Thursday, November 08, 2007

30 Rock: Kenneth Parcells' last party ever

Spoilers for "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I take off my shoes and socks...

Wow. Best episode of any comedy so far this season, and one of my favorite "30 Rock"s to date.

This morning's column went on at length at the genius and gutsiness of the show ripping "Green Is Universal" Week for the hypocritical sham that it is, but what made this one extra-special was that all the storylines were clicking -- not just Greenzo, but Kenneth's party and even Pete (hey, remember Pete!) cheating with his wife. The Redd Foxx/chiffarobe therapy scene from last week may have been the single funniest scene this show has done, but "Greenzo" was funnier and more subversive throughout.

To reiterate a few points from the column, I'm amazed at the stuff Tina Fey gets away with. Tearing GE a new one for destroying the earth was bold enough, but I gasped at Jack reading "colored people, broads, fairies, commies" from the outdated survey form. Even with the explanation for why Jack was saying it, how the hell did they get that past the censors?

David Schwimmer, meanwhile, makes a magnificent d-bag. He was great as the hated Capt. Sobel in "Band of Brothers," and most of the Ross moments I remember from "Friends" aren't him being schmoopie with Rachel, but him behaving like a jackass. (Him boasting about his mastery of karate, for instance.) Greenzo -- throwing around the word "gig" a thousand times, calling Meredith Viera "Merry" (and asking Jack if he "hit that"), insulting Cerie (leading to her hilarious "Did he just talk to me like I'm ugly?"), wishing his mom were alive ("so I could rub it in her fat face!") -- fit him like an oversized cartoon-ish glove. There's no room for him on "30 Rock" every week, but my buddy Fienberg wants to propose a sitcom (at least, he does once the strike's over, as he wouldn't want to be called a scab) that's just 30 minutes of Schwimmer and James Van Der Beek being tools. Tell me you wouldn't want to watch it.

The Greenzo storyline also featured the best moment yet in Al Gore's Yes, I Have a Personality Tour, a big fat clue that Jack wasn't always the pawn to right-wing interests he is today (having interned for Teddy Kennedy), and a completely over-the-top and yet dead-on final moment/line with the prop Earth on fire and Liz saying, "This Earth is ruined! We've gotta get a new one!"

The Kenneth's party plot was just as funny, even if no sacred cows were slaughtered. (Then again, we don't know everything that happened at the party; Liz did something to make Grizz cry, and it may not just be her kissing.) It worked as both farce and a satire of the (Harvey) lemming-like quality of celebrity culture. Of course all of Tracy's lies were going to catch on and snowball, because who wants to risk being the only person who didn't show for a party featuring some combination of TI, Bob Logan from Texas Instruments, Fall-Out Boy, Foxy Boxing, and Hayden Panettiere taking a shower? (For another example of the herd mentality, see Jenna immediately removing her shoes after seeing Cerie barefoot.)

The comparison between the quick cuts of Kenneth's old parties (the best, of course, was Liz dressed as Harry Potter and dancing to "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah") and the complete debauchery of the last one provided a great bookend for the episode, and any chance to see Jack look that disheveled should not be missed. The joke that really stuck the landing for me was the Harlem Globetrotter randomly showing up and getting scolded for his behavior ("Does that name mean nothing to you?"), because it made the party seem even stranger and more nightmarish than any hint of Liz/Grizz sex or sink-stealing could.

The Pete plot probably could have been placed into any episode, but Fey's terrified delivery of "What do you do with the Pop Tart?" kept it from just being a throwaway. (Also, it gave Liz the chance to say "Great, now I smell like midlife crisis.")

God, I love this show. I just want to stop right now and watch the episode again.

