Friday, December 14, 2007

30 Rock: Merry Sheinhardt to all

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?

61 comments:

Drew said...

The key the episode was the abundance of Lemon Party jokes. "What's a lemon party without old dicks?"

I wish I were one of the people who didn't get that particular reference.

Dave said...

I don't think you're being harsh. I kept waiting for a line or a scene to redeem the episode, and it just never came. I was bored, which was sad, because Kenneth at Christmastime has been surprisingly well-executed so I had high expectations.

SCS said...

I hate to be the cliched Internet Comment Thread Pedant, but there have been nine episodes:

1.) "Seinfeld Vision"
2.) "Jack Gets in the Game" (with Will Arnett)
3.) "The Collection" (about the cookie jars)
4.) "Rosemary's Baby" (w/ Carrie Fisher)
5.) "Greenzo" (w/ Al Gore)
6.) "Somebody to Love" (the first Edie Falco episode)
7.) "Cougars" (w/ Jack and the little league team)
8.) "Secrets and Lies" (the second Edie Falco episode)
9.) This Ludachristmas one.

And I believe Tina Fey said they walked out with teh 10th one only halfway done, meaning this was the last completed episode. So sad.

Jen-nay said...

The storyline with Mitch reminded me of the David Cross character, Donnie, on Just Shoot Me. Anybody else? Donnie came back for at least one more episode after his debut; maybe Mitch's return will be funnier.

lungfish said...

No laugh out loud moments this episode from me either. I'll give them a pass though.

Also, didn't Tracy Morgan have to wear that alcohol detection ankle bracelet in real life for his DUI?

Michael said...

That green screening was terrible. I had to rewind because I assumed something had messed up in my TV. but alas, it was just the show. With the Ax, especially.

I could have tolerated bad green screen on the kids in the video, as it would have gone along with the whole low-budget wood-block Christmas, but in Rockefeller Plaza it was just... just WOW.

SJ said...

Wow I couldn't believe they actually aired the line "It wouldn't be a lemon party without old dick!". To those who didn't get the reference, be glad you didn't.

Allison said...

Wow, I thought this ep was hilarious, though the "Kenneth schools everyone on the real meaning of Christmas" subplot sucked. My favorite thing was Jack's mother getting Jet Blue to accept an Amtrak ticket.

Ginny said...

I hate to say it, (and obviously it wasn't all his fault), but Andy Richter is a show killer. And I'm apparently very lucky not to get the Lemon party/old dick joke...

Dave said...

Richter's disease wasn't cured. He forgets every night, like in "50 First Dates", so if you tell him he goes through the trauma of realization but won't remember the next day. So that's why they don't tell him.

Of course, these are all assumptions about a fictionalized case of some disease.

I enjoyed this episode a lot, actually. I feel like they could have made Stritch even grinchier.

LA said...

You aren't being too harsh, Alan. It had a few good lines, but mostly, the episode was off.

Devin McCullen said...

I think the problem with the conclusion of the Lemon family plotline was that the triggering event was so random - it wasn't anything Jack's mom said, it was Mitch blurting out that they'd seen Goonies.

Anonymous said...

This wasn't just a bad episode of 30 Rock, it was just a bad episode of tv. Boring, cliched, and not at all funny. I've been raving to people about this show for a long time and if this was the first episode they finally sat down to watch I wouldn't blame them for never watching again.

Neither of the storylines were at all funny and the Andy Richter one, besides being a rip off of 50 First Dates, also made no sense. At least in the movie it had only been a couple of years and they acknowledged it would be a problem as more time passed. But we don't think Andy Richter noticed that he and his family look 20+ years older than the day before? Come on.

I guess I should give them bonus points, though, for having Liz's parents visit and not having someone arbitrarily scream "your brother is standing in the middle of Iraq!"

Tim said...

I liked that Jack's mom thought the Ritz was too salty.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you're going into your typical way too harsh nit-picking jackass mode. Having already seen the Dexter finale, I can already anticipate your similar criticisms.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, you're going into your typical way too harsh nit-picking jackass mode.

I gotta be me, baby. I gotta be me.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, people: for the love of all that is holy, if you don't already know what a lemon party is, you do not, under any circumstances, want to try to find out.

Which, of course, means that all of you are going to. And I pity you for that. I wish I didn't know.

Alex R. said...

Ginny's comment was the one I most identified with though I still laughed plenty at this episode, even if it was no 'Greenzo' or 'Secrets & Lies'.

