Friday, April 24, 2009

30 Rock, "The Ones": Puerto Rican!

Spoilers for last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I put a feather in my fedora...

"The Ones" wasn't a classic "30 Rock" episode, and it definitely suffered in comparison to the amazing half-hour of "The Office" that preceded it, but it had more than enough funny things in it to keep me satisfied.

Start with the running gag about Liz's love of the Slanket, that horrific imitation precursor to the Snuggie(*) and her constant excuses for why she was wearing it. (In particular, the very meta, "It's not product placement! I just like it!") Liz wearing a Slanket, eating a plate of cheese and singing a song about it to the tune of "Night Moves," followed by Elisa derisively asking, "Lemon, isn't there a Slanket somewhere you should be filling with your farts?" is just funny. It just is.

(*) Two Snuggie-related points. First, you absolutely must read Joe Posnanski's scene-by-scene breakdown of the original Snuggie commercial if you haven't already, and not just because I shamelessly lifted the footnote format from him. Second, when our daughter was born, my wife was steadfast that, while we'd let her watch TV, we'd try to keep her away from commercials at all costs. And for a long time, we succeeded, sticking primarily to either PBS or Disney Channel (where the only ads are for other Disney shows/movies, which we can deal with). A while back, we stumbled across a few shows on other channels that we liked, including "The Magic School Bus," and we let her watch them in spite of the commercials. Then a few months ago, it's a cold morning and my daughter asks for a blanket. I get it for her, and she says, quote, "This blanket isn't comfortable. I can't move my arms around in it. What if I have to answer the phone?" She had memorized the Snuggie commercial. So, basically, she'll be watching PBS and nothing but from now until she's 18.

Beyond that, while Salma Hayek wasn't used quite as well as in her last few appearances, they did put her in a "What the Frak?!" t-shirt, which, coupled with a poisoned Kenneth blurting out, "My real name is... Dick Whitman!!!," made the episode a kind of paradise for snooty fans of quality TV (like me!).

The Jenna subplot didn't really work for me, other than gags on the side like Kenneth, or the idea of the marginalized male writers banding together as The Pranksmen, which seems the sort of thing a bunch of Harvard-educated comedy writers might think was really cool. Jenna stories need to always have Liz or Jack featured prominently, and/or to put her together with Pete more than they did here, as her insanity's only amusing when contrasted against a relatively normal character. (Though the final scene did mock the infamous "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy..." scene from "Notting Hill.") Didn't love Tracy's story either, but at least it had Dotcom ranting about Moroccan soccer.

Definitely a "funny forgives a lot" kind of episode. What did everybody else think?

54 comments:

LA said...

Kenneth's Dick Whitman had me roaring. God, that was an awesome moment.

Tiana said...

Lemon eating a tray full of cheese at 4am, singing about the huge tray full of cheese & wearing the Slanket was all I needed to make my night a good one.

My Thursday night was even better when I saw Elisa in her shirt! I want one of those now!!!

Funny show .. not a classic, but still really funny!!

Thanks for your review!

Anonymous said...

Dick Whitman! I'd been wondering if Kenneth's complaint in an earlier episode about "taking the local" on the elevator was another Mad Men reference.

Kelly said...

The running gag about the Slanket, the cheese eating at night and the Dick Whitman thing were absolutely the funniest parts of the show.

And I'm not ashamed to admit that when Selma asked Lemon if she wanted to see her naked, I yelled very loudly "Oh hell yes!"

My husband was so proud.

Anonymous said...

I thought Salma said "Isn't there a slanket somewhere you should be filling with your parts?" I can't believe I missed one of the best jokes of the night.

Ryan Vanasse said...

I have no personal experience, but I once read a very in-depth review of four sleeved blankets, and the Slanket was reviewed as FAR superior to the Snuggie. (And I guess the "Freedom Blanket" came first, so they're both ripping off of that.

http://gizmodo.com/5190557/ultimate-battle-the-snuggie-vs-slanket-vs-freedom-blanket-vs-blankoat

Bryan said...

