Friday, December 11, 2009

30 Rock, "Secret Santa": Moore holiday spirit

A review of last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I tell you that I'm really blonde and have a urinary tract infection...

It didn't offer anything as hiccup-inducingly hilarious as last week's filming of the "Dealbreakers" opening credits. But "Secret Santa" offered, like the identically-titled "Office" episode that preceded it, a showcase for virtually the entire cast, and some more tender holiday spirit.

With the exception of the absent Grizz and Dotcom, all the usually minor characters had their moment: Pete's delight at getting holiday vengeance on Jenna, the writers trying to get out of Kenneth's horrible Secret Santa scheme, Danny finally learning sarcasm (and Cheyenne Jackson getting to show off his Broadway leading man pipes), Cerie schooling Liz and Jack on social media, and Jonathan getting territorial about Liz's place in the Jack Donaghy gift-giving circle.

But what really carried the show - more than those little grace notes for the second bananas, or sight gags like Kenneth as Godzilla stomping on the Christmas village, or meta jokes like Liz pointing out the continuity problems with Jack's high school theater career versus the crippling stage fright he demonstrated in season one's "Jack-Tor" - was Alec Baldwin's performance opposite Julianne Moore(*) as Jack's old high school crush Nancy Donovan.

(*) Okay, New Englanders past and present: thoughts on Moore's accent? And on Baldwin's during the brief Rockefeller Center scene where Jack slipped it back on?

Though "30 Rock" is, for the most part, content to be a live-action cartoon where the characters' feelings matter much less than their role in some ridiculous plot, the show does on occasion (usually at holiday time) take Jack and/or Liz's feelings seriously. And Baldwin was great at showing a hopeful, smitten but still cautious Jack Donaghy. There were plenty of jokes hung on this story (most of them involving Liz, Cerie and Jonathan), but sometimes it's just nice to watch Jack try to be happy.

What did everybody else think?

58 comments:

Terri said...

Her Boston accent was horrible. And no self-respecting Bostonian calls it Beantown. I realize it was a song in their musical, but still.....

jeffrey said...

i equated the 'overly stereotypical' boston accent to kenneth's type of southern character. accuracy is set aside to actually poke fun at ourselves for buying into these stereotypes.

i did appreciate the continuity of liz's jacked up haircut from the last episode. similar to the back of ron swanson's head after tom 'peppered' him [to borrow a phrase from dick cheney].

JLConCapeCod said...

As a Bostonian who spent 5 years in Brooklyn - the accent was confusing - broad Boston with harsh Brooklyn-Lawng-Giland twang. And if she was supposed to come from Southie - the hair was WAY TOO SMALL.

Stealth said...

Hollywood needs to stop with the Boston accent thing. If you weren't born with it you'll never have it.

Of course, like many Bostonians, in fact probably the majority, I wasn't born with one, and it's not necessary for every actor portraying a Bostonian to attempt, badly, to affect one.

bitingsarcasm said...

what about Moore's classic line (which I may mess up slightly, but a risk worth taking for an amazing quote):
I thought you'd be married to some dark-haired woman who says queer stuff like 'dressing on the side.'

Matthew said...

Line of the season so far:

"Weird...in a good way. Like going to the gym drunk."

jeffrey said...

i think the southie-boston accent is the new foot in the door to an oscar nomination [e.g. good will hunting, mystic river (pronounced riv-ah), gone baby gone, and departed].

maybe southie will replace holocaust as an oscar shoo-in ricky gervais highlighted in extras with kate winslet [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEnjiGwVw6o].

Justin said...

I'll comment on this episode as soon as I change my relationship status to "weirdsies"...

Chazz Goodtimes said...

I really enjoyed this episode, particularly the fake holiday invented by Lutz, Toufer and Frank. It was surprising to see Tracy end up being the moral voice in that story line. My favorite part was Hornbergers line about Christmas Revenge.