I hate Andy Richter. Plain and simple. He's possibly the unfunniest man in America, outside of Carrot Top. I don't understand why he keeps getting series or guest spots. His "Monk" episode was so putrid, I had to turn it off before it ended. The sight of him on my TV actually makes me queasy.

Sorry for the diatribe but I groaned when i saw him. I have the same reaction everytime Giovanni Ribisi, Laurie Metcalfe or Juliette Lewis is shoved down my throat.

In fact, it's the biggest reason I stopped watching "My Name is Earl" altogether a while ago. I hated everyone of their guest stars.

Open Pit Barbecue Sauce said...

C'mon guys, aren't you being a bit harsh on this episode? It wasn't stellar but it wasn't putrid either. This isn't an "In Case of Emergency" situation.

Where's the love for:

- Kenneth's "Wall Street" days

- L. Lohan, M. Lohan, D. Lohan, C. Bacca and M. Rodriguez on the alcohol monitoring map

- Mitch thinking that Jenna was one of his mother's friends followed up by Cerie inviting him over to her house next week

There was still some funny stuff in the episode.

By the way, I know what a lemon party is but I don't know that the "luda" in "LudaChristmas" stands for. Anyone know?

Alan Sepinwall said...

By the way, I know what a lemon party is but I don't know that the "luda" in "LudaChristmas" stands for. Anyone know?

It's a reference to this guy.

bill said...

Also, people: for the love of all that is holy, if you don't already know what a lemon party is, you do not, under any circumstances, want to try to find out.

I did google and got a bunch of sites that looked NSFW, so I didn't click. Guess I'm set for my Friday night entertainment.

However, if you pop "lemon party" into wiki you'll find it was a Canadian political party.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Bill, I'm not kidding around: you don't want to know. It's a door I really wish I hadn't opened. I may not sleep well tonight as a result.

Anonymous said...

You should know that this ep was affected by the strike. The writers could not participate in post. The production was in shut down mode with two scenes to go that had to be scrapped, and the studio basically ripped it out of the producers hands before they had done their usual fine tuning. It's BECAUSE OF THE STRIKE.

Best show on TV.

Anonymous said...

No Allan, it's not a reference to the rapper Ludacris. It's just a pun on the real word "Ludicrous" and "Christmas." But if you write "LudiChristmas" it looks like it should be pronounced Loody-Christmas, and the joke is lost. Also, the fact that you keep writing it Twofer when the creator of the show (and that character) writes it "Toofer" is kind of annoying. Not to nit-pick the the nitpicker.

Alan Sepinwall said...

No Allan, it's not a reference to the rapper Ludacris. It's just a pun on the real word "Ludicrous" and "Christmas." But if you write "LudiChristmas" it looks like it should be pronounced Loody-Christmas, and the joke is lost. Also, the fact that you keep writing it Twofer when the creator of the show (and that character) writes it "Toofer" is kind of annoying. Not to nit-pick the the nitpicker.

Thanks, anonymous poster, for complaining about the spelling of names in a comment in which you couldn't be bothered to spell my name right.

Unless you were going for some kind of ironic delivery, in which case, bravo, you anonymous bastard.

And I explained my reasoning for the Twofer thing in my comments to last week's post, and I stand by that reasoning.

Anonymous said...

I realize that "Alan" is the official spelling of your name, but since I decided it was "Allan" (the Scottish spelling, and like Allan Sherwood versus Alan Alda) I will stick to my guns and keep spelling it Allan, dammit. See, that's not annoying at all, right?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I think it's marvelous, Anonimus.

jcpbmg said...

okay, I'm definitely too young to get the lemon party reference, and I'm at work so I definitely can't google it... is anyone willing to just briefly explain the joke.


Also while I thought the episode wasn't one of their best, I'll still take it over the awfulness that was Sienfeld vision and having to watch Jerry Sienfeld "act"

Andrew said...

Also, people: for the love of all that is holy, if you don't already know what a lemon party is, you do not, under any circumstances, want to try to find out.

Too late! You seriously do not want to know what a lemon party is.

I enjoyed the episode while watching it (particularly with Elaine Stritch and Andy Richter), but the more I think about it, I realize just how weak it seems compared to last week's.

Ginny said...

If it's anything like 'Eggs, Danny Thomas Style' then, yeah,I don't want to know.

Peter said...

