Thursday, February 04, 2010

30 Rock, "Verna": Clang, clang, clang went the mommy

A quick review of tonight's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I pre-apologize for clogging your tub, sink and toilet...

There's a generational thing with "Saturday Night Live" where the cast from your formative years is the cast you have the fondest memories of, making it the one period where you'll forgive all the sins (sketches that go on too long, recurring characters who recur too often, etc.) you can find in the show later on. For me, that was the Phil Hartman/Dana Carvey/Jon Lovitz cast - or, I should say, the Hartman/Carvey/Lovitz/Jan Hooks cast. For all that people talked about "SNL" as being a horrible showcase for women before Tina Fey and company showed up in the late '90s, Hooks was just as important a part of the late '80s/early '90s cast as Hartman, able to be just as strong playing the comic center of a sketch as she was being the straight woman.

So I was excited to hear that Hooks would become the latest "SNL" alum to pop by "30 Rock," in what IMDb tells me is her first credited acting gig since 2004's "Jiminy Glick in Lalawood." (Sigh...)

Unfortunately, Hooks wound up in another disappointing episode of what's been an up-and-mostly-down season of "30 Rock."

"Verna" was an episode combining two of my least favorite parts of the show: Jenna, and Jack's mommy issues. (Though Elaine Stritch didn't appear, it was a Colleen episode by proxy.) I understand the desire to make Jenna be less of a cartoon on occasion - and I've certainly complained plenty about Jenna subplots that are too far removed from reality to work - but the only parts of the Jenna/Verna/Jack story I found funny were on the margins, like Alec Baldwin evoking his "Glengarry Glen Ross" character with his "Always. Speak. Quieter." mantra, or Jenna conveniently having a hand mic in her purse.

Liz's story, meanwhile, was at least the third time she's had a "TGS" staffer crash at her pad (following Pete a few years back and Tracy earlier this season) and led to another one of those climaxes where the whole gang watches a horrifying video of Liz, only not as horrifying (or funny) as her phone sex ad from "Apollo, Apollo."

It's "30 Rock," which means there will always be funny lines and weird gags, but it was pretty weak overall.

What did everybody else think? And did the outtakes of Kenneth talking to Pete (including renaming this show "You-Know-What and the Bear"), which were tacked onto the end of my screener, survive to the air version?

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

They survived. Yay!

WondrousHippo said...

Yeah, the outtakes made it to air. I'm just glad this episode had more Scott Adsit - I'm a huge fan of Moral Orel (I love seeing Dino Stamatopoulos as Star-Burns on Community) and his character is under-utilized.

So who saw the Community and Parks and Recreation hour being better than the The Office and 30 Rock hour this season?

srpad said...

Until you mentioned the screener, I thought you were the fastest typist in the west :-)

Was I the only person who could literally see the freeze frame ending on Dudley's dad tapping the pack of cigarettes when they mentioned that episode?

I'm old.

James said...

the paranormal activity parody was pretty funny and i did laugh very hard during the mother-daughter 'do it to me one more time'. several great lines but in general not a great episode - yr average 30 rock. after all the overuse of guest stars last year it does at least feel like 30 rock though - pete's back to being a regular, the writer's room is involved. still very very reliable for some laughs, which counts for alot, but probably the weakest thursday nbc sitcom for me right now.

J said...

For a while, I was thinking that the only funny thing about this episode was the open, but the Paranormal Activity parody made me nose-spit.

Also, Jack's "Because I'm listening to the words" worked.

chiam said...

It was a hilarious episode. Love it when Jack shows his humane side. Need to watch it again because I was cracking up too much from the opening and the paranormal activity-video.

Jan Hooks was awesome but age has not been kind.

Karen said...

Oh man, I hated this episode. I barely laughed once (Scott Adsit always makes me laugh).

I cringed through the whole video. I don't get how/why Tina Fey has turned Liz Lemon into such a pathetic joke of a human being.

Sigh.

It was great to see Jan Hooks, though, even if I didn't think they used her that well. I loved her on SNL. And speaking of her and Hartman: one of my favorite short films EVER is with the two of them as a bank guard and security deposit box client who morph into a kind of Viennese operetta scene. So poignant.

Alanna said...

