Thursday, October 04, 2007

30 Rock: Baby got front

I intend to devote a good chunk of this evening to watching Yanks-Indians game 1, so posts on "The Office," "Earl" and "Mad Men" are going to have to wait until sometime tomorrow. But since I've seen both the "30 Rock" premiere and "Grey's Anatomy" episode two in advance, I'm gonna blog 'em early, separate posts for each. Spoilers for the former coming up just as soon as I fill my house with the sound of the ocean and the smell of bacon...

"30 Rock" is back, and all is right with the comedy world. Like I said in the column, this wasn't one of the show's best episodes, though I put a lot of the problem on the guest star they're counting on to bring in more eyeballs. Seinfeld's never been able to act, even turned it into a running gag during the "Seinfeld" season about the making of the "Jerry" pilot, and in the exaggerated world of that show, his clumsy mugging worked just fine. (If anything, some of my favorite "Seinfeld" moments involve Jerry overacting terribly in moments of panic, like the two-line phone mishap from "The Outing.")

But even though "30 Rock" is a farcical, sometimes surreal show with characters like Tracy, Kenneth and Dr. Spaceman (who makes a triumphant return next week), everyone is played in a style that's believable within this strange universe. Tracy's insane, but in a way that makes him work next to more realistic characters like Liz and Pete (who got his weekly line with "I thought you broke up!"). Seinfeld, on the other hand, is just a great comedian who can't act, and that stuck out like a sore thumb in a way it never did when he was playing scenes with George and Kramer. (Fey did use it to her advantage in the "Seinfeld-Vision" clips, which became funnier precisely because Jerry was just shouting clumsily.)

Beyond that, though, it was a really funny episode, and when "30 Rock" is clicking like this, it isn't so much a show that you review as one where you list all the jokes that you liked. Among my faves:
  • "She needs to lose 30 pounds or gain 60. Anything in between has no place on television" (the entire Jenna plot, in fact, which is the best use of Jane Krakowski to date.)

  • "Office wife" Kenneth quickly getting into a bickering spousal relationship with Tracy

  • The Saul Rosenbear flashback

  • Tracy suspecting his wife is sleeping with D.L. Hughley ("Studio 60" may be dead, but the "30 Rock" digs at it live on!)

  • All the talk about the country only rich people know about

  • Dieting Jack sniffing the photo of french fries on Liz's wall

  • Liz calling Twofer "Chocolate Rain"

  • Tracy seeing Liz in the wedding dress and asking if a Korean person died
What did everybody else think?


Alanna said...

Ditto to the above. Plus, the Bee Movie plugs reminded me that this is the only show that can actually pull off the increasingly common product placement. Fey knows it's absurd, so she plays it with a wink (literally, in this case.) Granted, it fits better in this universe than it does in nearly every other show, but I still have to give her points for that.

Unknown said...

I really missed this show. You almost have to watch it twice to catch all the jokes that are flying past. But Alan, you forgot to mention the best part. When Liz was crying and she sounded like Seinfeld, that was brilliant. Fey has gotten much better as an actress since the show started. Or at least she is more comfortable, because I can't see the beginning-of-the-show Liz Lemon pulling that off. But it was just great here. "This is what I sound like when I cry!" Hee.

Anonymous said...

I love this show so much! I am also watching the game, but since The Office is an hour tonight, I decided the only show I had to watch live would be 30 Rock. By the way, I read at least two previews of the Cleveland/New York series that referred to Liz's dilemma from last season.

I had read on this and other sites about various moments/jokes from the premiere, and they were still very funny, but the hardest I laughed was when Liz called Floyd, heard the other woman, and started asking the survey questions (capped off by the reveal of Jenna eating pizza). Tina Fey was especially awesome there.

The tons of NBC shows/Bee Movie promotion was sketchy, but at least they got in a couple digs at NBC and had Seinfeld mention Lost. And I understand the show is so low rated that they basically have to do whatever NBC wants, so it's not really up to them. I agree with Alanna that they integrated it very well into the show.