This episode lost me at the beginning when they had Jack's mom flying JetBlue to New York from Atlanta. JetBlue does not fly to Atlanta and even when they did several years ago it was only to the West Coast. That bugged me the rest of the episode.

Anonymous said...

Of all the truly horrible and revolting internet jokes, Lemon Party is not all that bad. I absolutely lost it when I caught the reference and even went to the site to refresh my memory.

Then I laughed some more.

Anonymous said...

I liked the episode. I really loved Jack pointing at the TV screen and saying, "you should be there" and "Life is too short? Because your life seems endless!"

Ursula

BigTed said...

I've gotten to the point where the constant "joking" references to GE and NBC properties, the product placement for other advertisers, and the actual ads that are made to look like they're part of the show all detract from the comedy and make the show itself seem cheap and tawdry. (Especially when added to the Seinfeld fiasco of a few weeks ago.) NBC may need the promotion and the profits, but this is one golden goose they're in danger of killing.

on the dole said...

Alan, if it's any consolation for being pettily slammed by an anonymous poster, I think "Typical Way Too Harsh Nit-Picking Jackass" actually makes for a pretty funny Wu-Tang name.

I thought of both 50 First Dates and David Cross on Just Shoot Me for the Richter subplot. But since I often catch this show borrowing from Friends, I'm more concerned with whether their variations are funny. Here, not really.

Best moments in a weak episode were Jack holding the food tray under the cougher, Kenneth's Wall Street days, and Jack's "Life is short? Yours seems endless!" quote (even though it was spoiled in promos).

iffer said...

So I guess this tv show which many declared dead on arrival last season has become so gosh darn darn important that making us laugh is no longer enough.

I laughed start to finish.

BGF said...

Agreed that this episode was weak in comparison to the last six or so. Which doesn't mean there were about a dozen really funny jokes. But the strike makes for a good explanation for how the ep felt off.
*Kenneth's subplot was very lame
*The green screen may be because the scene was shot before the tree went up, and they had to use footage that wasn't intended for that scene.
*Finally, Anonimus, Ludicrousmas makes no aural sense. Given all the rap references on this show, (from Chamillionaire to Wise Greasy Bastard), there's no way Tina and the writers made an accidental reference to Ludacris.

Eric said...

Relatively safe-for-work descriptions of a lemon party are available at Urban dictionary.com.

Anonymous said...

Someone described the Lemon Party as geriatric gay porn. I'm choosing to not find out.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

"This episode lost me at the beginning when they had Jack's mom flying JetBlue to New York from Atlanta. JetBlue does not fly to Atlanta and even when they did several years ago it was only to the West Coast. That bugged me the rest of the episode."

Also, they don't accept Amtrak tickets. Threw me RIGHT out of the episode.

(Not really.)

Anonymous said...

It was definitely one of the weaker episodes of 30 Rock, but I loved Jack, when he was skating with the Lemons, asking if Liz was in for the Disney cruise in March.

Jerry said...

This was quite obviously one of the two eps that was put into production after the strike commenced, and therefore could get no rewrites.

Discerning fans noticed that there were some real first-attempt verbal clunkers throughout the show, while the best jokes were of the sight-gag, prop-gag, and physical comedy variety - which could legally have been created and developed by Tina and directing staff without - technically - any "writing" being 'committed'.

[That, plus having comic writer-actors such as Buck Henry and Andy Richter very conveniently allows for both of them to "improvise" and "come up with their own material on-camera", which also don't violate the WGA strike.

None of the above were a coincidence, as Tina was able to balance pulling off a still-funny episode while also abiding by the strike rules. I tip my hat to a very deft and successful balance of showrunning and Guild-backing by Ms. Fey.

Jerry said...

This was quite obviously one of the two eps that was put into production after the strike commenced, and therefore could get no rewrites.

Discerning fans noticed that there were some real first-attempt verbal clunkers throughout the show, while the best jokes were of the sight-gag, prop-gag, and physical comedy variety - which could legally have been created and developed by Tina and directing staff without - technically - any "writing" being 'committed'.

[That, plus having comic writer-actors such as Buck Henry and Andy Richter very conveniently allows for both of them to "improvise" and "come up with their own material on-camera", which also don't violate the WGA strike.

