Spoilers for "30 Rock" and "My Name Is Earl" coming up just as soon as I eat a lot of paper...
No bad Seinfeld acting this week to gum up the works, but "30 Rock" still doesn't seem quite all right yet this season. A lot of hilarious stuff -- much of it involving Jenna and Tracy, who were the two most uneven characters last year -- and yet the A-story with Jack and Devin Banks felt very uneven. I think part of that can again be blamed on the guest star; it pains me to speak ill of the man who would be GOB, but Will Arnett's been wearing thinner on me the last few years, even moreso than when he first played Devin in season one. The subplot wasn't completely a waste -- no story with a reference to Garkle could be -- but, outside of the easy Scientology spoofing (wih the Church of Practicology, "the religion founded by the alien king living inside Stan Lee"), it felt flatter than most Jack-centric stories.
(Speaking of Garkle,as I was watching the Yanks-Indians series, every time Ryan Garko came to bat or made a play in the field, I couldn't stop myself from saying, 'Well-played Garko,' even though I was rooting for New York.)
The problem's definitely not Baldwin, as evidenced by his amazing delivery of "No, no, no, no. You are fat." to Jenna. That subplot continues to be my favorite of the season, bringing Dr. Spaceman back into the fold ("For your height, your weight puts you in what we call 'The Disgusting Range'") and nicely pitting Liz's frustrated idealism against Jenna's attention-seeking vanity. (I think I spotted the following as Dr. Spaceman patients with photos on the wall, by the way: Alf, the Unabomber, Kenny Rogers, Ashlee Simpson and maybe John Ashcroft. How'd I do? Any obvious misses?) Liz is falling apart even worse than Jenna -- when a tooth falls out with no impact, you've got problems -- and yet her own neuroses, workaholic tendencies and preconceptions about how the world should work keep her from acknowledging it.
Tracy was a very hit-and-miss character for me last year, but I like what they've done with him so far here. The problem I had in season one is that I didn't like him when he was too crazy but got bored of him when he was relatively sane, and they've had a nice balance here: completely disconnected from all rational human behavior, yet not bouncing off the walls with it. I'm still laughing at the thought of Tracy's inscrutable vanity license plate (ICU81MI) and the brief snippet of his novelty music video "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" ("Boys becoming men, men becoming wolf"), and I like that even in a relatively normal scene (by Tracy standards) like Angie setting the terms for a reconciliation, we get completely bizarre details like Tracy's penchant for sexually explicit skywriting.
Meanwhile, I had reasonably high hopes for this week's "My Name Is Earl," as it was written and directed by Greg Garcia and was largely a flashback to the Bad Earl days. I was mostly disappointed, though; outside of the Michael Rappaport character's tour of the trailer (particularly the "half-bath"), most of the episode felt like an excuse to revisit earlier, funnier flashbacks (most of them from the Garcia-penned "Guess Who's Coming Out of Joy?" from last season) and tack on a few details in the margins.
What did everybody else think?