After the negotiation episode from last season, I thought the attempt to kill Seinfeld followed by pleading was another shrewd Donaghy move, but I guess he was really coming unhinged. Good thing he didn't do it or else he wouldn't have gotten the name of that country!

Unknown said...

The whole episode was worth it just for the look on Kenneth's face the first time he saw Jerry Seinfeld.

Everyone's so hard on the Jenna character. They have trouble finding things for her to do, her chemistry with Liz is great, there'd be no "Rural Juror" without her, and I still think "Hardball," which featured Krakowski, was the best episode of last season.

Anonymous said...

while I fully believe anything that brings in new viewers is good for the show, this was flat out one of the worst episodes of the series.

all of the Seinfeld jokes fell flat with me (though I admit I was never a fan of his show to begin with).

and as for the s60 dig, i kept waiting for Seinfeld-vision in an old S60 episode and a comment about nbc burning the episodes off. also, either liz or jack (I can't remember which one) said the line 'knock your socks off' which is a Sorkin-staple line

bill said...

"MILF Island." Just because she's a prostitute doesn't mean she can't be a loving, caring MILF.

Abbie said...

"America's Next Top Pirate" and "Are You Stronger Than a Dog?".

Wasn't the wedding dress thing borrowed from an episode of "Friends"? If it was, it was funnier here.

I do love this show.

afoglia said...

I liked it, but I don't think as much as everyone else. I actually didn't mind Seinfeld's acting until the last confrontation with Donaghy. Also, the last "Bee Movie" plug was too obvious. The literal winking to the audience was too much. (With Snapple they set it up as a product placement first.)

(BTW, "Bee Movie" looks like it'll suck because of Seinfeld's acting. He should have gotten someone else for the main role.)

As for the C-plot, the Kenneth-Tracy office marriage, it didn't work. Having them bicker is something any other show would have done. Most obviously when Kenneth said he'd make up an excuse for why Tracy couldn't be at the party that night, and then Tracy said "great idea," Kenneth appeared angry. Kenneth never got angry before, except when his job was belittled. I expected a cheerful agreement not anger.

One last minor thing, I find it hard to believe Liz never talked with either Jack or Jenna over the hiatus. Jack, maybe, but Liz and Jenna are supposed to be close friends from way back. And from "The Rural Juror" we know she's been to Jenna's plays in the past.

They're not that important, but could be bad omens. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

When was Jack's heart attack mentioned last season? And wasn't he supposed to be marrying Phoebe? What happened to those plot lines?

Anonymous said...

I didn't like the Chocolate Rain joke. It felt like a clumsy way to just randomly throw in an Internet sensation.

Anonymous said...

$4,000.00 Ham Napkin.

Mapeel said...

I love this show because it is television with a capital "T." I thought Fey's impression of Seinfeld had morphed into Laure Petrie by the time she got to "This is what I sound like when I'm crying." And the wedding dress line "I'm going to marry myself" is straight from Sex and the City, when Carrie's Manolo's are stolen at a friend's party, and she registers to get her friend to replace them.

Unknown said...

Seinfeld's never been able to act, even turned it into a running gag during the "Seinfeld" season about the making of the "Jerry" pilot

They turned it in to a gag in this episode as well, with Jerry thinking Fey was mocking him.

To add to all the great jokes I really liked the jabs at NBC.

(Jerry asking if LOST was on NBC, saying that NBC is only worth $4 million)

I am so happy this show is back.

Anonymous said...

NBC being worth $4MM was by far the best joke.

Tons of great laughs in this one, but the stakes felt a little off. We're over Floyd and Jack falling apart seems out of character. I love Tracy but his subplots always run the risk of being too off-kilter. But McBrayer makes up for it.

No matter how weak it was, though, with FotC off the air, this is the funniest show on television.

Undercover Black Man said...

