Friday, February 27, 2009

30 Rock, "Larry King": Quiet riot

Spoilers for last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I avoid the Noid...
"Tracy Jordan, saying three serious things and then a joke!" -Larry King
Better. Much, much better. Maybe the first episode of 2009 I enjoyed unreservedly.

Other than Jenna, they used the entire cast (even Pete, who's been MIA for weeks and weeks) and used them well, gave us a Jack story that balanced comedy with some genuine emotion, got some good mileage out of a rare Liz/Kenneth story (Kenneth usually rolls with Tracy or Jack), and employed the guest stars as well as they have all season. They cracked the code on Salma Hayek a few episodes back (enough that I'll be disappointed if this was her swan song), and Larry King was a delight being his usual oblivious self as a foil to Tracy's increasingly tenuous connection to reality.

I'm coming to this one relatively late in the day because of my movie-going adventures last night, so let's do some bullet points and open it up to you:

• My friend Mike swung by this morning to watch the episode with me (and so I could introduce him to this NSFW Flight of the Conchords video about a dance floor containing too many of something), and he made a good point about Jack and Elisa's post-coital scene: total missed opportunity to give us a glimpse of the legendary Alec Baldwin chest hair (which Matt Seitz likes to compare to a catcher's protective gear).

• Baldwin's Elisa impression was funny, but also very reminiscent of his work as Mrs. Rodriguez in the classic Tracy/Jack therapy scene. Perhaps Jack is, like Baldwin's "SNL" character The Mimic, very limited in the number of voices he can do.

• The cabbie was played by Ajay Naidu, best known as Samir Nagheenanajar from "Office Space."

• By now, you probably don't need me to point out the incredible resemblance between the Republican response by Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal earlier this week and Jack McBrayer as Kenneth, or even to point you to McBrayer responding to all the comparisons in one of Jimmy Fallon's test shows. But if you somehow missed all that earlier in the week, enjoy. It's amazing.

• Love that Kenneth believes "99 Luftballoons" was "Nina's famous anti-balloon protest song."

• Did you catch that the Zorgonia Ave. station had a billboard for the Janice Jimplin biopic? So Jenna did sort of appear this week.

• Not only did the episode bring back Pete, but we got our first concentrated dose of Jonathan since early in the season, complete with shirtless flute-playing video.

• Liz's celebratory moments are funny in this one because they're so lame: she's had sex two more times this year than Jack (which means things with Drew are going okay), and she took the naked photo because it was a rare moment when her boobs were pointing in the same direction. (Also loved Kenneth's interpretation of "adult photo" to mean a shot of Liz driving a car or wearing a suit.)

• Tracy summarizing the plot of "Teen Wolf" was just the writers' blatant attempt to get Bill Simmons to write about "30 Rock," right?

What did everybody else think?

49 comments:

Joel said...

Alan, you have the entire post on the front page. Just letting you know, man...bracce

Alan Sepinwall said...

Reload. It's been fixed.

Joel said...

Cool. By the way, "bracce" was the verification word I had to type in. Not sure why it was there instead of where it had to be. Ken Levine had people make up definitions for the verification words they came across, which I think was an inspired idea.

Oh, and I agree: best 30 Rock of the year. Lots of great throwaway in-jokes. I was especially keen on seeing how they'd deal with the CNN "flipper." They could have put some really funny stuff there; what they did was OK, though...

Anonymous said...

More Jackonathan!

christy said...

I think I have to rewatch because I didn't laugh as much as I think I should have.

The Jonathan bits were swell, though. I adore Maulik Pancholy. Even though I saw it coming that Elisa's goodbye video would eventually show us what Jonathan was using the camera for, the shirtless flute playing did not disappoint.

I agree that Salma was great. I too hope she'll be back.

And there were several one liners (including your "as soon as" quote) that I really liked.

But I think I need to watch again to experience the true overall awesomeness.

Will Eidam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

The posting is broken on MSIE, but I can read it fine of Firefox.

Will Eidam said...

Completely agree, Alan. Bill Simmons was all I thought about when I heard the Teen Wolf reference. Welcome to 30 Rock, Sports Guy!

All they need to do is mention the Karate Kid, Larry Bird, and The Sistas and he'll be hooked!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Should be all fixed now, for real.

David said...

The best episode in quite a while, but I still FF through the Salma Hayek stuff. I'm sure she's a lovely person, but I find her unwatchable.

