Thursday, October 25, 2007

The honkies shot me!

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?

38 comments:

Captain T said...

Still laughing at "Never go with a hippie to a second location". Comedy gold.

Dereck said...

While watching the slightly revised opening credits (Liz, Jenna and Jack get new poses, while Tracy, Kenneth, Pete and Frank don't)

Kenneth does have a new pose in the credits. The change is slight, but it's there. I'd point to it on YouTube but since NBC yanked all of their clips...

Anthony Foglia said...

Oh but you can see how it could spin-off "The Cosby Show"? :-)

Very good episode. I loved the way the page plot ended. And didn't Tracy's father sound a little like Tony Bennett? :-)

I had seen the opener scene where Jenna ruined Kenny's jacket on some talk show recently. Amazing how much flat and unfunny it felt without the immediate cut to the credits.

I think this week's "Earl" was better than last week's. Randy's creative writing aside, the rest of it was amazingly flat. (Although I did enjoy the Katamari Damacy turn of Joy's.) This week was more even and solid. Prison guard Randy had some great lines ("I never got to tell him about the prank I pulled.") and the posters on the conjugal room door rewarded close viewing (The one about the "courtesy tap" required me to search urbandictionary.com).

And I would have sworn Joy had given birth already, if only because of how she looked in previous episodes.

BigTed said...

Tonight's "30 Rock" was both funnier and more subversive than "SNL" has been in years. Which, of course, was what the episode was about. Right after Liz said her show can't do racial humor, we got the hilarious, slightly disturbing therapy scene with Jack and Tracy to prove her completely wrong.

Nicole said...

Do you think that Baldwin will submit the therapy scene as his Emmy nomination clip? :-)

Great episode and the best of the 4 NBC comedies tonight.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I think this week's "Earl" was better than last week's. Randy's creative writing aside, the rest of it was amazingly flat. (Although I did enjoy the Katamari Damacy turn of Joy's.) This week was more even and solid.

That's basically what I meant to say, but I was in such a hurry to move on to writing about "30 Rock" that I didn't articulate it as well.

Though, when I got to the "30 Rock" portion of the blog, I still wasn't articulate enough, evidenced by:

Right after Liz said her show can't do racial humor, we got the hilarious, slightly disturbing therapy scene with Jack and Tracy to prove her completely wrong.

What he said. :)

Devin McCullen said...

The thing is, if she took some singing lessons, Alyssa could book enough national anthem slots that she could give up acting altogether. (The Indians got Josh Beckett's ex-girlfriend for Game 5, not that it worked.)

Anthony Foglia said...

One other thing I forgot about "Earl." Earl said he had been married twice. What was the other time? Is this something I should remember?

J said...

First great 30 Rock of the season, and that's not just the adverlingus speaking. The Tracey therapy scene was perfectly staged, there wasn't room to breathe. The Haldeman mailbox and follow-up jokes ("Is that a person who lived?") were great. They didn't try so hard to make Liz seem like a nutjob (and Pete's "weren't we going axe shopping?" throwaway was nice, because it was a throwaway). Carrie Fisher was perfect ("Don't worry, he's not a cop"), though the obligatory Star Wars line felt, well, obligatory.

I'd been wondering if the show wasn't working this season because they weren't letting things breathe early, get farcical later. But I think they just haven't let the little things be little things, and they did here. Like Carrie shaking the can full of coins to scare off the rats.

bill said...

And didn't Tracy's father sound a little like Tony Bennett? :-)

I thought it was Redd Foxx.

and Pete's "weren't we going axe shopping?"

It wasn't hat shopping?

Once again worth noting that for all the laugh out loud farcical humor, this show has much more to say about the business of television than that other show from last season ever thought it could do.

Abbie said...

Closed captioning confirmed both Redd Foxx and hat shopping.

Anna Laperle said...

It was the concept of 'funky North Philly' that had me rolling. Not to mention Jack's quick: 'I can do that.' Boy, did he ever! He went from Redd Foxx to Ruby Dee to Tracey Morgan to some obnoxious white guy to Mrs. Rodriguez (?!)... well played, sir. Well played.

Nicole Marie said...

