Spoilers for "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I give my daughter a block of wood...
Since I now apparently have to begin every blog review with a note about how may episodes are remaining, I should say that this was episode 8 of the season, and we know that 10 episodes were made. (Tina Fey lamented in several picket line interviews that she was contractually obligated to act in the 10th episode, the last script they had finished.)
(Note: Turns out I don't know how to count, and this was episode nine. Also, turns out the 10th episode may not have been completed, in which case, never mind. This is what happens when you blog at 7 in the morning.)
So we'll have two more in the new year (or not), which is probably a good thing, as "Ludachristmas" was one of this season's weaker episodes. If we're going to be deprived of "30 Rock" for a long time, I'd at least like to see them go out on a high note.
(Please note: the usual "substandard compared to other '30 Rock' episodes isn't the same as substandard compared to the rest of TV comedy, and I hold the great shows to a higher standard" caveat applies.)
I was so over the moon with last week's episode that all I did was list the jokes I liked enough to jot down in my notes. This week's list would be far shorter -- though Jack's move to slide the donut tray under the coughing stripper may have been the funniest thing in either episode -- as I thought a lot of the jokes and stories were either predictable or not fully formed.
Take the Andy Richter brother character, for instance. The idea of a character permanently stuck in a single day in 1985 is strange enough for a "30 Rock" joke(*) (or an "Arrested Development" joke, for that matter), but, other than Cerie taking pity on him (or having some fun at his expense, depending on your opinion of Cerie), I don't feel like they did anything with it other than to put Richter in a ski jacket and make a handful of '80s references over and over. And then to let his condition be easily cured with a few references to the present sold out the joke and made Liz and her parents look like fools.
((*) Though wasn't this basically the plot of that Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore movie, "50 First Dates"?)
I appreciate the "SNL" legacy quality of having Buck Henry (the most frequent, beloved host of the Belushi/Radner era) play Liz's father, and I liked Jack's initial confusion about ("What did your mother mean when she said you were a beautiful genius? Was she taunting you?") and then affection for the Lemons. But, again, I think having Jack's mom turn out to be right seemed an easy way out -- that, or it wasn't executed well enough.
There were some nice touches in the Ludachristmas subplot, like Jenna singing the scales to "open-pit barbecue sauce" or the running gag about the paper shredder/photo scanner, but it wasn't as funny or memorable as your average "30 Rock" B-story. (Also, that was some of the worst green-screen work outside of "Pushing Daisies" in the sequence where the gang rushes out to destroy the Sheinhardt Christmas tree. I know "30 Rock" films in Queens and not at the actual 30 Rock, but since they went to the trouble of bringing half the cast to Rockefeller Plaza to film the skating scenes, couldn't they have brought the rest in a van? Or would putting the neon Sheinhardt sign up on the big tree have been a problem?)
I suspect this is the point at which people tell me I'm being too harsh, so fire away. What did everybody else think?