So Cal said...

Good ep, Alan, but i did not laugh nearly as much at this episode than the last few.

Todd said...

I was deeply amused by how the show took how the financial meltdown actually started and gave it only about a quarter of a twist to make it play as farce.

Heady times we live in, friends! Heady times!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Good ep, Alan, but i did not laugh nearly as much at this episode than the last few.

It probably didn't have as many laugh-out-loud moments as some other recent episodes, but I thought it was more consistent, and there were no weak spots the way there have been in a lot of episodes -- not only this calendar year, but this season as a whole.

Anonymous said...

Best line for me:
Jack to Liz: "You're a woman."
Liz: "Yes of course. I don't know why my parents ever listened to that doctor."

Pamela Jaye said...

I thought Jon Hamm was doing 3 eps? (or was that just Scott on Chuck?)

(I also watched ER and that was The First Time I have Ever cared about Sam. Ever.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hamm's doing 3, just not 3 in a row. He'll be back a few episodes from now.

David Thiel said...

Okay, every review I've read of this episode has mentioned the Zorgonia Avenue reference, but I'll be damned if I can remember its significance.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's not a real street; it's supposed to illustrate how far out and alien Queens seems to a Manhattan-ite like Liz.

Brian said...

I knew I knew that cabbie from somewhere, but forgot to check IMDB this morning. Outstanding.

Very good episode. Not as laugh-out-loud as some others, but more consistent from storyline to storyline.

Alf said...

All they need to do is mention the Karate Kid

I thought Kenneth's pose before the children came around the corner was rather Karate Kid-like.

Danny Cohen said...

This season just keeps on getting better.

I loved Tracy on Larry King. Also, I was expecting the answer to where he kept his money was on himself, and it was a great reveal that it was on Kenneth.

"If you're just joining us, we're with Tracy Jordan, who is giving guitar icon Peter Frampton enigmatic clues about a secret treasure." is a great great line.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

"Also, I was expecting the answer to where he kept his money was on himself, and it was a great reveal that it was on Kenneth."

I expected it to be a turtle.

Mayor of Potato Chip City said...

This episode was good.

I liked it.

Matt said...

The problem I had with the Kenneth reveal is that even by Tracy standards (which are, admittedly, looser than those of mere mortals), Kenneth cannot fairly to be said to be "dry and warm," have a "hard top," or a "soft bottom."

Stephanie said...

Well, the knowledge that the cabbie is the guy from Office Space makes me hate him a little less. I kept wishing that Kenneth or Liz would give him a beatdown for holding Liz' phone hostage, but of course, it never happened. Which is completely in tune with this show, but still irritating.

The tarantula on the guy's head freaked me out. I have major spider fear.

Overall I really enjoyed this episode, particular the Jack/Elisa story. I'd really grown to like her and now she's gone.*sigh*

Lizbeth said...

I will not miss Elisa. She bores me terribly.

Mo Ryan said...

27 comments and nobody has mentioned Geiss' "manstress"?

loved that.

Anonymous said...

I know it was just a joke, but it was annoying that the "Zirgonia Ave" stop was supposedly so far when they SAID it was in Long Island City (15 minutes by subway from 30 Rock) and you could see Manhattan in the shot!

DolphinFan said...

I was trying to figure out why I didn't enjoy this episode despite its funny scenes, and the answer IMO is that the characters have gone from being humorous misanthropes to nasty, unfunny idiots. Tracy being stupid is fine but not when he's convincing New Yorkers that Armageddon is near (and also convincing viewers that New Yorkers are even more imbecilic than Tracy is). The interaction between Liz and Kenneth here was totally off--her using him as manual labor, him being so GD pushy about why she wanted her damn phone back--until the last scene with Ajay N. which was the only one that worked in that story. And Frank trashing Liz's desk out of "issues", what the hell? The only person who seemed in-character was Jack and that gives me hope because A) Alec Baldwin can carry the show until the real Tina Fey returns to work and B) Salma Hayek is mercifully, please-be-true, done with her absymal work here.
If this show continues on this path and wins another Best Series Emmy, that would be an embarrassment.

tabernacle said...

(Don't know if anyone cares about this sort of thing, but here it goes:)

I was impressed by Salma Hayek in one particular (fine, three): she made a point of pronouncing "Puerto Rico" like a Puerto Rican would (she's Mexican). It ends up sounding like "puelto hico" (I'm exaggerating, though).

