Thursday, November 29, 2007

30 Rock: Do they have fist names in Knuckle Beach?

Brief spoilers for "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I enjoy some homemade country gum...

One of the best first season episodes of this show was the one where Liz met Floyd's girlfriend Liz Lemler and went into a complete Dubya-style meltdown, even barking out "I'm the decider!" whenever someone questioned the wisdom of her latest escalation. It was a hilarious episode from start to finish (it was also the one with Jack's family, each with their own pronunciation of "Donaghy"), and so I guess I can't blame them from going to the Iraq war parody well again. But I felt like the baseball plot of "Cougars" kept beating me over the head with all the obvious parallels. With Baldwin, Morgan, McBrayer and this writing team in place, there were definitely going to be some funny moments ("One word: surge!" "That's two words!"), but almost all of them were throwaway gags like the title of Tracy's tell-all book or Jack's charity that gives tuxedos to homeless people. Maybe if Jack hadn't announced his intentions to follow in Bush's footsteps, it might have all worked better, but the writers' need to spell it out in advance lest we not get it was distracting. (Also, the Liz version of this story worked in part because Liz is a liberal; seeing a devout Republican like Jack playing out failed Republican policy isn't as funny, even on a silly canvas like a Little League team.)

Liz's May-December cougar plot, meanwhile, has been done in various forms on lots of other shows (there was one sitcom in particular that did the gag where both halves of the couple lied about their age and didn't realize how far apart they were, and it's driving me nuts that I can't remember), and yet Tina Fey almost made it seem fresh with her usual willingness to appear completely pathetic. ("Oh... when will death come?") Frank's sexual confusion didn't quite work for me, but at least it led to one of the better Anne Heche-bashing lines I've heard in a while ("You can't be gay for one person -- unless you're a woman, and you meet Ellen.")

Ah, well. Win some, lose some. At least we have three more of these, while "The Office" is done for the duration.

What did everybody else think?

26 comments:

kiita said...

Are you thinking about an early episode of "Friends" in which Monica deflowers a high school senior?

Mike D said...

Or the Everybody Loves Raymond where Robert dates a much younger girl?

Withnail said...

or Sex in the City where Miranda fucked the entire island of manhattan?

SJ said...

Would Tina Fey be considered a milf or a cougar?

Alanna said...

The Iraq metaphor was far too heavy-handed, but it still made me laugh. Same with the Jamie plot. Both worked because of the various one-liners, rather than the overall storylines.

This episode had a strong Arrested Development vibe, and I consider that a very good thing. The writing even *felt* like an AD episode; I've noticed 30 Rock using more sight gags and cut-aways this season, but they're generally able to pull it off.

Myles said...

For me, "Operation Little League Freedom" worked because it didn't attempt to be subtle, and it didn't really attempt to make a grand political statement. It just was what it was: a baseball retelling of the War in Iraq in a B-Story of a comedy show. It wasn't perfect, but it was certainly strong enough to make it work.

As for Liz the Cougar, I'm not really concerned with what other shows it ripped off: more importantly, the episode's structure was a note-for-note ripoff of "The Head and the Hair" right down to the end of episode dealbreaking revelation (Jamie's Oedipal Complex filling in for the cousins reveal). It's an obvious sitcom formula, but it was weird to see the "Liz stepping out of her comfort zone and getting burned" storyline to be repeated in such a similar fashion.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Are you thinking about an early episode of "Friends" in which Monica deflowers a high school senior?

That's the one! Thank you.

Tony said...

I really liked that Little League stuff. It didn't just parody the Iraq War. It also parodied the misguided efforts of upper-class white people trying to fix inner-city problems using CEO know-how (love those hyphens!). Sure, Jack's heart was in the right place, but he was going about it all wrong.

Fun Times Accomplished for me.

Dave said...

I don't know... I found myself laughing out loud at least a dozen times in this episode, and to me that makes this a winner. I see what you're saying about using storylines that have been done to death and the blatant Iraq stuff, but at the end of the 30 minutes I'd had my fill of laughter. This is the only show where that happens for me.

Matt said...

I could not stop laughing at this episode. I agree the Frank stuff wasn't all that good, but I think this was one of Tracey's better episodes.

"Meetings, practice...what is this, a marriage?"

Even if the funny parts were just throw-away gags, they were still hilarious, and that has to count for something.

Chip said...

I forget who did it, but I love the little throwaway lines: someone referred to Jamie as Harold. Making Liz into Maude, for those of the younger viewers...

Anonymous said...

Best line of the season:

"I want to get shot by a cop and sue the city!"

Anonymous said...

I loved Tracy's bits about Knuckle Beach.

"It's a different world out there, Jack! A world where Orange Soda is an acceptable substitution for breast milk!"

LA said...

I thought the episode was another homerun. Or at least a triple.

Hey Alan, are you going to review last night's Scrubs?

Chip Chandler said...

"I'm sorry, Dijonnaisse. I thought that was a girl's name."

christy said...

I think there are two main distinctions between a milf and a cougar.
1. A milf is always a mother, but a cougar could have kids or not. (This only applies to real life and not porn, where apparently a milf is any woman over 30 who has sex).
2. A cougar is always someone who actively pursues younger lovers. A milf is just attractive to younger people, regardless of whether she's seeking it out.
The two terms aren't mutually exclusive. But I'd say real-life Tina Fey is a milf, while Liz Lemon is not a milf but in this case fell into the role of cougar.

I think I laughed hardest at "I made you a painting." I also enjoyed the Ellen line, and "I'm 37; please don't make me go to Brooklyn."

Mark B said...

The attempt at Iraq parody was the intellectual equivalent of a 37-year-old woman making fart sounds under her arm. Ooh, we're making fun of a banner! Aren't we so clever?! (I thought the idea was to NOT be Studio 60.)

And if dialogue is going to consist of the word "awesome" every other sentence (on EVERY DAMN SHOW), the writers may as well stay on strike.

Allison said...

I think it's starting to strain credulity that Liz's longest romantic relationship on this show is with Dennis of all people.

Still, a solid episode. I loved Jenna's line "It makes me so sad that more people don't know about cougars."

SteveInHouston said...

I think the Iraq parody would have been a lot funnier if the surge wasn't working.

Undercover Black Man said...

I really liked this ep. It had a real first-season feel to it... too many laugh lines to remember.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question:

Did How I Met Your Mother invent the term Couger? That was the first place I heard it and now it's everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I loved that Liz starting buying
Josh gifts to make up for treating
him poorly. Very Jack Donaghy of
her! "I've got a lot of work to
do...but I did buy you that leather
bracelet you were looking at.."

Marty McKee said...

It's funny that you can tell who the Republican commenters are in this thread.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that you can tell who the Democrat commenters are in this thread. They're the ones who are the most easily amused by feeble, hacky, (and utterly failed) attempts at comedy.

The name of the show is "30 Rock," not "Bush is a Poopy-Head, version #5791." If I wanted the latter, I'd watch MSLSD.

Juan said...

BTW, Cougar is an incredibly old term. For some reason people, television shows (and I guess certain older folk) are using the line like it's some kind of comedy gold. In fact, there used to be a bar here in Chicago (the Leopard Lounge) that created all kinds of "cougar" jokes. Therefore, I doubt HIMYM came up with the term (since it post-dated my first exposure to the term by at least 4 years).

Anonymous said...

Hey, look! It's that king we met!