Friday, March 06, 2009

30 Rock, "Good-Bye, My Friend": Malarkey! Malarkey!

Quick spoilers for last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I go to Burning Man...

Because "30 Rock" always has so much going on, and because the punchlines fly by so fast, I never feel like I completely wasted my time watching an episode. But a few good punchlines (Jack's recollection about why his dad would occasionally come back, Tracy talking about being born in Yankee Stadium, Liz chewing out Tim the baby daddy) aside, this one felt really flat.

I think the ideas behind two of the stories (Liz/Becca and Jack/Frank) were fine, but they needed to be taken further. Liz needed to become more monstrous and manipulative before being guilted back to reality by John Lithgow, and I think the writers could have taken Jack and Frank's new friendship, and Jack recreating the "Harry and the Hendersons" climax, to more ridiculous extremes than they did. It felt like both stories were almost there, but needed one more pass through the script.

I'm not sure the Tracy/Jenna plot would have worked no matter how many rewrites it got. With a few exceptions like the weight-gain arc from last season, Jenna's such a one-note character that she only works in small doses, popping in to comment on other people's stories. Watching her pout about other people stealing focus from her gets tiresome, quickly.

Ah, well. Can't win 'em all, and at least Josh appeared (briefly) for the first time in a long time.

What did everybody else think?


Mel said...

I agree. This was the first time this season I've been so completely disappointed in an episode. The only laughs I got were during Patti Lupone's scene, and that's mostly because Patti always makes me laugh. And what a waste of THAT potential! Oh, well. Can't win 'em all, I guess.

Brian said...

I think this exposed the problem with 30 Rock - it may entertain with funny lines and wacky characters, but sometimes the story lines just don't work.

The "birthday wish" was just bizarre. And why all of a sudden return to Liz's adoption process? It just seemed a little off kilter, but they still had some moments that cracked me up.

apindara said...

I too agree.
Pretty weak episode.

The birthday party scene was something you would see at a much lower quality comedy show.

Oh well, maybe next week.

Myles said...

I shouldn't have liked this episode: it ripped off both "Succession" and the season premiere something fierce, and you're quite right in identifying the fact that it never took things to a point where either storyline felt even the least bit, well, worthwhile.

But I so like the basic direction of both Liz and Jack, the former's moral code slipping away with her madness and Jack trying to rescue people from their sad middle class existences, that I had fun anyways.

I'm also a total sucker for a point wherein everything comes full circle - contrived as it is, it keeps any storyline from feeling tangential.

Well, except Tracy and Jenna. That was never being fixed.

Bryan said...

Didn't care for it much either it was like a small college production ("Okay, we've got Lithgow it'eel be funny if he just walks around the building and can't find his way out!")

I think the problem is this show - any show for that matter - works better if there's somebody sane to play against the insanity. Other than a few minutes of Pete this show didn't have that. With Tina Fey making herself increasingly more wacky we need a Drew or Elisa to balance things out.

Anonymous said...

Last two episodes.... yuck!! Combined with the "Will & Grace" guest star of the week start of the season, I would say more episodes than not have disappointed. Despite this, I will bet Tina's and Alec's popularity within the industry will still net the show an undeserved Best Comedy Emmy.

Gladly said...

I thought the show made excellent use of Patti Lupone: Alec Baldwin has spent a lot of this series getting slapped around by Broadway divas.

All cleaned up, Frank reminds me of a mini-Penn Gillette. That's not a good thing.

I agree that the episode felt very strange in timing, almost like it was aired out of order. I still laughed at parts of it so I can never say that I'm genuinely disappointed. It's just missing that spark that makes me want to watch it over again.

Anonymous said...

Liz is reminding me more and more of Elaine Benes, despite their opposing views on childbearing. She's always been a bit daffy, but I think it's become harder to empathize with her this season. Callousness worked really well for her in the high school reunion episode, but it makes her seem childish in other contexts like the Jon Hamm plot and this one. Liz is supposed to be pathetic, not amoral. She used to express remorse--mostly for getting called out on her selfishness, but it was there, and it made her wackiness seem more human.

Robin said...

This was one of the first 30R's that I didn't like at all. There were a few good lines, but all in all, I barely cracked a smile.