Most people don't bother. E.g., Antonio Banderas might use his native accent (he's from Spain) when playing a Mexican. [I don't actually recall him doing that in _Desperado_, but I couldn't resist the Salma connection.]

David Thiel said...

Ah, thanks for the Zargonia clarification. Honestly, I didn't even notice the sign, but after everyone mentioned it, I assumed it must've been a callback to a previous episode, perhaps something involving Tracy. "Zargonia" sounds like a Tracy-inspired name.

Stylist Mick said...

DO NOT LEAVE A BROTHA HANGING!

Anonymous said...

simmons doesn't watch nbc. then again hes in the majority of people.

30 rock and the office are great sitcoms but the ratings stink. compared to nbc sitcoms like seinfeld, cheers, cosby etc. heck even wings destroyed them.

thats on nbc as a whole for being flat out terrible and leno every night at 10 is not going to help.

Matt said...

Also, I think the "Long Island City is so far away!" bit was designed, more than anything else, as kind of an in-joke, reflecting how self-absorbed many Manhattanites are.

Anthony Foglia said...

Matt said...
The problem I had with the Kenneth reveal is that even by Tracy standards (which are, admittedly, looser than those of mere mortals), Kenneth cannot fairly to be said to be "dry and warm," have a "hard top," or a "soft bottom."

Okay, what about dry like a county, warm like 98.6 F, hard like a skull, soft like a person's bottom?

It's a stretch, taking a bit more logic than Tracy usually shows, but not too far from the type of "enigmatic clues about a secret treasure" one normally hears.

Anonymous said...

I'll try to start using 'Devil's avocado' to describe taking an opposing viewpoint.

tabernacle said...

I think it's the same word in French.

Anonymous said...

Long Island City is where 30 Rock is filmed. I think that's the joke they were going for.

dez said...

More Jackonathan!

Agreed! I love Jonathan's man-crush on Jack! And if they can bring back Ajay Naidu, that would rule.

27 comments and nobody has mentioned Geiss' "manstress"?

That line made me do a spit-take. Geiss doesn't even need a Gay Bomb to go there, apparently, heh heh.

Mark said...

In addition to "devil's avocado," I also loved the callback to one of my favorite episodes, Sandwich Day:

Jack: "I was about to do the whole run to the airport thing, like Ross did on Friends, and Liz Lemon did in real life."

Brian said...

I guess it's been the case all along, but this episode really made it clear: Jonathan is a blatant rip-off of Waylon Smithers. The difference is that Smithers, although his entire being was defined by his infatuation with Monty Burns, at least had a sort of quiet dignity in his unrequited love, whereas Jonathan is just creepy and pathetic.

belinda said...

Like one of the comments above, I thought it was a better setup of a story overall, mostly because we finally got a chance to see the writing staff in action, but the jokes weren't as laugh out loud funny.

And on Hamm:- He's been in two episodes already, so does that mean he'd just be in one more episode? And that the next one he's in, it'll be the last one?

LoopyChew said...

Nobody's pointed out the parallel shots of Geist and Elisa trying to figure out the camcorder? I kind of snickered as I realized that the last shot of Salma Hayek (in the episode, if not the season/series) was going to be on the bond between her bosom buddies.

Brian said...

I loved Liz correcting herself in the beginning just after the "I don't know why my parents listened to that doctor" when talking about what women like. "They.....We love to talk about commitment". Very subtle and funny.

Pamela Jaye said...

it just occurred to me to wonder why it is that the folks at abc thought it would be helpful to schedule Private Practice against The Last Six Episodes of ER.

CC said...

Kenneth getting tagged and th look of disgust and shock on his face and in his voice was hands doen the bets moment of the show.

LA said...

Jack and Elisa's post-coital banter was hilarious. To wit -

Elisa: "Jack, that was wonderful."

Jack: "Thank you. I watched American Masters last night. It was about Baryshnikov. I picked up a couple of ideas."

Pamela Jaye said...

alas, the Venus Butterfly was probaby not one of them

Pamela Jaye said...

Hamm's doing 3, just not 3 in a row. He'll be back a few episodes from now.

thanks for this, even though it took me till now to find it. (too bad it's *only* 3. it would be nice for him to come back from time to time - and not too hard considering AMC series air fewer eps and at different times of the year than 30 Rock. okay, I admit - he just looks great on this show.)