Was this another theme night on NBC? We had the evils of HFCS on Parks & Recreation, reusable bottles on The Office, and now Liz and Frank quitting their bad habits. I don't recall a healthy theme on Community, but perhaps I missed it.

Jim said...

I was also a big Jan Hooks fan, and I think I remember she was capable of a lot more subtlety than she had here. I actually think Jack's obsession with his evil mother is pretty funny, but I agree with you on Jenna being a weak spot. This episode was just flat all around.

Anonymous said...

*horrible* writing: lazy and cliched with flat gags and dull caricatures. even Kenneth was off. the "cornholes" chip bag got a laugh, but.. this was still the ep. that got me to remove 30 rock from my TiVo queue.

ugh.

didn't this show used to be funny?

A Random Rambler said...

I completely disagree. I really enjoyed this episode.

Razzmatazz!

Laura said...

Jan Hooks is only about 10 years older than Jane Krakowski ... please tell me they made her up to look that bad. It was distracting, really. I always thought she was funny on SNL too, and thought she was kind of a wasted talent afterwards (Designing Women, etc). Meh.

Ethan Wood said...

The Mr. Wiggles joke was good. I didn't see that one coming.

dez said...

Also, Jack's "Because I'm listening to the words" worked.

That was my fave line of the ep. I also like Jack's mother issues. And Pete! Yay, Pete!

Mr. Peel said...

I can't possibly have bad feelings towards any episode that had (a) that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY stuff (b) more Pete than we usually get and (c) a friggin' JENNIFER SLEPT HERE reference.

But yeah, I do hope that they made up Jan Hooks to look that way.

Michael G. said...

I actually don't usually watch 30 Rock, but the first half of the episode was funny enough that I stuck around for the second.

belinda said...

I smiled a few times, no laughs at all. First 30 Rock episode in which for me the zingers were mildly amusing, but not even all that funny. It's almost like they were trying way too hard or something. I don't know.

tribalism said...

I usually find Jenna’s self-absorbed antics to be pretty funny, but tonight’s story just didn’t cut it for me. I think that making her a victim of mother issues—as opposed to being the victim of her own narcissism—really dulled her comedic value. After watching the series for four seasons, you can get a sense of its rhythms, so to me it was pretty evident that Verna “didn’t drive [her] home all the way to New York City just to kiss [her] daughter’s ass.” Instead, it just felt like we were plodding through the episode waiting for her inevitable face heel turn.

If you click on my username, you can find a link to my blog where I go into more detail about tonight's episode.

jasctt said...

I know this is awful to say, but I didn't know until the end of the episode that it was Jan Hooks (didn't get the memo, I guess).

Jeremy said...

I thought it was an average episode. Most of it wasn't memorable, but I was laughing aloud at the Paranormal Activity parody and Jack's comment about the duet.

TomAss said...

Though it's been true many weeks this season, this week was the first time I was finally able to admit it -- Parks and Rec is the gem of the Thursday Night Lineup now, the way 30 Rock has been for the past few years. Community has its moments, and the Office has long since stopped making me laugh outside of Kevin and Creed gags, and it's tough to see 30 Rock dethroned. I hope they can get their groove back, so to speak. But how does anyone compete with Ron F'ing Swanson and DJ Roomba?

Anonymous said...

Remember this stretch of episodes during next year's award season when Hollywood will tell us that this is the best comedy on television.

Justin said...

If I had TiVo like the rest of civilized society, I would have had to have paused the episode after the Mr. Wiggles line. Tears were in my eyes.

I actually liked the Jack/Jenna pairing. It's not one we usually see, and they managed to wring a lot more humanity out of Jenna than usual, while still tipping the hat to her vast reserves of self-centeredness.

njames said...

I actually thought this ep was one of their better ones this season. Don't get me wrong, I've been SO upset with this year - I feel like they've gotten lazy with the writing, and it's all gags. Seriously, the first two seasons were amazing. What happened?!

However, while I only chuckled twice (Jack's "because I'm listening to the words" and the ending outtakes), it was better than some of the eps that made me want to throw out the TV.

The only other note is that I have always been a huge fan of Jan; but MAN did she age 25 years from "3rd Rock from the Sun"!!!

Bryan said...

I enjoyed this ep more than most of you I think - some very funny stuff- but part of the problem I think is that Community and Parks were so strong this really paled.