I hate the Liz adoption story line. It would be one thing if they were playing it somewhat normally, but the way Liz is behaving, I have no sympathy for her not being able to adopt. Maybe that's the point of the storyline, but to me it just makes her character unappealing and annoying.

And yes, a little Jenna goes a LONG way.

Evie Garland said...

I guess you naysayers are not the rabid H&tH fan I am. The fact that even showed that much of the movie made me giggle. And I never thought I'd say this, but Alec Baldwin's George Henderson was spot on!! Perhaps I am just easy to please....

Julie said...

Boy, am I in the minority. This was the first episode in a while that had me laughing out loud consistently, and not just at Jack. I know my love of this ep is due in part to both Salma exhaustion and complete glee over the return of the writers, but I also thought the writing was totally solid. Lutz's delivery of "Dead." alone sold me.

MCB said...

I didn't love this episode either -- I agree with the second anonymous that Liz is becoming harder to sympathize with. I think Liz works better as the sympathetic straight man in this crazy ensemble, both because the rest of the characters are so extreme and we kind of need that straight man, and because then it makes it more fun and surprising when Liz goes a little nuts. Oh well, they can't all be winners.

Jim said...

The whole Liz-adoption thing is just boring. I thought it was a send up of a sitcom cliché, now it just feels like a sitcom cliché with a surreal twist to the writing.
Even thought I really liked the movie, I did like the snarking on Juno.
Lithgow's first appearance ("someone just watched Garp") worked, the second, not so much.

Anonymous said...

The cheese friend outshines all. Think I'll go make one.

floretbroccoli said...

OK. So Elaine Stritch plays Jack's mother, Anita Gillette plays Liz's mother, and now Patti Lupone plays Frank's.

Are we working up to "Mothers: The Musical"?

Maggie said...

All cleaned up, Frank reminds me of a mini-Penn Gillette. That's not a good thing.
Yes! And the scary part is I thought that every time he appeared, and had to remind myself who he was.

I was okay with the episode up to when Jack pushed Frank away. I got the connection to Harry, but it just seemed overly cruel and unnecessary. I kinda liked the idea of Frank becoming Jack's pet project, and think it might have been interesting to let it play out for a few episodes.

Ryan said...

I think it's increasingly looking like 30 Rock is less of a narrative show and more like just a series of jokes (some funny, some not). It's more like a sketch show, almost. Usually, like you said, if I get a couple of laughs out of it, I'm satisfied.

But even when viewed through that lens, this episode felt a bit lazy. I think the part I laughed at the hardest was the actual ending of Harry and the Hendersons.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the above poster Julie - this was a return to form for 30 Rock!

I'm surprised people found the 'birthday wish' scene bizarre as that is what I loved most about it. Maybe you just need to like this sense of humor to enjoy that scene, but the complete absurdity of 'eating breakfast in bed with robocop while a purple elephant paints a picture of it' (or something to that effect) is awesome. I agree the Lutz "dead." comment is so spot ont.

What made it great (for me and my boyfriend - who I hope isn't reading this!) was that it had the cast mingling again. It wasn't Jack and Liz's crazy adventures outside the office. It was their very real problems taken to another level. And I loved how John Lithgow popped in near the end. I like that he wasn't some random character like Jennifer Aniston, but clearly re-inforced the Harry and the Hendersons thing. It kind of made me think of the Iraq War parallel episode. The last couple of episodes have been funny, but for me, not on the level of season two. It was so nice to see the absurdity return.

DolphinFan said...

This was a good episode. It was clever the way that the Harry and the Hendersons material played back into Jack and Frank's interaction, nice for the show to illustate that Frank isn't stupid, fun in the way Lutz continued to be an ideal punching bag, and kind of brilliant in using the Jenna-Tracy storyline to show that for all his faults Tracy is a sweet person undereath his bluster while Jenna is even more disgusting than her unappetizing persona suggests.
And most of all, no Salma Hayek. If Jon Hamm does return and Salma doesn't, 30 Rock may yet finish this season strongly.

Andrew said...

I thought structurally, this episode worked better than some of the other weak ones from this season, since the Jack/Frank and Liz plots were thematically connected-- each of them searching for an adoptive child, but pushing someone away to be who they're supposed to be.

