Spoilers for "My Name Is Earl" and "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I compete in a page-off...
It's a good thing "My Name Is Earl" gets to air first, because on nights like this where another NBC comedy does the same joke -- in this case, extended breast-feeding -- most viewers get to see the "Earl" version first. Nothing in this episode was as funny -- or as strange -- as Randy's creative writing exercise last week, but there were the usual grace notes sprinkled throughout, like Earl admiring the science behind his conjugal date's new breasts, or Joy asking Darnell to explain JPGs and downloading to her. It's hard for me to look at Alyssa Milano, though, without thinking of all the poor MLB pitchers whose careers she's messed with by dating them. (Think what heights Carl Pavano could have achieved if Milano hadn't gotten her hands on him!)
"30 Rock" did probably its best episode of the season by playing to its biggest strength: Jack playing off of Liz ("Are you an immigrant?") and Tracy (the entire offensive African-American and Latino role-playing therapy bit, highlighted by Jack as Tracy's dad saying "chifforobe"). Tracy's butchering of the National Anthem couldn't quite live up to the Frank Drebin version from "The Naked Gun" (which has rendered me incapable of attending a ballgame without singing, "And the rockets red glare, bunch of bombs in the air..."), but the satire of the public reaction to Michael Vick (as opposed to athletes accused of raping or killing people) felt right on.
Carrie Fisher was also one of the better-incorporated guest stars, returning to the tried-and-true theme of Liz's devotion to her job at the expense of all else. (And they only felt compelled to make one "Star Wars" joke.) As someone who served as "SNL" head writer and no doubt had to hear a lot of whinging from baby boomers about how the show had sold out and wasn't cutting edge like it was in Chevy's day, Tina Fey obviously had some issues to work out, and I like that she and Liz seem to have made peace with selling out so long as you can be funny doing it. (Plus, as she returned to Jack for more mentoring, he delivered another brilliant bit of Donaghy advice: "Never go with a hippie to a second location.")
While watching the slightly revised opening credits (Liz, Jenna and Jack get new poses, while Tracy, Kenneth, Pete and Frank don't), I made a note that Pete and Frank had barely appeared so far this season, and for my comeuppance got the most Pete-heavy episode of the season. It's all relative, but at least he got to resolve the page subplot before it got too strange. (I'm trying to figure out how any show, even one about a supercomputer, could spin off "Cheers," "Miami Vice" and "Highway to Heaven.")
What did everybody else think?