Thursday, November 20, 2008

30 Rock, "Gavin Volure": He hates those sex dolls! Stay away from the sex dolls!

Is it just my cold infecting my funny bone, or was that one of the weakest "30 Rock" episodes ever? I'm flummoxed that an episode featuring Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin together only made me laugh once, and not at any of them. (It was at Pete's per diem gambit with Jack.) Do I need some higher-dose NyQuil, or was something way off with this one?

61 comments:

The Matador said...

It was you. It wasn't as good as the Oprah episode, but it was better than last week. As usual, most of the Tracy Jordan stuff was funny. The McEnroe cameo was good. Liz's dream relationship was funny.

Death Bank: Money is the root of all evil. I'd see that.

Stef said...

I agree. I think the only line I really laughed out loud about was Jack telling Kenneth that there is no more middle class. And that was one of those "it's funny cuz it's scary-true" kind of laughs.

I love Steve Martin, and I was enjoying his germophobe weird rich dude thing until it got too wacky with the house arrest stuff. I think that's my problem with 30 Rock this season. It's just gone a little bit over the edge of too wacky/zany - and thus not as relatable or emotionally grounded - for me. It's like the whole show has become a bad Michael Scott episode.

Bobman said...

I also agree, a very very weak episode. There were glimpses of things I knew were funny but didn't QUITE go far enough to make me laugh. I love Liz's psychoses, so that made me smile but the episode as a whole was just kinda slow and boring.

filmcricket said...

I'm with The Matador - this was the funniest I've found this show all season. Perhaps a little too much Tracy, and the final scene was over the top, but I loved Liz describing her dream relationship and knowing where all the good cupcakes are.

And I laughed at several lines, although I admit I can't remember them now. (I'm still savouring Chi McBride's delivery of "Now where'd I put that rat's ass I could give?" last night. Damn you, ABC!)

Allison said...

Apparently we all got one good laugh out of this episode, but not the same one (mine was Kenneth's "We've eaten our share of rock soup and squirrel tail, but we've had our lean times too!").

Though it wasn't very funny, I still enjoyed it. I guess it's like everyone says--even a bad episode of 30 Rock is better than most other stuff on TV.

Katie said...

I laughed a lot at this one, beginning with the McEnroe reveal.

"The worlds of ... art collectig and yelling--"

"Why isn't there any good art in here?!"

I laughed at Liz's 12-years-in fantasy, Jack's hard true about Kenneth's future of renting, the pluralization of Mendendez, and the saltinees. Oh, and "patricide" as a verb.

Wait, maybe it was me ....

cinnette said...

No, it wasn't a good one. I laughed once as well, but it was at Tracy and his kid towards the end -- "don't worry! That's just a Japanese sex doll in daddy's bed!" Otherwise, eh.

Nicole said...

I had a few laugh out loud moments on this one, especially the "Toronto is like New York but without stuff" line. I think the issue was not that it wasn't funny, but that it was more of a collection of zany lines as opposed to a coherent plot. The initial reveal that Gavin was not a germophobe and just under house arrest was good, but the momentum did seem to peter out after that.
But who doesn't find a pig shield funny?

olucy said...

I laughed a little at some random lines, but I'm continuing my diatribe from last week that this show is getting away from its core and I'm starting to not recognize it. And that bothers me.

Brandon said...

I disagree with your appraisal. This was the most "Arrested Development"-like episode in awhile and I enjoyed how elements from different story lines related to each other during the climax. A welcome return to form after last week's dud.

Dan Coyle said...

It was you. I almost passed out laughing at this episode. "Art collecting and yelling..."

J said...

"The paint is drying funny." The plural of Menendez is Menendi. There were enough decent laughs, some of it was too lazy or obvious (Liz says what her idea of a perfect man is, Velour quickly fits the bill, the dumb hockey mask gag), but there's been worse. They do need to get past the Tracey sex game thing, it was a throwaway idea that's somehow stuck around.

I hope that lousy mailroom situation hasn't ruined any associations with this show. They'll work their way back up in no time, you'll see!

Anonymous said...