Some other thoughts on "Greenzo":
  • Tracy's declaration that he loves Foxy Boxing because "It combines my two favorite things: boxing and referees!" was a quintessential zag when you expect a zig kind of "30 Rock" joke, and yet it also felt like something Lenny on "The Simpsons" might say. (Lenny, not Carl; the writers always give Lenny the best lines.)
  • Speaking of both "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" and the mysterious Harvey Lemmings, if you listen to the full-length version, Tracy mentions Lemmings (as the guy who taught him all those Jewish words like "haftorah") in the lyrics. If I were Liz, I wouldn't be so quick to assume he doesn't exist; does she not remember the Dr. Spaceman problem?
  • Straw poll: who would want Jack to banish them to the same island where they disappeared Phil Donahue and the electric car?
  • I love that Grizz and Dotcom desperately want Josh to think they're cool.
  • Jack McBrayer is inherently funny even at normal speed, but Kenneth in slow motion made me laugh so much I had to hit rewind, or else I would have missed Tracy handling a snake.
  • What exactly is ironic about listening to Schubert while viewing Canadian pornography?
  • Speaking of geographic humor, has Holland replaced Sweden as the go-to place for jokes about hot, easy women?
  • Jack's response to Liz's joke about cloning Geiss: "Think it through." Of course.
  • Would Angie Harmon as Greenzo be a better use of her than "Women's Murder Club"?
What did everybody else think?


Abbie said...

I was cackling with a laugh that was not my own by the end of this show.

You hit most of the high notes. I loved the subversive angle, but the biggest laugh was Al Gore's last line or maybe Tina Fey as Harry Potter with "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" playing... I'm not sure.


Abbie said...

Oh, I wanted also to say that I LOVE that Tracy and now Pete are married to non-skinny women who are not treated by the show like hideous unfeminine beasts, but are allowed both lingerie and sex lives.

I love you, Tina Fey.

Sorry. Carry on.

Stef said...

As amazing as the whole Greenzo satire was, I thought the real moment of brilliance in this episode was that first glimpse of disheveled, shamed Jack with his "We need to talk about what happened at Kenneth's party last night." The pain and embarrassment in that conference room was palpable. Well played!

J said...

What exactly is ironic about listening to Schubert while viewing Canadian pornography?

Dude, what isn't?

I'd been sticking my fingers in my ears and making motorboat noises whenever someone tried to tell me how great this week's ep was. I didn't want to flick it on and be horribly disappointed. Just like Colonial Williamsburg.

Show's back to form, using throwaway lines so effectively you're surprised when they actually work their way back in (and thanks, I'm off Pop-Tarts for life, now). I wasn't as high on Schwimmer was you were, but the bit about interrupting people with Merry V. was guffaw-worthy.

Ending the show with a happy cartoon Earth bursting into flames? Good times, happy days.

Craig said...

Count me out on the David Schwimmer love--the man is irredeemably annoying. Rest of the ep was great, though.

Anonymous said...

Huh, I've always though Sweden was the go to country for loose women jokes. Of course that might just be because I'm so young and hip.

Anonymous said...

"As amazing as the whole Greenzo satire was, I thought the real moment of brilliance in this episode was that first glimpse of disheveled, shamed Jack with his 'We need to talk about what happened at Kenneth's party last night. The pain and embarrassment in that conference room was palpable. Well played!"

I agree. I doubt I could coherently explain why it was so funny, but it was.

"Even with the explanation for why Jack was saying it, how the hell did they get that past the censors?"

Why is it okay for the repeats of "The Sopranos" on A&E to use "bullshit" but not fuck? I'd guess that the rules simply don't make much sense, or at least are applied in such a way.

All of the reviews that I read of tonight's episode were right. It was hysterically funny in a way that this this hilarious show usually isn't. It was a first class episode in every single way. I could go on, but suffice it to say, this is the show that could use a Superbowl push.

SJ said...

This show can't get any better can it? Just hilarious...I love you Tina Fey.

Anonymous said...