None of the above were a coincidence, as Tina was able to balance pulling off a still-funny episode while also abiding by the strike rules. I tip my hat to a very deft and successful balance of showrunning and Guild-backing by Ms. Fey.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you are all talking about. I thought this ep was freaking HILARIOUS. I couldn't stop laughing throughout. It was especially great after the office repeat which definitely put me to sleep.

Dolphin Fan said...

I found out what a lemon party is and...UGH! Still, it does make the joke funnier with context, and makes it clear that the writing staff for this show is both brilliant and deeply, deeply disturbed--not a bad combo!
The problem with the "LudaChristmas" joke was that it was the kind of Level 1 humor that this show usually elevates to Level, well, a much higher number. Two other glitches in this were A) they didn't actually get Ludachris to make a cameo (maybe he can't appear on other NBC shows now that he has a character on SVU?) and B) THE SIMPSONS' season finale had a better joke when he appeared in a dental hygiene video as LudaCrest.
I hope this wasn't the season finale, honestly.

Number Five said...

I don't think the criticism has been too harsh; this was a relatively weak episode and I agree with those who think it was due to the strike. The pacing and flow felt off and there were fewer hilarious one liners but more duds. Plus did anyone's guide list a title other than "Episode 209"? I guess the title is part of the script!

Also, between the way Liz's and Jack's families were handled it felt uncomfortably dark. Partly it was because last year, Elaine Stritch's ire was directed at evil Phoebe instead of Liz, but I thought they could have done better with Liz's parents and brother (other than Jack's approval that Mitch thought Reagan was still president).

Still, I loved Jack holding the cookies under the coughing stripper as well as everything related to Liz's football lawsuit (capped by "I wore the uniform!". And I've loved the couple of 70s SNL episodes repeats I've seen Buck Henry host, so it was great to see him as Liz's dad.

In conclusion, screw you NBC for forcing this one on the air. Going without The Office AND 30 Rock is going to be very rough, but I'd rather wait until the strike is over and see a 10th episode that's gone through the full process. I don't want to say this, but hopefully this was the last one to air.

Anonymous said...

Well, Alan, I know exactly what you are talking about. Because that episode was So. Very. Lame. For something like Two And A Half Men maybe that caliber would be great, but for the standards set by 30 Rock this season, this episode fell very flat. Definitely not worth keeping and rewatching. What a predictable, boring way to resolve the Lemon storylines.

Jim said...

Wow I couldn't believe they actually aired the line "It wouldn't be a lemon party without old dick!". To those who didn't get the reference, be glad you didn't.

sigh

Now I have to google something that, apparently, is going to disgust me. I can kinda deduce... but frankly it's going to have to be pretty bad to live up to the build-up.
Also, eggs, Danny Thomas style.

But what do I know? I thought last night's episode was funny.

Stef said...

All these comments and no one has mentioned my absolute favorite line from Jack.... "I did do a fabulous job of finishing my muffin." I snorted all the way through the commercial break!

And I can't resist peer pressure, even anti-peer pressure, so I did look up "lemon party." And saw the pictures. Blech.

srpad said...

I was also disappointed by this episode. I figured it was the last pre strike show because it felt like a scripts first draft. Normally the joke sthat were flat would have been cut and the rest would have been punched up. It way to easy for Jack's mother to be right and to see Liz's family fall appear was too expected to be funny. Hopefully they will recover after the strike.

I did like the joke with Tracy having to ask his sister in law to disregard his e-mails.

Allieger said...

The Andy Richter stuff reminded me of the David Cross/Just Shoot Me plot as well. (Chicken pot, chicken pot, chicken pot piiiiiie! Pretty much the funniest thing ever on that mostly mediocre show.) And the 30 Rock version suffered in comparission.

I think this is an interesting example of a show affected by the strike and why writers are important to the whole process.

I did wish they would have gone a less obvious path with the Lemons' cheery facade cracking apart.

That said, the episode was still funny and at moments brilliant - example: Jack to Liz - I've never seen such relentlessly blind encouragement. No wonder you're a sexually frightened know it all.

and Tracy's: And now, this time of the year -- Ludachristmas, New Year's Eve, Martin Luther King Day -- all you do is drink.

Amen to that!

Kenrick said...

I had a few laughs, but I thought the episode was rather weak too.

Alex R said...

If the writer's strike was the reason we were forced to have to watch 24 minutes of Andy Richter, then I am more desperate than ever to see the strike end.

Richter should be banned from ALL Television.

joshjs said...