I thought it was so far the weakest episode of the season. I only hope that the string of special guest stars has come to an end now that sweeps is over, and the show can get back to what it does best.

andythesaint said...

I also thought this was one of the weaker episodes of the show.

But I am also on cold medication.

dez said...

I agree that it was a weak episode, but I did find a few things funny (like Kenneth's squirrel tail line). And I'm starting to come down with a cold, too.

SteveInHouston said...

I enjoyed the episode a lot, and found a number of giggle-out-loud moments.

However, having just gotten over a double whammy of the flu AND an ensuing respiratory infection, I can totally understand the struggle to find anything particularly amusing.

Alan, here's to you (and everyone else experiencing The Crud) feeling much better.

Anonymous said...

You neglect the best thurs comedy.

Always Sunny.

Anonymous said...

30 rock has been real weak this yr.

Sherri said...

I thought it was great! Loads of fantastic lines. Although the pace did slow down slightly in the middle. Steve Martin was alright but the main cast was great as usual. I think they set the bar super high with the Oprah episode and it's quite impossible to reach that standard every week.

Jeff said...

I was happy with it all the way around... tho, sadly, the HD isn't doing Steve Martin any favors.

Liked it more than The Office, and gobs better than the first 15 minutes of "Worst Week" I decided to re-try before removing the Season pass left over from my "Pilots I might like" phase...

Alan Sepinwall said...

I did laugh this morning at the memory of "art collecting and yelling," but at the time, nothing.

AnastasiaBeaverhausen said...

NO.
MORE.
GUEST STARS.

Wahhh, what happened to my "30 Rock"? This year has been so weak. Really disappointing. I know it's the pressure to get the ratings to match the critical acclaim but at the rate they are going, they will lose the critics/fans who love them AND not having ratings.

This episode had some good Jack and Kenneth lines but the Steve Martin/Liz Lemon storyline was deadly as was the Tracy storyline.

Not good.

zodin2008 said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Alan, amnd I will go a step further and say worst "30 Rock" episode of the show's history. I forced myself to laugh.

I also agree 100% with AnastasiaBeaverhausen - NO MORE SPECIAL GUEST STARS!!!! UGGGGGGGGGG.

It's becoming "Will & Grace"". That's what killed that series (though to be fair, I was never a fan of that show and didn't watch it too much), but I am sick to death of the guest stars now, unless they are used better.

The Steve Martin and Jennifer Anisoton cameos have been atrocious because it was treated like, "hey, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Martin want to do our show - yippee - we have to find something for them to do!"

The complete OPPOSITE of last season's brilliant Edie Falco guest appearances. Not only were they funny, but she had ana ctual storyline and she had amazing chemistry on screen with Baldwin.

And the Tracy sex doll stuff was stupid.

Terrible episode and what's been a generally unfunny season and all the guest stars are ruining this show. Stop it, "30 Rock".

Paul Rinkes said...

I think it IS the guest stars -- too many, and at the expense of the regular goings-on inside TGS. I was giggling about Ludachristmas the other day -- that's the kind of bizarre, out-there plot twist that you can't do when you've got to accommodate all these famous people.

Though the Oprah episode was excellent.

One thing that I can't shake as I watch this season: Alan is right that Fey is a more mature actress, which takes some of the fun away for me. I liked it better when she was more green.

Anonymous said...

This show has always had guest stars. This is not a sweeps stunt. I think the reasoning might be to reflect the use of weekly hosts on sketch comedies (although I don't think TGS uses guest hosts). Anyway, stop blaming the guest stars for the lack of funny.

zodin2008 said...

Anonymous,

Why shouldn't we blame guest stars for the "lack of funny"? That doesn't make any sense.

If an accomplished comedian/actor like Steve Martin comes on board for an episode in a completely stupid, unfunny, bad written part, that he's just not funny in either, why don't we as regular "30 Rock" viewers have a right to complain?

In past, guest stars have been very funny. Schwimmer as Greenzo - funny. Al Gore hearing "whales cry" - funny. Yeah, even the Oprah bit this season was funny. Edie Falco has still had the best guest star turn of anyone.

(exception - the Jerry Seinfeld appearance wasn't funny).