I usually watch The Office night-of or one day after, while stockpiling 30 Rock until it somehow fits into my schedule and watch a few in a row; based on the laughs I've had watching both shows this season (and I've laughed alot for The Office), the hierarchy may change soon.

The last two episodes of 30 Rock were simply brilliant and had me cursing that no one I know, non-internet division, watches this show: work, family, friends, kids' friend's parents, neighbors, mail carrier, grocery store cashier,... nobody.

Unknown said...

Hands down, the funniest thing on network television in a long time.

I love this show.

Anonymous said...

Adding to the list of highlights: Jack getting punched at the party by Cerie--the smallest, weakest girl in the office.

Anonymous said...

More highlights:

"Are you saying that actors can't change the world? Guess nobody bothered to tell Sharon Stone!"

And Jenna's perfume being Tiger Orgasm!

And I'm always a fan of jag and blerg, but I'm surprised how much they've been used this season.

Also, anyone know what happened to Rachel Dratch?

Anonymous said...

Well, the cheating Pete thread was obvious and a bit of a letdown, though it was redeemed by both the Poptart and, as Abbie says, the sexy heft of Pete's wife. Still, the rest of the show was absolutely on fire. My favorite gag not yet referenced: Cerie and Jenna checking out the big hands on Greenzo. (This would have been Tiger Orgasm lipstick if Brandon hadn't just beaten me to it.)

Not to drag other shows in--I recognize each thread deserves to stay focused--but I found it fascinating how each Thursday night sitcom dealt with NBC's mandated ecological teach-in. Proudly individualistic Earl offering up a blatant raspberry to the orders from on high; The Office burying it so deep into character study I wouldn't be surprised to find they skipped it altogether and this week's woodland outing was merely a coincidence; Scrubs shuffling it off to a dependably absurd subplot. Only 30 Rock, ironically, took the mission statement seriously, while brutally mocking the reason it came about all along.

Alan: "What exactly is ironic about listening to Schubert while viewing Canadian pornography?"

Well, he did die of syphilis. On Canada I've got nothing beyond suspecting a How I Met Your Mother fan or two on the writing staff.

Anonymous said...

SJ said...

"This show can't get any better can it? Just hilarious...I love you Tina Fey."

I love her so much I want to take her behind the Middle School and get her pregnant.

Anonymous said...

" even if no sacred cows were slaughtered."

A thought experiment: What's more of a sacred cow these days? GE or Al Gore?

Seriously, throughout this entire week of rabid earnestness, has there been any suggestion that the entire Green movement itself has some ridiculous elements to it?

Or is the movement so sacrosanct that it's immune from satire?

J said...

How humorless would you have to be to miss that Greenzo was a jab at enviro-obnoxiousness?

Also, loved that Jonathan had "Tool" scrawled on his forehead, post-party.

Anonymous said...

...And ANOTHER week where "30 Rock" tops "The Office".

The people bashing "30 Rock" suprise Emmy win need to 'step off'. This show is awesome and yes - even if Jack McBrayer is just standing there not saying a word, he makes me laugh uncontrollably.

Anonymous said...

Here's why I didn't like David Schwimmer on 30 Rock:

I found him distracting, annoying, and not that funny. However, Jenna checking him out - that was hilarious. I also DID NOT LIKE that he wasn't playing himself. It wasn't that many episodes ago that Jack was watching Friends on DVD. I know it's stupid, but it seems that either DS should have played himself, or Friends should not have ever been mentioned.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I totally missed this on my first watching, but on a repeat viewing, it killed me that Greenzo was supposed to "release an endangered falcon at halftime of the Knicks game."

And I loved that Liz could barely stammer out, "I'm Lemon," in front of Al Gore.

Also, WORD about Pete and Tracy's wives, abbie.

Unknown said...

flem snopes said...

SJ said...

"This show can't get any better can it? Just hilarious...I love you Tina Fey."

"I love her so much I want to take her behind the Middle School and get her pregnant."

20 minutes into your first date.