Thanks, anonymous poster, for complaining about the spelling of names in a comment in which you couldn't be bothered to spell my name right.

Unless you were going for some kind of ironic delivery, in which case, bravo, you anonymous bastard.


This was funnier than any joke in the episode. I agree with the theory that this episode was hurt by lack of polish due to the strike.

christy said...

Wow, I was so expecting lemon party to be something WAY more gross, the way you people talk about it. I don't find that shocking at all, though I'm sure I would have gasped if I'd been in on it the first time I heard the joke.

I guess I've spent too much time on the internet. You wouldn't believe the things I was imagining with all that *believe me, you do NOT want to know* stuff. I support the existence of lemon parties.

Still, and all--don't Google it at work or anything. If you haven't figured that out yet. Only Google it from the privacy of wherever you usually look at porn. Because, basically, yeah, you'll get porn.

fuzzydunlop said...

Yeah, I guess it isn't all that gross. They could have made a 2 girls 1 cup joke.

Karen said...

No, it wasn't as strong as the dog-fighting episode, or last week's, but there was a lot I liked. I loved Jack passing his mother's doughnuts under the hackings of the consumptive stripper, and also loved all the interactions between Jack and the Lemon family, from his initial distrust to his preening appreciativeness.

I didn't know what a "lemon party" was, and Wikipedia let me down (fake Canadian politicians? I don't think so), but urbandictionary.com came through with flying colors. I love that this line got through. I have to believe that Standards and Practices were as clueless as I. But what I love even more is the notion of Buck Henry delivering this line.

I worship Buck Henry.

David J. Loehr said...

They actually made a more subtle "lemon party" joke in the second episode of the series, the one with the party on the yacht. The day after, Liz runs into Jack in the elevator, and he says, "I hear your little Lemon party went well." I laughed then, and wished for some mental steel wool to get rid of the image.

This episode was all right, although I think, given the time to polish, they might have made the "Lemon party" joke fit into the scene a little better; it comes out of nowhere as an excuse to make the joke, and they're better than that. All things considered, it could have been a lot worse, and while I'm glad to have had a little more 30 Rock before the holidays, I wish they'd been able to work on the show properly.

On the spelling of Ludachristmas: whatever else any one of us might think, the fact that they showed it spelled out several times on banners, shirts, etc., must mean that that's probably how they want us to spell it. Since it's luda- and not ludi-, then it clearly refers to the rap star, although the pun covers all the bases. (It is large, it contains multitudes.)

As for the green screen, I didn't mind it so much in the tree scene--I'd bet the tree wasn't up and ready when they filmed--but the scenes of the little children in Guatemala were distractingly fake. Funny, but fake. Compared to the that, I thought the tree scenes looked fine.

olucy said...

Hey, c’mon you guys! I think you need to take a moment and count your Christmas blessings. Other viewers are getting crap presents like According to Jim and Two and a Half Men re-runs, and we’re getting this. This is like getting a tin of popcorn instead of fruitcake.

Yeah, it wasn’t the best ep ever, but what non-cable show is consistently good week after week and never occasionally misses a beat. It didn’t have the same LOL ratio as usual, but there were a lot of small, funny moments.

Liz’s mom grabbing the bow off the popcorn tin just as Jack is accepting it.

Liz’s parents fawning over her work – “somebody built all this because of words YOU wrote” – with a “Who Farted” backdrop for the sketch.

As someone else mentioned, the US map with all the Lohans, Rodriguez and C. Bacca

All the drinking holidays – Ludacrismas, Nude Year’s Eve, Martin Luther King’s birthday

Kenneth running after the Springfieldian mob saying “No no no no no no.”

Mitch mistaking Jenna for one of his mom’s friends.

Jack hissing to his mother: “Really? Life is too short? Because yours seems endless.”

All of Dick and Margaret’s fawning over Jack: Ooh! A congresswoman! Lifetime!

I thought it was a sweet episode even if it wasn’t the strongest.

Steve Pick said...

I'm a little puzzled by all the horrified reactions to lemon parties. It may not be your cup of tea, but older gay men are entitled to have fun, you know.

EssPee said...

I had kind of guessed that this episode was strike-forshortened somehow given that the TiVo identified it as "Episode 209" instead of "Ludachristmas." Interesting to learn how that issue might have affected rewrites and post-production as well.

And of course older gay men deserve to have fun -- but that doesn't mean it's something most people want to see unexpectedly on the Internet.