I grew up in RI and have been living in Boston for the past 6 years and I can never get over ridiculously sensitive people are about hollywood doing Boston accents. Moore's was fine- a little over the top for comedic purposes but certainly recognizeable as a Boston accent (I think she went to BU actually so its not like she's never heard a real one). Not that it matters- she could have nailed it and people would still be posting how inauthentic it was.

Baldwin's was fine as well- although he's had more practice with The Departed and Outside Providence.

christy said...

"Okay, New Englanders past and present: thoughts on Moore's accent?"

Honestly at first I thought she was doing Little Edie Beale. (Which jibes with JLC's reaction, too). Once I figured out it was meant to be Boston, it didn't bother me much because it was clearly way over the top by design.

Oh man, I just adore Maulik Pancholy and I felt vindicated by how awesome he was in this episode. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one so disappointed when I see he's been replaced by some blurry silhouette. Love.

Robin said...

I enjoyed this episode of 30Rock more than any this year. Great one-liners, great running gag with the alternate holiday, and Liz and Jack actually seemed human, rather than walking caricatures.

I found Julianne Moore distracting more than anything. That accent wasn't just unauthentic. It was BAD. I didn't realize until halfway through the episode she was from Boston...I started off thinking she must have been a Scottish transfer student.

jeffrey said...

sorry 30 rock, but verdukia [sp?] will never live up to festivus.

anyone up for some feats of strength?

Mike said...

I particularly liked the musings on faith--Kenneth's crisis of fate was resolved by an intentional act by Liz, which also made Julianne Moore's character give Jack another chance at that kiss (but no tongue, that's for Italians!)

Mike said...

And Julianne Moore's accent seemed to suffer from what I like to call the Sipowicz Effect: Parts of New York, Boston, and Chicago accents (and after all, there's multiple accents in those cities) are often combined on TV either for effect or due to the limitations of the actors. Although this is a rare example of it happening outside of a cop show.

Erik said...

I'm from Boston. I love Julianne Moore in general but I have to agree that I didn't even know what accent she was doing for a minute. It was terrible. The Boston came out at times, but I agree with a previous commenter who heard various New York accents in there, too.

I thought it was a fun episode in general, though, definitely made me laugh.

Kendra said...

The accent was just distracting, it was too all over, as posted before it was like Boston, Brooklyn, with a little Long Island thrown in for effect.

I felt it took away from the scenes since when she was talking it was just so distracting.

Sarah said...

Yeah, the accident was really, really bad. What was so distracting about it was how labored it was.

But then, almost nobody gets the accent right, not even Sean Penn.

cadfile said...

Larry Wilcox's cameo at the very end was a highlight for me especially the tweak at "Dancing with the stars"

And forgive me but some one needs to punch Jenna in the face really - her needy paranoia was way too much this week and is getting tired. I might like her diva act if she had some talent.

debbie said...

But then, almost nobody gets the accent right, not even Sean Penn.

I'm a total Midwestern/Chicago person, and I have no idea what a real any-kind-of-East Coast-accent sounds like; so I have to ask: how was Amy Ryan's accent in "Gone Baby Gone"?

Bobman said...

The problem, as with most accents, is that she went too over-the-top with it. Very few people, even the townie Southie folks, sound like that, especially into their 40's and beyond. I feel like most actors would be fine if they just toned it down. For a comedy show like 30 Rock that may have kind of been the joke, but for the more serious roles out there I just don't understand why they have to make it so glaringly obvious.

Even Ben and Matt in Good Will Hunting; obviously they are both local and know what the accent is like, but they pretty blatantly overdid it for that movie for effect.

angryrunner said...

Is Julianne Moore a big enough draw at this point to justify casting her over someone who could do a passable Boston accent?

I mean, yikes.

Though in all fairness, I think part of the problem with a Boston accent in particular is that its phonetically not *that* far off from a NY accent (both are non rhotic), yet really different and hard to hit authentically. Plus, Southie is to Boston as Brooklyn is to NY (at least stereotypically): its supposed to be a bit...harsher? So its hard to hit it without being over the top.