Dick Whitman?! -

Now it's funny - I couldn't understand what the hell he said and my family wouldn't let me go back and put on the subtitles.

Fart's in a Slanket -great - in fact that whole scene from Liz singing, then showing off her figure and then slinking back in the room to get her cheese- was terrific.

Anonymous said...

Earn this!

Nicole said...

Is there a way to get that T-shirt?

Overall, I liked this episode, and didn't mind the Jenna subplot either, especially the crazy look she gave when considering murder to get the EMS back to the set.

Anonymous said...

Alan, you've got your originations backwards on the Slanket and Snuggie. The Slanket came first!
http://gizmodo.com/5190557/ultimate-battle-the-snuggie-vs-slanket-vs-freedom-blanket-vs-blankoat

Oaktown Girl said...

Start with the running gag about Liz's love of the Slanket, that horrific imitation Snuggie(*)I could be wrong, but I thought that the Slanket was "invented" first. If so, then technically can it really qualify as a horrific imitation of a Snuggie?

Mike said...

I'm purposefully not reading Alan's post yet. I'm trying an experiment:

I loved this episode a lot. Therefore, I am predicting that Alan will not have loved it. Because Alan is the anti-me, and if we meet, we cause The Matrix or something.

christy said...

my daughter asks for a blanket. I get it for her, and she says, quote, "This blanket isn't comfortable. I can't move my arms around in it. What if I have to answer the phone?" ummmm.....that is awesome.

Jen said...

I thought this episode was another standout effort. I kept missing jokes when I was still laughing at something that had just happened. And I actually enjoyed the Jenna plotline, if only because she sang that Melissa Manchester song that reminds me of Drop Dead Gorgeous and the way she breathlessly calls 911 after Kenneth gasps "Earn this!"

All of these slanket/snuggie discussions are moot. My dad had two "snug sacks" in the 80s: blankets that were essentially sleeping bags with snaps that enabled you to create sleeves and a hood so you could lay on the couch completely encased while still giving you use of your hands to answer the phone and wield the remote. I expect to see someone ripping off this idea any day now.

Alan Sepinwall said...

ummmm.....that is awesome.

I can tell you right now that, as her father, it was decidedly not awesome. If she's falling for the Snuggie campaign so easily, what else will she believe in if it's put on television in front of her?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Fair point on Snuggie vs. Slanket, guys. Snuggie just has better market penetration, I guess.

Nicole said...

I also love how most of the clips of Tracy taking off his shirt were Tracy Morgan clips and not Tracy Jordan.

http://gawker.com/5226079/tracy-morgan-shirtless-fact-or-fiction

Tosy And Cosh said...

I've been telling my now-five-year olds, since they were old enough to watch TV that "commercials are bad because they make you want to buy things," a point they repeat all the time. And, given that pretty much all the TV they watch is on DVR, we've also taught them how to skip commercials.

Anonymous said...

Alan,

You brought up kids television, and I've been wondering your thoughts on kids shows.

As a parent of two young girls, there's a fair amount of Disney channel and Nickelodeon on in our house. I actually think a couple of the shows (Drake and Josh, Life With Derek, Spongebob of course) are funny, while others are just painful (Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Wizards of Waverly Place among too many others).

Granted, the "comedy" is aimed at a much easier to please audience than parents, but I've wondered for awhile what thoughts you had, if any, on some of the kid shows that might pop up in your house.

Given how much TV you watch, you may go out of your way to NOT see any of these shows, but do you have any likes/dislikes/general thoughts -- from the perspective of a TV Critic, or just as a parent -- on which kids shows are at least mildly entertaining to watch?

And, to not completely hijack this thread, thanks for clearing up what Kenneth said as he fainted...I totally missed that it was "Dick Whitman".

Also, I hope this is the last we see of Salma Hayek. She's just not very funny at all. But she did look awfully good in the "what the frak?" shirt.

Andrew said...