But the guest stars and even more stuff for Liz and Jack is now coming at the expense of funny supporting players.

Where was Jack's funny assistant, Jonathan? The writers (Frank Toofer, etc) used to have much bigger roles and they've basically all but elimninated most of them except Frank.

Jenna's part is smaller and one of the funniest things I've ever seen on the show was a Jenna scene when she was on "Hardball" and mixed Obama and Osama up. I literally fell on the floor.

Pete used to have a bigger part and he's all but vanished each week. He has one scene now.

My point: these big name Steve Martin appearances are mostly now not funny and taking away from a funny supporting cast.

I don't know if Fey is to be blamed or NBC, but it's now basically JUST Jack, Liz, Tracy and Kenneth as the only 4 characters on the show, and some big name guest star. That's not working for a lot of us.

Nicole said...

Although I still found most of this episode funny, I do agree with the "no more guest stars" sentiment. I do recall seeing Steve Martin and hoping that this was the last week that there was a major guest star sidetracking the actual cast. I would like to blame Ben Silverman for this because he does seem to be the source of all bad decisions, but regardless, it needs to stop. They don't need to put on a TGS show every week, but the writers are given very little to work with and have been reduced to cameo roles.

LA said...

I'm with you guys. I LOVE Steve Martin, but enough with the stunt casting already. And I'm totally up for laying the blame at Ben Silverman's feet, that works for me.

That said, the worst episode of 30 Rock is still 100x better than the best episode of Kath and Kim.

olucy said...

Re: the guest star thing. It's never bothered me before, because the guest stars were usually tied in to the premise that this was about people who produced a weekly sketch comedy show on NBC.

Although Seinfeld was a weak guest, he tied into the fact that Jack was trying to hijack him into scenes of other NBC shows.

Schwimmer worked because his character was hired as a Green mascot for NBC (which made Jack look good to upper brass) and Liz had to write lines for him. Gore worked for the same reason.

Carrie Fisher was a faded writer trying to get back into television through TGS. Edie Falco made Jack's life awkward because her liberal politics threatened his standing with NBC brass and his desire to get Don Geiss's job.

Even Tim Conway, easily the weakest of the guests last year but who still managed to cop an Emmy, played an old time TV guy reliving the glory days by touring NBC with Kenneth.

I hate it when people use the word organic, but these guests were...organic to the show's premise.

Oprah, Aniston and Martin were not. For the first time, it really does feel like stunt casting.

Also, for me at least, it's not enough that the show have "some funny lines." This show will never be a stale traditional sitcom and will always have something funny in it. But the stories are not gelling like they used to. And I miss the other characters--the writing staff. It feels like I'm watching another show. Granted, a still sometimes funny show. But not 30 Rock.

dave s said...

30 Rock is really hit or miss with me, in a way I can't remember another show being. When it's on, it's as funny as anything I've seen. When it's not on though, I spend the half hour trying to laugh and waiting for something that never comes. It's a unique kind of boring. Cubs-in-the-2008-playoffs boring.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a good episode. Better than 'The Office' this week.

'God .. do I have a black thing?'

Loved it!

Mo Ryan said...

I'm agreed. I didn't dislike it, but I had this rare thought -- "Boy, this episode seems really LONG." Normally I don't want 30 Rock to end.

Thought Martin way overplayed things at times, and also did not find any laughs in the Tracy story line.

Jack and Kenneth had a couple of good lines. The thing I liked best was that Liz is basically not interested in a having a hot, heavy romance. Liz Lemon -- The Antidote to the Women of Grey's.

zodin2008 said...

olucy, your comments hit the nail on the proverbial head!

Well stated that the big guest stars who've worked in the past, like Falco or Schwimmer, were part of a funny story arc and were organic to the show.

I would also contend again, that they have turned this into the Liz and Jack show with only Tracy and Kenneth getting plenty of screen time and cutting just about all the other supporting players out.

I think this all has to do with the show's profile.

In year one and even year 2, when the show had a 'lower' profile, it was all about the cast and even though season 2 had good guest stars that mostly worked, there was still a heavier influence from the supporting players.