Jack said...

The accent was cringe-inducing for me, and I don't even have any strong ties to the city. Attended school there for four years, though, so I have the accent and mannerisms down.

My feeling is that people tend to overdo the accent - it's nahwt theeah except awn certain wuhds.

Chazz Goodtimes said...

I would love to have someone cast an actor who was born and raised in South Boston in a role that required a Boston accent- but then modify their IMDB page to say the person was born and raised in the mid-west.

I guarantee that message boards would be flooded with supposed native New Englanders ripping the actors accent.

To reiterate my point above- Moore's accent was probably hammed up for comedic purposes and honestly if you didn't figure out she was supposed to be from Boston or if her accent's authenticity really deterred your enjoyment of the episode I suspect you're overthinking things.

אורי said...

"And forgive me but some one needs to punch Jenna in the face really - her needy paranoia was way too much this week and is getting tired. I might like her diva act if she had some talent."

Usually I can take it or leave it, but in this episode she was what I enjoyed most. The nosebleeding bit was my faovrite gag.

Overall I'd rate this episode far below last week's, but slightly above average for this medicore season.

As for Julianna Moore's accent, I assumed it was over-the-top for comedic purposes, but it looks like it failed to amuse everyone who isn't me, and also, me. If you'll allow me a regression to shallowness for a second, she is absolutely gorgeous though, those cheek bones are marvelous.

Michael G. said...

I'm an ignorant Southerner, so I thought Moore's accent was amusing. Then again, it's entirely possible they asked her to do a terrible Boston accent.

Mariana said...

Watching the episode now on demand...and I am glad to see people agree that the Boston accent is horrible!! I cant even listen to her...they should have scratched that idea...it's killing me!! Ughh she's talking right now and I cant take it haha

I do love the new guys voice however!

Terri said...

how was Amy Ryan's accent in "Gone Baby Gone"?

I thought Amy Ryan did a decent job in Gone Baby Gone.

paul said...

Chazz Goodtimes: there was no "hamming" up the accent. It was an inaccurate portrayal (at least orally/aurally) of *any* form of Boston accent. Granted, some of her words came out OK sounding, but you would never find someone with a mainly Boston accent saying some of the words she said the way she said them.

Let me put it this way: Fourteen hours after the show is over, I'm here on the internet googling Julianne Moore boston accent just to see what other people are saying. Clearly, there was something awkward about it.

I honestlay don't understand why some people think those with Boston accents pronounce their hometown "Bahstin." It's like these people are colorblind, but with sounds. Or they're tone deaf, with accents. You're NOT imitating the way Bostonians talk.

Anyway, rant over. It detracted from the show in such a minor way. Still great show overall. But I just had to get my thoughts on the accent out there.

Jeff said...

I can't believe the bad accent wasn't intentional. Julianne Moore is a pretty awesome actress and I can't imagine she can't do a decent Boston accent; this seemed intentionally over the top to me.

I thought the episode was hysterical - the social networking terminalogy was just on the nose - YouFace. "Phollo - it's a combination photo and hello" the fingertag (so close to the line without going over...) and Cerie's "I'll check her facevault to see her previous bing-bangs."

(Of course, "fingertag" and "bing-bang" meld in ones -- or at least my -- head to become... well...)

God, Fey is awesome.

And when did Jonathan start hating Liz?

Anonymous said...

I was impressed by Danny's off-tune singing more than his actual singing. When someone else is singing in tune, the natural tendency is to match them.

Anonymous said...

And when did Jonathan start hating Liz?

Hasn't Jonathan always felt threatened by Liz, and her special relationship with Jack?

LA said...

I thought Moore's Boston accent was better than Baldwin's.

RJ said...

Moore's was terrible. Sounded more New York than Boston to me. Baldwin's was better.

Katie said...

My favorite part:

"I'm sorry, is your nose bleeding?"

"Yes, because I'm so happy for you. It's definitely not a rage stroke."

abc said...