If the NY Times is correct, the Slanket did come before the Snuggie. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/27/business/media/27adco.html?scp=1&sq=slanket&st=cse

Funny forgives a lot. Salma Hayek in a BSG t-shirt forgives even more.

Nicole said...

Growing up without a DVR exposed me to a great deal of commercials, so I did get entranced by many of the Ron Popeil products. I feel as though I would have missed out on something not knowing about the Flobee or the Spray On Hair. And since I didn't have money to spend on these items, no actual harm was done.

Joe said...

The use of Bryan Williams was well done.

In fact all of the gags "worked" they just didn't fit very well. It lacked a good flow within the story.

And yes, it did suffer by following the best Office episode of the season.

Word Verification: Bings (what the children of Monica and Chandler are called)

ZeppJets said...

As the show has evolved from mostly satire to a more character driven comedy, its affinity for politically incorrect material has stayed. I sometimes fear that this will lead it down the road of self-congratulatory, unnecessarily mean jokes that fill up lesser shows (looking at you Family Guy)..... But damned if I didn't spit up a drink laughing at "How can you be so quiet when your parades are so loud?"

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if Friedlander, Adsit, and the rest of the supporters actually have formed some kind of fedora-ed club to keep themselves occupied. Pete's good for a line each week, and Frank got that Lithgow episode a while back; but this the first time we heard Tofer speak in how many months?

Owen said...

This was one of my favorite episodes so far this season, so I probably liked it more than you did, Alan.

I thought the Jenna storyline was one of her best ever. For some reason taking her narcissism to it's evil conclusion was hilarious to me. (Or maybe it's just anything with Pete in it?)

I of course loved the Frak t-shirt.

And Tina Fey seems shamelessly intent on holding on to her streak of top-10 rankings in the AfterEllen Hot 100 list.

But the best line of the night. The funniest thing of any kind I think I've heard in 2009 is Liz Lemon alone in her apartment, in her slanket, eating cheese, and singing "workin' on my night cheese". That makes me laugh out loud every time I think about it. It is so amazing and perfect. (It shouldn't need to be said, but I am laughing with her, not at her. I am her.)

For me, this was a season-2-worthy episode.

So Cal said...

"Working on my night cheese..."

God, I love Tina Fey!

Elena said...

On kids shows, I love Dora the Explorer, too cool for words.

Steve Wirzba said...

Besides everything already mentioned, I particularly enjoyed the 1.4-second look we got of Frank's "fedora"-lettered hat while his accomplices were wearing actual fedoras.

Tyroc said...

I couldn't make out the Dick Whitman line either. A bummer too, because I would've loved it.

As for letting little ones watch commercials. I know my sister tried to keep hers from watching them for years, and then started leting them watch Nick. And the first week they saw commercials, they wanted to buy everything! but they got used to commercials and now barely notice them. like all the other kids.

Oaktown Girl said...

If she's falling for the Snuggie campaign so easily, what else will she believe in if it's put on television in front of her?I can tell you first hand how important it is to discuss advertising with your children rather than try to isolate them from it. An ex-boyfriend of mine grew up with no TV and never watched TV in college. He was a total dupe for all kinds of TV advertising simply because he'd never been exposed to it before, and this was an otherwise very smart guy.

And PBS is no safe haven either. If you don't openly discuss those sponsors as well, your kid will grow up thinking multi-national petroleum corporations are the most generous and benevolent entities on the planet.

Melissa said...

My favorite quote was from Dotcom: "There's no judging when your brainstorming, Tracy".

All in all, I thought it was a good episode. My husband was snoring on the couch (his review of the episode, perhaps?) so I missed what Kenneth said his real name was. Hilarious.

And Alan, my 5-almost 6-year old has been doing the same thing (Identifying my sister's Aqua Globe, as an Aqua Globe and informing her that she would never have to remember to water her plants again was my wake up call to put an end to the commercial watching!)

Amy said...

Event though the punchline was shirtless, I wish they had worked in a shot of Tracy Morgan wearing a Snuggie on Jimmy Falon earlier this year

Jenn said...