They've hardly used Frank but last year, he had some great stuff like using Liz's apartment for sex or the stuff he and Liz did with Fred Armisen who they thought was a terrorist but was actually training for "The Amazing Race" - that was absolutely brilliant.

This season, it's all about Liz and Jack and then they shove Jennifer Aniston or Steve Martin, some huge name, down our throats. No, give me the zany supporting cast like Frank, Toofer, Jenna et all. It's a good freak show of players that worked perfect the first 2 seasons.

Turning this show into "Will & Grace" is the fastest way to get me and many other fans to quickly end our relationship.

Byron said...

Hey, Alan,

You don't seem to be having a very good last couple months. I'm sorry that that's maybe stopping you from enjoying a lot of the shows you used to like. Hope things get better soon.

AnastasiaBeaverhausen said...

>>Jenna's part is smaller and one of the funniest things I've ever seen on the show was a Jenna scene when she was on "Hardball" and mixed Obama and Osama up. I literally fell on the floor.<<

How about Jenna's "Me Want Food" storyline, which had her visiting Dr. Spaceman for weight loss advice ("How important is tooth retention to you?"). That scene generated more laughs than the entire season has so far. Or the episode with the flashback to Kenneth's party, god, that was funny.

Carrie Fisher was fantastic, but not because she was CARRIE FISHER but because the character they created for her to play was great, the storyline was hilarious and the dialogue was funny as hell ("never go to a second location with a hippie").

Steve Martin wasn't funny because the character was weak, the plot was weak and the lines were weak. And that makes it feel like someone said "We need to come up with somethign for Steve Martin to do" rather than "I have a great idea, who can we get to do it?". Tail wagging dog, cart before horse, etc etc etc. That's they way the guest stars feel this season, whether or not that's what is actually happening.

Guest stars as a concept is not a bad thing -- they can kill (Matt Damon and Michael Douglas on "Will & Grace) but more often than not, they end up feeling shoe-horned in and disrputive to what people actually watch the show for (almost every other guest star on W&G).

I think most 30 Rock fans would rather see Griz and Dot Com or Dr. Sapceman in an episode than Jennifer Aniston.

Dijonase said...

olucy, while I disagree that the guest stars are hurting the show (I found both Oprah and Aniston very funny), I really have to disagree with your assertion that Tim Conway was "easily the weakest of the guests last year." He's easily my favorite guest 30 Rock has ever had. His reminiscences of the good old days were absolutely brilliant.

zodin2008 said...

Totally agree with Anastasia's assessment again. Well said about Steve Martin's appearance...it felt "shoe horned in", like, hey, Steve Martin wants to do our show! We have to give him something, rest of the cast be damned.

Also, great point about Jenna's other funny stuff like her diet/fat thing or yes, Kenneth's party (which was funny because it involved the entire gang).

I also wholeheatedly agree that I'd rather see Toofer or Dr. Spaceman ANY DAY on this show over Jennifer Aniston's wildly unfunny appearance.

The Oprah thing, I grant was fun and played out hilariously later when Liz came to the realization that she hadn't actually met Oprah but mistaken the woman on the plane to be Oprah. That was funny.

But the last 2 weeks episodes and guest stars have been obnoxiously bad and unfunny.

And no matter how much we all complain, Ben Silverman being the short sighted "suit" that he is, mr. talent-less corporate stuff, will obviously continue to beat us over the head with name guest stars.

I assume in the 2nd half we can look forward to "forced" visits from Ben Affleck, Robin Williams, Roseanne Barr and Colin Powell, among others.

erin said...

I actually thought it was pretty cute (and I really didn't enjoy the Oprah ep). I was giggling throughout the show. Pretty much everything with Kenneth was hysterical (the street dancing! How can you not love the street dancing!!), and I loved Liz's philosophy on life and wanting to avoid all that "funny business." Too bad Gavin was such a nutter.

And come on--Pete negotiating for the $.12 gas rate? I thought it was pretty solid.

Alligator Dundee said...

I actually liked this episode very much. I thought it was better than the Oprah and the Jennifer Aniston one. Not any big laughs but lots of little ones. I especially liked the "More You Know" spoof at the end with the Tracy Jordan sex doll.