What was that story that Liz wrote? About a woman named Virginia and her two paths? I thought that was the funniest line of the show and now I can't remember it.

J said...

Wow, Bostoners have a great sense of humor about over-the-top manglings of an accent on a comedy show! Who'da thunk?

Thought Moore was wicked good. Baldwin does so well playing off serious actresses; the emotional core was kept cool so the throwaway lines and ridiculous accent could keep the comedy away from their relationship. It really is too bad they tore down that old factory.

paulina said...

Like most others here, I'm a Boston area native who thought her accent was terrible. I honestly had no idea she was even trying to do a Boston accent until she explicitly said something about being from Boston.

There's a big difference between "over the top" and "just plain bad." If the intent was to be over the top, the accent still would have been accurate, but just very exaggerated. That's not what this was - she was pronouncing words in ways that don't exist in any version of a true Boston accent.

erin said...

I haven't watched 30 Rock at all this season, because i've been trying to pare down my tv (I know! Crazy!), but due to Alan's enjoyment of this ep, I gave it a watch.

Holy crap. I think Fey and Baldwin's interactions are comedy gold pretty much every time they're on screen together. I watched "Deal Breakers" after it, and it's true. When Liz tries to tell Jack she's going to smoke him in the creativity department with their gift giving, and then can't even come up with one creative line, I was practically crying. She's so awesome.

I enjoyed the b-story (and c-story) more than usual, and loved the secret santa bit. I just had a secret santa book swap last night, and we were seriously debating (with voting) the rules for the swap. It was amazing how much energy we put into it.

I think I might be back on the 30 Rock bandwagon! Dang.

Oh, and I thought Moore was delightful, and I thought her accent was supposed to be deliberately bad. It made me laugh, and that's all I care about!

Mike said...

You know what I found distracting -- who works in an office like that? SO unbelievable. I kept having to not watch the episode, because of my expertise on all things television-work-place-related. I mean, why couldn't they just hire non-acting T.V. station people to play those parts? They'd at least know what to do.

I, for one, am glad to finally see a return to rationality in television scripted comedies. It's like Chanukah before sunset.

Kelly said...

I was impressed by Danny's off-tune singing more than his actual singing. When someone else is singing in tune, the natural tendency is to match them.

Me too Anonymous. It can be difficult for someone who can sing to sing off-tune for an extended length of time. Add in someone who is singing in tune right beside you and I reckon it can feel nearly impossible to do without singing incredibly loud in order to block out the sound of their in-tune singing.

Bobman said...

Wow, Bostoners have a great sense of humor about over-the-top manglings of an accent on a comedy show! Who'da thunk?

It's not like anyone's offended. I find the jabs at Boston accents to be funny when done at least passably. FOR EXAMPLE, I'm not one to ever praise recent SNLs, but back in the Jimmy Fallon days when he and Rachel Dratch would do their "make fun of Boston" skits, I found those hilarious - obviously over the top accents but recognizable and funny as satire.

LoopyChew said...

My thoughts on the show after I Chenergize.

I miss episodes like this one, with some heart to it, and I hope they do more like it. The way the A and B storylines connected in the end were also fantastic--I guess we couldn't cram Jenna's Prima Donna antics into those storylines. The whole non-rage-stroke and Robot Guy's picking up sarcasm bit was hilarious, though!

I thought Julianne Moore was trying for a Bronx accent at first. Only after they mentioned Boston did I realize they were going for Southie. This coming from a non-Bostonian, though.

Jim said...

For me, the larger issue, as someone noted, is that not everyone from Bahstin tawks like that. I grew up in the area and knew very few people who sounded like that. Of course, whenever I tell someone I'm a Boston native, they invariably say they're surprised I don't sound like a Southie cartoon.

So yeah, it would be nice to see a TV or movie character from Boston who sounded like a normal person. There are lots of us out there.

belinda said...

I figured the awful Boston accent was intentionally awful as a joke, but even it that were the case, I was just too bothered by it (having lived in Boston for a 4 years) to enjoy any part of that plot.

