Thursday, January 10, 2008

"Interrogation bear!": 30 Rock

I don't know which NBC executives had to find rays of sunshine in their dark hearts to make this episode get finished, but I'm sort of glad they did. I had no idea how much I missed this show and how much I WILL miss it until I watched tonight's episode, which was somehow the sort of hilarious send-off that might have made an apropos season finale under better circumstances, bringing to a close a handful of storylines as it did and offering up the sorts of daffiness that this show does so well. In short, I'm glad that the strike didn't completely kill this episode, as it put a cap on a regrettably shortened season that seemed to be shaping up to be one of the all-time greats before production had to shut down.

So join me as we look over an episode that had so much more good than bad that I don't know that I'll have a lot to say about it outside of just wishing it didn't have to go away.

The weakest part of the episode, of course, was the bit with Kenneth becoming addicted to coffee. Jack McBrayer's acting was hysterical, but the arc of the story was pretty predictable (how could it not have been?), though the final moment, when the whole cast came together to sing "Midnight Train to Georgia" stayed ever-so-slightly on the right side of the "too goofy to work" line (I'm going to guess everyone's mileage will vary on this, but I have previously shown myself to have a large heart for musical numbers).

All of this was sort of worth it to see McBrayer jitter, and any time that you get to throw Kenneth and Tracy into a storyline together, there's going to be an underlying strangeness that makes the whole thing work better than it should, but I feel like I saw this plotline on some mid-90s office-set sitcom that aired on NBC (probably Newsradio, but I wouldn't be surprised by Just Shoot Me either). Fortunately, the musical number made it all worthwhile, and it was a small-ish part of the whole episode.

I've seen some complaints that the Liz Lemon tries to buy an apartment storyline was similarly predictable, but I loved the desperate notes that Tina Fey played so perfectly and the way the episode conflated the process of buying an apartment (and being approved by a co-op board) with the process of getting over a bad relationship in a way that seemed both at once completely familiar and completely new. I'm almost certain I've also seen THIS plot somewhere, but something about the fervor of Fey's performance and the drunk-dialing montage made it new enough that I just didn't care. It helped that Edward Herrmann was the co-op board president. Though he didn't really have enough to do, his reaction shots to Fey were terrific, and that last scene where the whole co-op board was out walking with the woman who actually got the apartment (a completely ridiculous scene that perfectly closed the storyline) gave him a moment to play as ruefully as possible, something he does well.

But the story of Jack and C.C. was the one that drove the episode, and it was one of the best storylines the show has had in this wonderful season. Edie Falco has been a great foil for Alec Baldwin, and the story of the two being torn apart by their romance affecting their work lives was both hilarious and strangely touching (a whale torture bill? co-sponsored by Arlen Specter?). I also loved the moments of Liz having to interact with the Germans, then buying their television station (and I loved the German television shows too -- and the Werner Herzog narration!).

As I said, there wasn't a lot I didn't like in this episode. Whether that was because I'm just sad to see the thing going away (seriously, I'm about to overrate The Sarah Connor Chronicles in my print review just because it's so nice to have scripted programming again!) or because it really was that good, I don't know. But let's get this strike over with, AMPTP. I can't handle much more time without Liz Lemon!


Myles said...

I am also on board (groan) for the musical numbers, and felt that it had just enough contextual elements (Jenna's entrance, Jack/C.C.'s section, Liz's contribution, etc.) to work as an end to the stories as well as an enjoyable segment.

It's definitely frustrating to be losing the series, especially since there will soon be almost no new comedies on the air period. When According to Jim is the sitcom highlight by default, we're living in a strange and terrifying world.

Carrie said...

I thought this one needed a polish. It was just a bit...loose with the timing and jokes and I think a rewrite would have made everything better. That being said, I still enjoyed the heck out of the episode and laughed out loud several times.

I'm gonna miss you, Liz Lemon.