I thought this was the funniest 30 Rock I can remember, and one of the funniest shows I've seen lately period. I had to rewind and watch the therapy session twice because I was laughing so hard the first time I was worried I missed a bit of it. And the chifforobe bit was a very skewed version of To Kill a Mockingbird, which made it even funnier to me. Another of my favorite parts were the dogs Tracy's entourage brought in for the dog fighting and Tracy's reaction; "I built a pit in my basement for this?"

Chuck Nottheshow said...

I thought "hat shopping," too--but "axe shopping" is comedy gold. That made me laugh more than anything in the episode.

whit said...

Although I agree it was Redd Foxx and "hat shopping," I don't think we can always trust the closed captioning, as evidenced by "Deadwood" DVDs, where "reconnoiter" is "wreck and order" and "ball of dope" is "bottle of dope."

David J. Loehr said...

The closed captioning depends on the company doing it. Some work from the actual scripts, others apparently work by ear, and some apparently trust their computer spellcheckers a little too much. I've seen episodes of "Seinfeld" where it looked like someone had just fallen asleep on the keyboard.

But I think it's pretty safe to say Jack was doing Redd Foxx when he called his son "Dummy" right off the bat. Beautiful setup, beautiful payoff.

Edward Copeland said...

Earl continues to amaze me by staying so fresh when its original premise seemed to make it destined for formula. It just gets better and better for me.

Andrew said...

Oddly enough, my favorite jokes were those completely inane Haldeman references.

Mark B said...

While closed captioning can be useful (and was right about Redd Foxx), next on The Office, "Andy and Kelly" repeatedly came out as "Indian Kelly."

drake leLane said...

I assumed all of Jack's impersonations were celeb proxies. Father as Redd Foxx, Tracey as Jimmie Walker, mother as Ruby Dee...

k said...

Just have to say although it has been said twice, that "Never go with a hippie to a second location." had my husband and I laughing for way too long. Only if you have ever gone with a hippie to a second location does the true humor of that come out, but man oh man that is some funny stuff. And the therapy scene, and the whole walk back to carrie fisher's apt, really really great episode.

Anonymous said...

The therapy scene was great, but I wish they'd pushed the dogfighting bit further. Felt like they were walking on eggshells there, which kept diminishing the initial boldness of it as a plotline. I'd much rather have seen Kenneth mixed up in Tracy's dogfighting scandal than saddled with the dopey Page-Off stuff. Ugh to the Star Wars line, but bravo to the hippie one.

Ginny said...

Everything about this episode was perfect. I especially appreciated Carrie Fisher's ability to mock herself endlessly--she really was married to a gay guy for two years just like Samantha Stevens. And don't ever make Jack Donaghey talk to a woman that old again! Alec Baldwin is fantastic. He was working it so hard he was sweating.

Undercover Asian Man said...

30 Rock is one of the few shows that I will watch multiple times to make sure I don't miss anything. This week's hidden laugh: take a closer look at the "followship" award - I mean the actual award itself. Simply hilarious.

Didn't really like the page-off stuff, but the therapy session is an instant classic. Alec Baldwin is easily the best thing about this show - and to think he wanted out of it so soon. Carrie Fisher - funny and willing to poke at herself, but, man, I can't believe Princess Lea has let herself go so badly. It makes me feel depressingly old.

Anonymous said...

Earl married Joy and also Ralph Mariano's Mom to make for the list item "Slept with Ralph's Mom" in the episode "Van Hickey" from Season 2.

TuckPendleton said...

Undercover Asian Man -- she's 51. Exactly how would you like her to look? And don't you think the show made her look older and disheveled on purpose? You should not only feel depressingly old but depressingly ashamed of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Did they just pay Rachel Dratch off to go away? Whenever that blond chick is clunkin' up the screen, i think of how much funnier the show would be if they had her as a regular.

I thought Carrie Fisher was great. They oughta figure out a way to bring her back. Not often, just once a season or so.

Anonymous said...

Carrie Fisher was playing a character who seemed a good 20 years older than she is, so that really didn't make a lot of sense to me. Carrie obviously isn't old enough to have been a comedy writer on a major network TV show during the Watergate era, if she was only 19 when she did SW years later.

