Archive for the ‘30 Rock’ Category

30 Rock – 5.02: When It Rains, It Pours

October 4, 2010

“Remember, the backflip is 90% confidence” – Jack

In this episode, there were two major sequences that were essentially thinly veiled ways to give the writers the freedom to just go off and write a bunch of one-liners for the two actors on the show who best deliver one liners.  In one sequence, Jack tapes a series of video messages to his unborn son in the event that he dies before he’s fully grown.  In the other, Tracy needs a way to get to the hospital for free in order to be with his wife when she gives birth, and out of all the taxis in New York, finds himself in the Cash Cab.  Perhaps not the hardest way to write an episode in the world (although I think the Cash Cab plot turn was a particular stroke of genius), but it did make for quite possibly the funniest episode 30 Rock has had in several seasons.  Casting away the requirements of needing to work through the building up and resolution of an actual plot, the show instead spent a good portion of the episode allowing Tracy Morgan and Alec Baldwin to be their effortlessly hilarious selves, and it absolutely worked like a charm.  Jack gives his son some of the most insane advice that a father could ever give his son (“The secret to a strong, healthy head of hair is Dove…blood.”), while Tracy rattles off answers to trivia questions while giving way too much insight to his own twisted history (“The capital of the United Arab Emirates is Abu Dabhi.  I know that because if I go back there, I’ll be executed.”).  The laughs just kept coming, one after another.

There was another plot in the episode that involved Liz Lemon actually getting some attention for her feminine side when the everyday men in her life started noticing that she’s actually become somewhat attractive, due to having a newfound confidence and happiness in her new relationship.  Though it wasn’t as funny as the rest of the episode, it was notable in that it finally got us off the overly used gag of Liz Lemon being a sad sack and a slob all the time.  Liz managed to use her new feminine wiles to not only get her way, but to even play matchmaker and set up a new couple amongst the video editors!  As hilarious as pathetic Liz Lemon is, seeing that side of her too often makes the show seem too much like a simple cartoon.  Much like seeing business-savvy Jenna was a breath of fresh air last week, so too was successful and confident Liz Lemon of this week.

Between this episode and the last, things are really really looking up for the future of this show.  Things feel fresh and newly funny again and this episode had the spirit and energy of episodes from the first couple seasons.  Jack’s sequence in this episode, in particular, was reminiscent of the season 1 episode that showed a series of bloopers during the filming of the instructional video on slipping in positive mentions (or “pos-mens”) corporate products into NBC shows.  Oh yeah, and the very welcome return of Dr. Spaceman.  Truly inspired madness.  Hello show, I think I’m in love with you again.

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30 Rock – 5.01: The Fabian Strategy

September 27, 2010

“No, Tom Jones! No!” – Liz

So I just got done professing my undying love for Community.  If this had been 3 or 4 years ago, the show I would have been tongue bathing would be this show instead.  After a small number of only mildly funny episodes, 30 Rock quickly became the gold standard of absurdist and satirical humor and was my favorite comedy on air.  Cue forward to the premiere of season 5, and while I don’t think it’s as funny as it used to be (the 5 episodes of post-writer’s-strike Season 2 is just about the funniest streak of episodes ever), it remains among the funniest sitcoms still airing, due in no small part to the impeccable writing and the amazing talents of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin (as well as the best utilization of Tracy Morgan ever).  I went into this episode well aware of the fact that my once-favorite show had likely already reached its peak and was on a slow but steady decent of quality until it was eventually canceled or ended.  To my surprise, I found the premiere to be one of the strongest episodes I’ve seen in a while; I enjoyed it more than most episodes from the fourth season.  The episode dealt with Liz and Jack dealing with the aftermath of the end of season 4, where they both had turned a new chapter in their romantic lives: Liz with a new boyfriend (of sorts) and Jack agreeing to help father the child of his pregnant girlfriend.  Still, in this episode, they both found themselves overcoming obstacles with their newfound loves.  Jack, not wanting to give into his girlfriend’s desire to redecorate his apartment, employed a military tactic in his negotiations and began to view her as his adversary.  Meanwhile, Liz found herself unwilling to move past the pattern in her relationship of only seeing her boyfriend once every few weeks (he’s a pilot).  Of course, no one on this show is allowed to be content with the way things are, and both are forced to address the issues in their respective relationships.  Liz’s pathetic attempt to console her boyfriend who wants more out of their relationship was particularly hilarious (“No! It OK! Don’t be cry!”)

Though the main plot was funny enough, I particularly enjoyed the Jenna storyline of the episode.  Through the enactment of a clause in her contract requiring that she receive an executive producer credit by the 5th season of TGS, she quickly discovers that she not only enjoys being involved with the business of running the show, but actually is a natural at it.  The character of Jenna has gone through some interesting changes over the season, going slowly from egocentric diva actress to crazy and somewhat disturbed individual.  While it has provided some genuinely hilarious lines (“Drinking contest? What am I, 12 years old and at my boyfriend’s frat party?”), I always felt like the over-the-top crazy aspect of Jenna wasn’t nearly as convincing as over-the-top crazy Tracy and wished they would dial it back a notch with her.  Thus, I really enjoyed the direction they took with Jenna in this episode, making her cold, effective, and efficient as a co-producer of the show (leaving Pete time to lounge around and talk about some…rather disturbing things he does with his wife).  I was even somewhat disappointed at the end when they reset the slate by having her resign her post as executive producer, even though I knew that it had to come.  It was a lot of fun to watch Jenna do something a little different than play to the overreacting drama queen, and it gave me hope that the writers will find interesting things for the characters to do this season.  After all, we’re past the season premiere, and Kenneth still hasn’t gotten his old job back!  Looking forward to seeing how that one gets resolved too!