But there is something very disconcerting about seing Judah Friedlander cleaned up and in a suit sans hat.

Karen said...

I actually thought your spoiler intro was going to be "while I go make a cheese friend." Ah, well.

I loved the cheese friend.

No, it wasn't a great episode. But, as Alan notes, there's enough going on in any given episode to keep me from being entirely unhappy.

And it was nice to have so much of Scott Adsit again.

Number Five said...

It did feel a bit "Office-ized" with fewer craziness and more dramatic content (to the extent that's possible in the 30 Rock universe). Like several episodes this season, it was missing that final push to take it over the top, but it was still very funny.

I'm not disappointed they keep returning to Baby Mama territory because it's a very fertile (pun intended) area for Tina Fey and she played it very well. I cracked up at the way she said "go on" when Becca complimented her parenting potential.

Best moment: Liz's rant to Tim. The return of nut up, Goonies face, Burning Man, disposable cameras at weddings...excellent.

I liked the continued role of the 24 hour donut shop in Liz's life.

The Jenna stuff was the weakest, but it did have good moments, especially Dot Com mentioning his birthday and how Kenneth described the party in the worst possible way: "You'll split everything, even the attention!" I agree they haven't used her very well recently, which makes her seem like a one-note character, but she's really just a more vain, less insane version of Tracy. I think she could be used a lot more if they gave her different storylines.

Jennifer J. said...

Loved the Cheese Man.

Fave quote was at the 24-hour donut shop: You have crazy eyes/you have shut up mouth! My husband and I have been quoting that to each other ever since.

I have to say I've been a proud card-carrying member of the I have never and want never to see Harry and the Hendersons ever Club. 30 Rock ruined that for me. Plus, it made husband gleeful that I had to watch it. Bad husband!

Tyroc said...

I think this is my least favorite episode ever (despite a few small laughs.)

It really felt like a mess to me.

And the Liz story confused me. Isn't she dating and sleeping with hunky Jon Hamm? Wouldn't she at least be considering having a baby with him one day?

Anonymous said...

And here I thought when I saw the picture before the episode,"Why would Subway Jared be on the show and in a suit?"

--bad dad

"axeminc" - Jason Voorhies' first corporate venture.

Pamela Jaye said...

that was it! Garp! I knew there was another reference (to a movie I'd actually seen) and couldn't remember. I liked that scene.

I also saw H&TH (and I really don't watch a lot of movies. Oddly, I don't have the patience for something that's twice as long as TV but when it's over it won't be back next week) when I was married - we loved it and that's all I remember. Also saw a bit of the series. It stunk of course. I also saw Garp (it was one of those periods of my life when the people I hung out with liked going to the movies) and... I don't remember. It may have had a point I didn't get. I was young. (trust me, I was fairly innocent even at 22)

I loved Jenna's dress, agree that Liz should stick to pathetic. It makes me feel empathetic towards her. Like Willow, I can relate.

I still don't even know the names of all the writers and I wish there was more writing taking place. but perhaps that would be as unfunny as Studio 60 (any word on that Facebook movie, now that I care?)

I wish that Jenna could be something *other than* a joke. Was she ever anything else on Ally? I know Ally once nailed her - to her face - telling her she had to be the center of attention and that that made Ally feel sorry for her.

This woman is not getting a lot of "range" on TV. (though her Janis Jimplin" - I loved that. Still not range. they need to give an SNL like character for TGS (and what a crappy show name that is))

I like to look at Jane. It would be nice if I had a good reason to. I'm not expecting any real growth, so perhaps a very different character on TGS would help.

Anonymous said...

ugh. did people really like this ep? good actors cannot compensate for thin storylines and bad jokes.

the writing was SO bad on this show.

and tina fey playing the "i'm white, what's up yo!" card has worn embarrassingly thin. more generally, the asides have a "wink-nudge" dullness that reminds me of bad Simpsons, almost like they were written by ivy league clowns entirely too impressed with their own cleverness.

at least conchords & eastbown are bringing something interesting (& funny) to the mix

Anonymous said...

Who played Becca? For some reason I can't find this information anywhere.