Otherwise, an ok episode. It's nice to see them finally focusing more on the rest of the cast and giving them storylines, but I think doing warm and fuzzy isn't 30 Rock's strong suit (especially compared to the rest of the night where the warm and fuzzy seemed more appropriate to their characters).

Anonymous said...

Cerie's mom was born in 1976? That would mean her mom was 11 or 12 when she had Cerie.

Alf said...

I was impressed by Danny's off-tune singing ...

I was really impressed by this, too.

Mariana said...

Have to agree with 'Bobman' ...it's not that I'm offended...like others have said I couldnt tell she was supposed to be doing a Boston accent till Boston was mentioned.

I understand that it was prob meant to be overdone,but putting a 'Boston accent" on words that shouldnt have it was distracting and made her look like a weirdo haha...it just made me think "why is Jack so attracted to her?!" I in no way dislike the Boston accent, but I felt hers was butchered to the point that it made her strange

Karen said...

No one from South Boston, East Boston or West Roxbury has an accent that even minutely resembles the one used by Julianne Moore. Maybe she was supposed to be from North Boston.

I feel like the accent was so bad that it was meant to offend Bostonians and in that way the joke was very cleverly on me.

The episode was really funny.

SteveInHouston said...

I'm guessing Bostonians know what it's like being a Texan and coming to grips with Minka Kelly and Taylor Kitsch over the past few years.

The hotness helps make up for it.

Buchholz Surfer said...

Anytime an actor on TV or movie does an accent, people from the region of that accent claim that it's all wrong. It never fails. Thing is, most people from other places never notice or care.

Not many people in Boston notice or care when an actor in a movie does a bad southern accent. (Unless they've lived in the south themselves, in which case they irately complain about how inauthentic it was.)

Same with NY accents, Chicago, Ireland, England, wherever, if it's your area or country, then they got the accent all wrong, but hardly anyone else notices or cares.

dave said...

I think the site gag with Kenneth stumbling was actually a nod to the claymation Rudolph. Doesn't the Abominable Snowman pull that exact same stunt at some point?

SJ said...

"I haven't been on the show in 2 weeks."

M.A.Peel said...

I thought it was a sweet Christmas episode.

And I love allusions to Jack's high school, because I went to Alec Baldwin's high school (although I was in his brother Danny's class). It was called Berner High School, in Massapequa, NY. There were 2 high schools back in the day, and Alec's father taught at the other high school, Massapequa High. Alec has come back for numerous fundraisers.

Jerry Seinfeld also went to Massapequa High School. It's quite a town.

Christy said...

abc said...
What was that story that Liz wrote? About a woman named Virginia and her two paths? I thought that was the funniest line of the show and now I can't remember it.

I think it was the story of Virginia Apple (Liz Lemon). I also thought that was hilarious.

I could watch Tracy say "What the WHAT!?!?!?" all day long.

Mark Gilman said...

Two main points here;

1) the accent was horrible and as a native Bostonian now in the midwest, it made me cringe. It also made me realize why that accent (the authentic ones) don't travel well to other areas of the country. I would never remotely be attracted to anyone who talked like that and as one of the earlier posters mentioned, no one from Boston EVER calls it "Beantown." That's what New York writers call it.

2) Why the heck would Julianne Moore even do this part? Step down? yeah, off the cliff. She'll regret this later (or now).

3) I DID love the whole YouFace (UFace?) thing about middle aged divorce women stalking their high school boyfriends or whatever. Right on.

Flannel said...

as an Australian that has never heard a non-native actor/actress get close to a correct accent, it never dulls my enjoyment of the tv/movie.

Peter Lynn said...

As a Canadian, I just feel relieved that we're discussing the authenticity of a Boston accent instead of having the usual post-HIMYM conversation about whether Canadians really say "aboot".

Peter Lynn said...

(While I'm representing, we Canadians do understand sarcasm. Americans just tend not to get our jokes.)