Someone up the line said this episode was very much like Arrested Development and I have to agree. I don't know if it's a formula for success but it's a formula for funny. For example, the "he miscounted the men" callback by Liz at the very end of the episode. Just little things like that which makes episodes re-watchable.

KB said...

I disagree with most of you about the guest stars. I've enjoyed them all more or less and I think they fit right in with the show's wacky tone and the concept that TGS is sort of like SNL.

There was perhaps too much similarity in the Aniston and Martin characters (Liz's crazy friend falls for Jack, Jack's crazy friend falls for Liz), so maybe these episodes should have been spaced out a little. But I think its smart for 30 Rock to use the guest stars in this way - they allow the show to focus its main plots around Liz and Jack every week without getting completely redundant. I like the supporting cast, but Liz and Jack are the best things about this show (and 2 of the best characters and actors on TV), so bringing in guest stars regularly in order to give Liz and Jack more to do while still keeping things fresh works very well as far as I'm concerned.

Emily said...

Why has only one person mentioned the "More You Know" at the end with Tracy?? Alan, are you seriously telling me you saw that and didn't laugh? If that's the case, maybe you need more cold medicine.

johnlocke122 said...

You're right, Alan. It was an embarrassing 30 Rock episode. Cut it out with the guest stars already. You've got a great ensemble cast -- and let's see more Pete!

zodin2008 said...

I don't think anyone on this blog would disagree that Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin are two of the best and funniest actors and characters (they play) on TV. No one on here would suggest that the show shouldn't ultimately be centered regularly on them.

But the supporting players are hysterical, like the various supporting players on shows like "The Office" or "Scrubs" and those shows are also better when they say regularly mix in Creed, Kevin, Phyllis, Oscar et all, with Jim, Pam, Michael and Dwight, or say mixing in The Todd, the Janitor, Ted, Laverne or other supporting players a lot with the leads like JD, Turk, Cox, and Elliott.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't the best episode, but I enjoyed it more than last week.

And Jack telling Liz to "work it like a Chinese gymast: wear something tight, force a smile, and lie about your age" is probably my favorite quote of the season.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that this was the best episode because a lot of the steve martin scenes seemed to drag. The Jack and kenneth scenes were funny though, I especially liked when Pete demanded the gas repayment from Jack.
Also Jack listing his top guys he'd go gay for, "michael jordan, denzel, taye diggs...oh my god, Do I have a black thing?"
Hilarious

renton said...

Maybe it's my lack of a cold, but I thought there was a lot to laugh at in this episode.

I felt that way about The Office, too.

Helene H. said...

I also liked this episode more than the Aniston/Oprah ones, which I found disappointing compared to the great pre-writers strike episodes last year. I think they're still finding their stride this season. Favorite lines: "This is the greatest day of my life. And I was pulled onstage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."

Bryan Murray said...

I agree with the not-so-funny comments but I'm starting to think this entire season has lacked something. It seemed like it would overtake The Office last year in hilarity but The Office has stepped up and 30 Rock has kind of plateaued so far.

James Kang said...

I'm glad to hear you say that, Alan, because I didn't like the episode either. I've noticed that my least favorite 30 Rock episodes are the ones written by John Riggi. In fact, I suspected Riggi had written the episode before I saw his name in the opening credits. Every single joke fell flat. I stopped watching once I found out he had written the episode. I just knew I wouldn't enjoy it so why waste my time?

KB said...

zodin2008 - I don't watch Scrubs, but as far as The Office and 30 Rock go, I think the minor characters tend to work best in small doses. Creed is the ultimate example. He makes me laugh out loud almost every time he's on screen, but thats in large part because they pick his spots so carefully.

On 30 Rock, Jack, Liz, Tracy and Kenneth have to carry the A and B stories every week, and they just need more for them to do outside of TGS. Otherwise 30 Rock will end recycling the same stories over and over, which is major problem for almost every half hour comedy.

For Jack and Liz especially, their love lives have provided some of the best material on the show. So unless we want to see Jack dating Jenna or Liz dating Lonnie, they're gonna need guest stars.

