girl). I'm glad she's (seemingly) sticking around, and I hope that we get more scenes where Tracy gets to comment on the relationship. One of the things that has made this season so good so far is that the show is just perfectly utilizing Tracy Morgan, and he's making the most of every line and every subplot he's given.
The C-story, where Kenneth tried to raise the money to buy Jack a new pair of pants to replace a pair he lost, was not quite as funny, but it did have a great moment where Kenneth put on an ape mask and attempted to terrorize Lutz (then was beaten with a golf club), so I'm willing to overlook it in the face of an episode that was otherwise so strong.
30 Rock may be our most subversive show right now, which is really saying something in a universe with The Colbert Report, but 30 Rock's sheer, goofy willingness to make everyone out to be a hypocrite is garnering lots of love from me. Here's hoping the show can finish out its abbreviated season strongly.