I always like Jan Hooks on SNL but with the kids last night I had to resort to "you know, she was the tour guide in Pee Wee's Big Adventure"

Y'all have been the greatest group, and I really mean that"

njames said...

There's no basement in The Alamo.

Anonymous said...

Was that Rachel Dratch who played Frank's plus-sized hook-up?

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

I thought it was a mid-range episode. It definitely had more laughs than The Office.

LA

Anonymous said...

I don't know why they keep doing the Liz Lemon loves to eat junk food jokes. I never found them funny and I think they just don't work because Tina Fey is an attractive slim woman. Reminds me of that scene in "Funny People" where Jonah Hill tells a slimmed-down Seth Rogen that he would be funnier if he was fatter.

LDP said...

I thought it was an all right episode, but Jan Hooks wasn't particularly good. I've never liked her. She's a ham.

Ronnie James Deo said...

Tina Fey is not hot anymore. That's the most disapointing part of the show for me.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Ah, "Paranormal Activity." Which I did not see, and therefore did not in any way get.

Which is the risk of doing humor so heavily-steeped in references.

Dr. Milton von F├╝nkdoctorspock said...

"I was told I'd get paid to dance while the Atlanta Hawks eat."

Genius.

srpad said...

Don't feel bad. I saw Paranormal Activity and missed the reference entirely. Just didn't put 2 and 2 together.

The Dan Peck Show said...

Don't go to bed with a frown! Am I the only one who thought between Kenneth's cameo as the nurse (and Liz's confused look), Meatcat's Razzmitazz, the Mr. Wiggles line, the "Oxycontin bottle as ID" gag, and the impromptu Liz/Kenneth duet, this might have been the funniest cold-open in the history of the show?

Aside from Jack's ready-made presentation about mothers (complete with slideshow), the rest of the episode was forgettable, though.

Number Five said...

Yeah, it was very flat, and didn't go anywhere in the second half.

Bringing in Jenna's mother could have been hilarious - imagine how messed up her childhood was to produce someone like her. But other than a delightfully steady output of Florida white trash jokes (the white jeans/Marino jersey being my favorite), it didn't live up to Jenna's craziness.

Meatcat was hilarious, as was Liz sleepordering pizza, if not at the level of Sabor de Soledad and bull semen.

Maybe they didn't originally intend this if the ending Kenneth/Pete scene was outtakes, but it was sweet, since we could see Scott Adsit was clearly enjoying the riffs.

KLR said...

Maybe they're trying to offend every American demographic before the inevitable cancellation?

The line that had me truly LOL was..."Mothers. Can't kill 'em..."

That was Jan Hooks?!?!? It's been a while. Where are you now, Victoria Jackson?

jazzfan360 said...

I thought this was flat-out brilliant and one of their best episodes. Surprised to see so much dislike for it. And the ending was just too awesome. Razzmatazz!!

miles said...

I know this is showing my age, but as to SNL as a showcase for women, I just want to say Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, and Lorraine Newman.

Addison DeWitt said...

It was average for 30 Rock which means to me..it was better than many comedies but not nearly as good as the newcomers this year - Community, Modern Family, and the 2nd season of Parks & Rec.

Liz's dream, "Mr. Wiggles..and his cat named Benson" Jack's reaction to the creepy duet...there was some comedy there.

And speaking of her and Hartman: one of my favorite short films EVER is with the two of them as a bank guard and security deposit box client who morph into a kind of Viennese operetta scene. So poignant.

I tear up every time I've ever seen it, especially after Hartman's tragic death.

It was called "Love Is A Dream" .

Transcript and photos at link, could't find a video clip.

Where are you now, Victoria Jackson?

Last time I remember hearing about her she was ranting from the very, very wacky reactionary fringe, unfortunately.

Tyroc said...

Please stop with the guest stars, 30 Rock!

You have an amazing cast with some characters who are completely under-served.

*SIGH*

Anonymous said...

Boy that Jan Hooks appearance was painfully BAD (which I blame more on the oh-so-overrated show/writing as much as her, if not more); if you're gonna keep writing about this show Alan, explain to us WHY you won't do the same for the clearly-superior It's Always Sunny/Archer combo...

lauren said...

Has Jane Krakowski ever for one moment in her life been anything less than annoying? I don't understand at ALL why this woman keeps getting work.