I suppose 4 straight big celebrity guests to start the season has been a bit over the top. And I hate how NBC is always promoting the guest star of the week instead of promoting the show itself. But 30 Rock absolutely needs its guests. They are integral to the show and always have been. The first season even had a 'regular' (Rachel Dratch) playing a different character every week. Seems like Fey and company knew from the start they would need to mix things up routinely with characters outside of the staff of TGS.

olucy said...

I especially liked the "More You Know" spoof at the end with the Tracy Jordan sex doll.

Oh, God! Yes! This!

I can't believe NBC let them get away with that. I know they've let their darling little PSA spot be spoofed before, but I don't it's ever been spoofed by a sex doll, has it? (sketch comedy shows don't count; i'm talking about right after a prime time show).

And since I've dished enough complaint, I have to give credit to the laughs I had during this ep. And being ensconced as I am in corporate America--not to mention helping to market it--(which will be on a parallel with war crimes in the next decade, you just mark my words)-- I got a huge guffaw from the ad for Sunstream: Inovation. Tomorrow. America. Sunstream.

"You know, Jack, we never mentioned what we do."

Gawd, did I laugh. So true.

Alas said...

Am I the only one that laughed for the 'i've got a serious case of the mondays'... the only way that could have been funnier is if Jennifer Aniston had said it last week.
I too laughed at the Toronto is New York but without stuff... and I'm from Canada!!

filmcricket said...

KB said: Jack, Liz, Tracy and Kenneth have to carry the A and B stories every week

I actually disagree with this. Jack and Liz, yes, but Tracy works best in carefully moderated doses and they've been letting Kenneth do way too much of the heavy lifting lately. That was a problem even last season, I thought.

I would love to see more of the writers or Jenna and less of Kenneth's tales from hickville - you could see the punchline to the "rock soup and squirrel tails" line coming a mile away.

lambertman said...

I'm bummed - the "More You Know" parody clearly came after my DVR moved onto ABC.

jazzfan360 said...

I missed the More You Know parody. I assumed there wouldn't be more after we were given the producer credits. :c\

IMO, this was the first time a guest star was significantly to the detriment of the episode. Martin overtook the entire show with a forced, unfunny character that just didn't work. This was perhaps their weakest episode ever.

Dennis said...

One little nagging thing to me was when they showed a clip of kenneth's street performance in the preview, he was dancing to a Chaka Khan tune. Which i thought was much funnier than the song they had him dancing too in the real show.

Tracy using patricide did it for me but when it comes to criticisms of Steve Martin I thought I was the only one who hasn't found him funny in a long time.

Of course any ep without Jane Krakowski will always be welcomed and Liz pretty much nailed the way some relationships can go as they age. Just before we watched this ep me and the ladyfriend were watching and making fun of The Karate Kid;)

Anonymous said...

tell me that Tracy Jordan's sons' names "Tracy Junior and George Foreman" were not the funniest things ever?

as well as (somewhat paraphrasing): Jack to Gavin: "Why didn't you go somewhere where American laws don't apply, like Utah?"

Mark said...

I had a feeling after watching the show, and I just went to imdb to be sure. Tracy's kids (at least the younger one) were played by the same actors who played his kids in "The Tracy Morgan Show." Nice touch. And I really did enjoy this episode. "I miscounted the men, Liz! I miscounted the meeeen!"

Anonymous said...

It was you. Way better than the previous ones.

Anonymous said...

i thought it was a pretty funny episode. some great lines not mentioned (the first being my favorite):

"He's the only man to ever be on both the covers of Forbes and Jet. Of course, then the magazine was all about a jet ownership. It took a really weird turn."

"That's just a Japanese sex toy in daddy's bed."

"Jack: Next stop, home ownership.

Kenneth: Really?

Jack: No. The middle class is dying. You'll be renting forever."


(paraphrase) "from the world of business and historical fiction.

jack to liz: "what if the german's had won the war"

"Wind power. Bandwidth. Chinese market."

NC said...

Nice review! I was just wondering, what song is played when Kenneth isdoing some street dancing to earn 10 dollars, which he then gives to Jack to invest in the "business". It sounds like its being played on a synthesizer. Thanks!