I missed the Dick Whitman joke! I'll have to rewatch on Hulu for that. The episode was a bit underwhelming for me, but I think that's because I was still basking in The Office glow.

On the subject of commercials, my 4-year-old son's Christmas list included:

- Snuggie
- Bendaroos
- Blendy Pens
- Pancake Puffs

We've switched back to Disney and PBS for the time being, but I second the request for Alan's thoughts on Children's TV.

Melissa said...

ACK! That should be "There's no judging when YOU'RE brainstorming, Tracy". I can't believe I did that!

Stephanie said...

In addition to the Dick Whitman and Slanket jokes, I enjoyed the bit about the celebrity department of 911.

This wasn't as funny for me as other episodes, but it was still amusing.

Grammy said...

Maggie And the Ferocious Beast
Toot And Puddle

Come on Alan, with the state of prime time today, it's time to start bloggin' Noggin :)

hot breakfast said...

Like Nicole mentioned earlier, I thought the whole thing with Tracy taking off his shirt and the real life clips of Tracy Morgan taking off his shirt was brilliant.

It almost makes me wonder if some of that wasn't purposely carried out, in real life, by Mr. Morgan just for this joke.

Anonymous said...

We got our kids started early on Bullwinkle, WB cartoons and the Marx Brothers. The library is a great resource for DVDs if you aren't interested in buying boxed sets, and you can get the kids started on good, commercial-free fun!

BH said...

I can't believe nobody has mentioned the Phil Spector joke yet...That was both hilarious and slighty disturbing at the same time.

Alf said...

Argh, I'm another one who didn't understand Kenneth saying "Dick Whitman." I know his throat was closing in on him, but come on!

Theresa said...

Is NBC plugging ABC shows now? Tonight's 20/20 is called "The Black Widow."

Number Five said...

When Kenneth said, "my real name is Dick Whitman," I roared so loudly that my cat jumped off my lap, drawing some blood on my leg. But you know what, it was totally worth it. The greatest conceivable Mad Men reference this show could have done. The BSG shirt wasn't even really a sight gag since they didn't do anything with it, but like Alan said, it was a great episode for fans of critically acclaimed cable TV series.

I think this just comes down to liking Jenna or not, but I thought her storyline was hilarious. Maybe she's been paired with Tracy one too often, but she was fine with Kenneth, and Pete's legitimate fear that she was a sociopath was well played. And more than any of the other supporting players, she matches Tina Fey's fearlessness in doing absolutely anything with her character for a laugh, just with narcissism/ignorance instead of self-loathing/pathetic-ness.

I also loved Dot Com's continued wounded intellect (being judged during brainstorming AND getting no love for his Tangiers/Lion scheme). It's a good thing that dancer doesn't mind that he has to be the smartest person in the room.

Finally, I think Salma Hayek has been hit or miss, but they actually could have done more with her being hot and cold not just to Jack but to Liz. Maybe they didn't want to repeat the Emily Mortimer storyline from season 1, but since that was so funny, I wouldn't have minded more of that here.

And the Merry Pranksmen...and the cheese song...and the REAL showroom...I don't know, this one felt like a classic to me.

Sara said...

Question....

Was that Zach Braff in the cut away scene with the Latin song about the Black Widow?

Nicole said...

I thought it was Zach Braff too.

As for the shirtless Tracey Morgan, I know that some of th3 incidents occurred in 2007 so they probably worked in that "trait" as a result of TM's propensity to bare his chest.

The full clips of his appearance on WGN as well as the Texas El Paso station are well worth googling.

Paul Rinkes said...

My wife made me rewind it, because she was confident it was Braff as well. "It's the kind of thing he'd do," she said.

Toby O'B said...

Has anybody translated the Spanish song about Elisa? Were the lyrics a joke as well, or was it all just in the visual?

Speaking of funny but disturbing, I laughed/cringed at the line about Liz's grandfather at Kent State.