I don't see where she has "let herself go" either. She looks like most women her age, better in fact than most of the ones I know.

Anthony Foglia said...

Thanks for the info on Earl's second marriage. I just want to add my Tony Bennett reference was because I love Baldwin's impression of Tony Bennett on SNL, and the father sounded like a more gravelly voiced Bennett. (I knew it wasn't supposed, that's why I added the smiley.) It probably was Foxx, but I'm a little too young to recognize his actual voice.

Karen said...

Enough people have remarked on the sheer genius of the therapy scene, and Baldwin's comic chops, that anything I say would be superfluous.

So, I'll just admire Baldwin's ability to take the piss out of himself: when Jack told Tracy that the only thing that people won't forgive a celebrity for is dogfighting, it seemed like a sly poke at the bad behavior Baldwin himself was notorius for last spring. I guess dogfighting really is worse than viciously berating one's young daughter.

Anonymous said...

Rachel Dratch is the epitome of unfunny. I am soooo very glad that Krakowski replaced her.

I can't think of anyone but Krakowski who could pull off great scenes such as Jack's age check of her and everything she did in the season opener.

Anonymous Asian Guy, thanks so much for making me go back and check out the Followship Award. For those wondering what the hidden gag was, go to the 7:31 mark of the episode and check out what the memo says.

scott said...

for those of us who already deleted the episode from TiVo, what was the Followship memo?

Anonymous said...

The memo portion of the check said "mindless following".

--bad dad

UAM said...

I saw Carrie Fisher on that terrible Fox show "On the Lot", believe me, they really didn't do to much to make her look old and disheveled here on 30 rock.

tuckpendleton: "You should not only feel depressingly old but depressingly ashamed of yourself."

I'm pretty sure I'm a lot younger than you, seeing as how uptight you are about current reality. And I don't feel ashamed because I don't subscribe to your fuddyduddy PC righteousness. CF put on a lot of weight, maybe normal for a woman her age, but it's true nonetheless. It's just shocking to think that she is even the same species now as when she was Princess Lea back then. Uh oh, I think that remark will get tuck's old-man long johns in a bunch. I guess I should feel ashamed again, but... nope.

The other funny thing about the Followship Award is the statue - a little boy following a grown man step for step. I want one.

Anonymous said...

UAM--

It's not PC righteousness, it's just basic human decency.

It's just shocking to think that she is even the same species now as when she was Princess Lea back then.

You're kidding, right? The same species? It's one thing to say someone's let herself go--whether true or not--but it's another thing to gratuitously insult people. But if you're going to do it, at least spell "Leia" right.

I'm pretty sure I'm a lot younger than you

No question there.

paul c. said...

"It's not the age, it's the mileage." Carrie Fisher has done a lot of partying over the years. By "partying" I mean drugs. She ran with the Jon Belushi crowd.

UAM said...

paul c. said...

""It's not the age, it's the mileage." Carrie Fisher has done a lot of partying over the years. By "partying" I mean drugs. She ran with the Jon Belushi crowd."

No kidding. But be careful, you might upset Tuck and his "everyone is beautiful on the inside" world. And we are all beautiful on the inside. No really, let's sing a song...

Tuck: "It's one thing to say someone's let herself go--whether true or not--but it's another thing to gratuitously insult people. But if you're going to do it, at least spell "Leia" right."

So now it was ok for me to say she let herself go? Make up your mind already. And if it really upsets you that public figures, particularly celebrities of film and television, are picked on, then you might want to move to another country. It has become quite the norm in the year 2007, please join us. Seriously, what decade do you exist in? Do cell phones exist in your world yet, or is everyone still into ham radio?

Sorry I misspelled Leia, I don't belong to the Star Wars Honor Guard of self-righteous nerds like, well, some appear to. If I say that Mark Hamill was a terrible actor with bad acne, will you be able to sleep tonight? Just realize that Luke, Han, and Leia aren't really your friends and you might deal better.

Anonymous said...

It has become quite the norm in the year 2007, please join us.

That makes it okay?

There are plenty of places online to go and bitch about peoples' looks and/or put words in other peoples' mouths. Why not go there and leave us to talk about television good and bad?