More smiles than laffs for me in this one. But it is great to have the show back... they'll hit their stride in no time.

Favorite moment:


"No. Better."

Anonymous said...

Y'all forgot how Tracy's wife got custody of Grizz! That joke flew by, but I couldn't stop laughing. Wonder if Dot Com will get his cohort back any time soon...

Ted Frank said...

Rescue me: What was the "The Saul Rosenbear flashback"? Did something get cut from the screener, or is my short-term memory going?

Ted Frank said...

Jack's heart attack and the end of the Phoebe relationship came in the rushed last episode last season, which had the unfortunate feel of a series finale.

bill said...

Rescue me: What was the "The Saul Rosenbear flashback"?

Younger Liz, holding two stuffed animals" "This is my husband, Saul Rosenbear...and this is his son from an earlier marriage."

Anonymous said...

Miss SK: I think you either missed or forgot the season finale from last year. Watch it again, all will become clear...

I missed the Rosenbear part, too. Also the island only rich people know about. I'll watch it again over the weekend--I always miss a few things.

I liked Jerry most in three parts--when he said he liked LOST, when he and Tina had the crying/impression showdown, and I actually liked the Bee Movie plug, when he broke the fourth wall. It was actually pretty seamless, for someone who cannot act at all.

bill said...

this was flat out one of the worst episodes of the series.

That would still make it better than 90% of anything else on television.

Also, the last "Bee Movie" plug was too obvious. The literal winking to the audience was too much.

I thought that was the point. The "30 Rock" Seinfeld only agreed to the promotion to promote his movie and for the Doctors without borders donation. By breaking the fourth wall, the real Seinfeld mirrors the action to let us know he's only doing this to promote his movie. Don't know if he's donating his salary to charity, but that would be perfect.

It was the perfect combination of showbiz cynicism and honesty.

Anna Laperle said...

I rather liked Jack's list of options:

1. Kill Seinfeld.

2. Kill Seinfeld. Then, kill myself.

70. You seduce Seinfeld -

Liz: Why is that always #70?!

Anonymous said...

I don't know why, but I am still cracking up this morning when I remember Jack saying:
"Lemon, women your age have a better chance of getting mauled at a zoo then getting married."

Anonymous said...

"That would still make it better than 90% of anything else on television."

You're right, but isn't that also what we were saying about s60 a year ago...

Unknown said...

Right on, jcpbmg!

Jack: "You'll never finish that quilt - "
Liz: "I KNOW!"

and what about the name of Cerie's wedding boutique: "Les Fesses."

God, I love this show.

bill said...

You're right, but isn't that also what we were saying about s60 a year ago...

Not everyone.

Susan said...

Anthony Foglia, I was also mildly bothered by the idea that Liz hadn't seen Jenna's show, especially since there was that great scene last season (well, two scenes) of all of her post-show comments to Jenna after her shows over the years. And it's not like Liz went out of town over the summer or anything.

For some reason, I find Cherie and her scenes just get funnier and funnier. And I love Jenna's vertical striped dress gag.

Anonymous said...

By far my favorite moment of the night:

You're insulted? I'm crying!

So glad it's back! And thanks to whoever pointed out that Angie got custody of Grizz - I totally missed that!

Re: Friends and the wedding dress - if I recall correctly - Monica picked up Emily's wedding dress and somehow "accidentally" had to try it on. She loved the feeling so much that (then pregnant) Phoebe wanted in on the fun too. Then they convinced Rachel to put her Season 1, Episode 1 wedding dress on, and hang out with them.

It was no $4,000 ham napkin but I still found it funny.

My second favorite moment:

Tracy: Liz Lemon, me and this dude used to do stand-up together. Remember the night we had the three-way with Elayne Boosler?

Jerry: I don't think that was me.

Tracy: Oh, yeah. You know what? I think that was a mirror.

Anonymous said...

Two words: "MILF Island"

Anonymous said...

Me, I just like knowing that Irina has moved on.