I watched this alone, and laughed loud and hard over and over again throughout the episode. The whole thing clicked for me, and I'd rank it as one of the best of the season.

I especially loved the interplay between Liz and Elisa.

I wish I had my own band of Merry Pranksmen to hang with....

Toby O'B said...

Sorry for double-posting....

I also didn't catch the Dick Whitman line and I also thought Elisa said "parts" instead of "farts". For some reason, I still find "parts" funnier. "Farts" is too easy.

Sometimes I think that the people making these shows are so familiar with the script already that when lines are somewhat inaudible, they don't hear the problem; their memories are filling in the blanks.

Anonymous said...

I just want to know where I can buy the BSG shirt!!!!!

Rand said...

This episode was a bit hit and miss for me, like most of the Elisa story-line, but overall I liked it a good amount because Selma Hayek's Elisa matched Alec Baldwin's Jack very well. What I mean by that is, whereas Jack is the wealthy macho business man taken to the extreme. Elisa works well as a highly feminine (in the classically stereotypical sense, body-wise, feelings about love wise, religiosity, mood-swings, etc.). So I will miss Elisa (on the other hand it might let Jack get back to hanging out with his GE buddies, which always has potential).

Yet what also bugs me a bit about this episode is that it's already been established that most of the people in Jack's life are high-functioning psychopath's (this episode showing Jenna to be the exception that proves the rule (although overall I'd say I wasn't displeased as much as her taking her naricissm to the extreme as how she drew back so easily. While I didn't want her to let Kenneth die (at least in prank-world (by the way, Fedora's (and hats with Fedora on it) - always awesome (especially since my work is forcing me to become a Linux guru))), her proof-of-non-psycho-ness be ambiguous, like perhaps confessing, but only because she thought she saw the EMT's already pull up (also loved the EMT running out after stealing pens (also loved Lutz getting greviously hurt and Frank saying we almost lost a monitor))

But if these complaints seem many it is only because of the massive potential. And indeed, I will shortly rewatch the episode, to revel in its highly funny hits even if its misses remain. Also, I need to keep this episode vivid in my mind for work tomorrow, since one of my coworkers wears a slanket (or a derivative), and one mentioned getting a snuggie recently, and I must make fun of them while wishing I had a slanket while remembering I'm always warm in the office while they're oddly cold perpetually while remembering my long-ago past when I always wrapped myself in a blanket while remembering the inevitable conclusion of that life-style, where your blanket becomes so encrusted with various foodstuffs that those who love you snatch it away and hide it in the basement. Alack!

chrissie said...

Everyone's hit on my favorite lines, so I'll post a question (and sorry for being dense): I haven't seen season 2 of Mad Men yet, so is "Earn this" also a MM reference?

Anonymous said...

"Everyone's hit on my favorite lines, so I'll post a question (and sorry for being dense): I haven't seen season 2 of Mad Men yet, so is "Earn this" also a MM reference?"

Actually, I believe that "earn this" was a Saving Private Ryan reference.

Brian said...

Alan, thanks for the Joe P. link on the Snuggie shot-by-shot. If you're interested, Malcolm Gladwell did a profile of Ron Popeil a while back that includes an academic deconstruction of the infomercial format and the tactics they use and how they originated. Interesting read.

http://www.gladwell.com/2000/2000_10_30_a_pitchman.htm

Anonymous said...

Slanket, Dick Whitman, Night Cheese, all funny; but, I laughed the hardest at Tracy's responds to Jack's, "My fiancé murdered her ex-husband when he cheated on her" with a calm and subdued, "Continue".

Norm N. Conquest said...

Not the exact same shirt, but:
http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts-apparel/unisex/popculture/9ed0/?cpg=ab
Being able to wear it as well as Salma does is a whole different Google search.

Anonymous said...

jenna's confusion after getting sucked into the trick was classic: "i knew it!...no, really, what's going on?"

same for her singing in the doorway of pete's office. very typical jenna, but high quality stuff nonetheless.