Friday, November 09, 2007

"This Earth is ruined. We've gotta get a new one!": 30 Rock

When did 30 Rock become one of the most political shows on TV? Granted, it's mostly political in the sense that it takes sidelong swipes at everyone who claims to have the solution (especially when that solution comes from some place corporate), but it has become thrillingly about the ways that corporate mindsets have seized on to progressive and even countercultural ideas and dismantled them, making them blander and blander until they're a part of the mainstream. Tina Fey is using what amounts to a "platform" (an incredibly low-rated show that could be yanked at any minute) to say things about society in a way that few shows would even dream of (I mean, how many other shows would have both mostly happy marriages have the wife be an overweight woman who's proud of her sexuality -- even IF Pop Tarts are involved?).

The biggest political commentary of the evening, of course, was the merciless storyline about the ways that big corporations pay lip service to having environmental policies but never really do anything beyond paying that lip service. The slow growth of the self-awareness of Greenzo was hilarious, but the accompanying self-righteousness and tiresome antics of his character seemed to also parody the environmental movement itself. One reason Al Gore turned up, I think, was to remind everyone that the environmental movement CAN have a human and believable face to it. It needn't all be strident.

That said, 30 Rock saved its most vicious satire for Jack and the GE suits themselves. In creating Greenzo, Jack wanted to create a mascot who was all about saving the Earth but also all about maximizing profits and doing everything needed to keep the business humming along. This skewering ran closely parallel to the demands NBC sent down this summer that every one of their shows would run an episode based around some sort of environmentally-friendly theme for one week in November. This has led to some truly odd programming (and increased suspicion that notes from Ben Silverman are a bit more heavyhanded than those under Kevin Reilly) and some unintentionally hilarious moments, but it tied in to what 30 Rock was saying. It's much easier for NBC to run a week's worth of environmentally-themed programming than for the network to lobby for real change that might, say, curb carbon emissions. (My Name Is Earl also did a nice riff on how hard it was to work these sorts of things into a show's storyline organically.) Having Gore show up at the end was maybe the best joke of all, as he basically did everything he said would be truly daring and was mostly ignored by everyone else.

But the Greenzo subplot (which, I should add, was buoyed by great work from both David Schwimmer and, oddly, Meredith Viera) wasn't the only good thing about the episode. The story of how Kenneth's party went from an odd little thing that only Liz would be attending, most likely, to a huge blowout where everything went horribly, horribly wrong was also very funny, particularly in the morning after scene, where Jack's hair was mussed and Liz had made Grizz and Dot Com cry. I also liked the long buildup to the party, as the slow accumulation of rumors got more and more ridiculous (the girl from Heroes taking a shower? awesome).

The storyline about Pete and his wife getting back together wasn't as good as the other two, but it was still good for a laugh (and what DID they do with that Pop Tart), and it added to the chaos Liz had to put up with, which is always a plus in my book.

Greenzo was one of my favorite episodes of 30 Rock ever. I think the show has slowed down its pace just a bit this season, but it's also really sharpened its point-of-view. All of this has combined to make the show that much more entertaining and hilarious.


Bianca Reagan said...

I liked it! I didn't even think about the very chunky, happily sexual wife thing until you mentioned, and I'm supposed to be the raging feminist. Hmm. Maybe Jack's assistant Jonathan distracted me with his brief onscreen moments of adorableness.

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