Toby O'B said...

I can't think of any other show that could get away with that satanic/satyricon goat's head creature at Kenneth's party - what exactly was it doing? On second thought, maybe I don't want to know. And then to have your main character puke on it to boot!

Liz all gobsmacked looking at Al Gore and barely being able to say "I'm Lemon" reminded me of when Mary Richards met Walter Cronkite.

Nice. Nice. Really nice.

Susan said...

Most of my favorite moments of this brilliant episode have already been mentioned, especially the dead-pan, hilarious, "We have to talk about what happened last night at Kenneth's party" from Baldwin.

So I thought I'd mention a great throwaway bit that hasn't been mentioned yet: Schwimmer's Rick Lazio ad: "Hillary Clinton wants an all-homosexual army..."

Anonymous said...

God help me, I laughed longer and harder at "colored people, broads, fairies, commies" than I've laughed at anything in months.

Hedwig said...

Another awesome episode. I loved the commies and fairies bit. And Cerie's surprise after being lectured was priceless. I saw the Pete plot coming, but the pop-tart thing? Brilliant.

One quibble though: that was NOT Dutch. It was attempting to be, and the second half of the sentence was more or less ok, but the beginning? No idea what she was trying to say. Not what was translated, in any case.

Anonymous said...

I too love this show and want to have 10 of its babies. "I love that Grizz and Dotcom desperately want Josh to think they're cool." That, I think, was my favorite moment in a sea of amazing moments.

I can't believe how much I loved David Schwimmer in this, since I pretty much couldn't stand him as Ross. He needs his own show, or needs to come back. It was brilliant, all of it.

TimmyD said...

The Kenneth party reminded me of the Lucille Bluth "intervention". Hilarious.

Anonymous said...

A few funny moments, but last week's episode was the best ever. That is still on the TiVO yet to be deleted.

The side stories were much funnier than the main plot with annoying David Schwimmer. And, yes, I agree, how could they talk about "Friends" one week and then have David Schwimmer as a guest star and not have him playing himself???

The stuff with Liz and her 'roommate' was the best part of the show. The Pop-Tart horror had me laughing the hardest.

Anonymous said...

The reason the show uses fat actrsees for Pete and Tracey's respective wives are that fat people are funnier than skinny people.

Skinny people are much funner to look at, both on TV an din real life.

Anonymous said...

This is the only cure for the hate and bile incurred by watching "Bionic Woman". It kills me that "Earl" and "Office" do better in the ratings, since both those shows have been doing the same shtick for a few seasons now, while 30 Rock has been on fire.

I'm sure people might roll their eyes at the thought, but Katrina Bowden is really as funny as Kenneth every time she has a line - she just doesn't get as many as McBreyer. But her "Did he just talk to me like I'm ugly" or "They get soooo Drunk" was some of the funniest lines in this show. She plays clueless entitlement so well. I think her funny-batting-average is in the .800s

David Schwimmer was unlikable - but that was exactly the point! He did a great job in the role, he really does play complete tools very well. I never liked Friends, and the few times I watched it I found him to be boorish, but when he is called on to play obnoxiously boorish he is money. It's good that he isn't so worried about always playing the nice guy, always needing to be loved by the audience. So I like him more now.

"Hey Wait, what's in that Styrofoam cup, huh? The Earth's Blood?"

"Uhhhh... I just got this! Like eight years ago!"

"Good job! Leave all the lights on for the invisible people."

Best episode this season, hope the rest are this strong.

Nancy said...

Okay, I'm still giggling about this episode 24 hours later.

My fave: Liz throwing up a little bit and then turning to take a giant bite out of what appeared to be a frosted cupcake a mere second after that during the sickening flashes of Kenneth's party. What the hell was that? I almost laughed myself to death.

And Baldwin's hair the morning after. This stuff is priceless.

par3182 said...

if only david schwimmer had been playing himself hired to play greenzo; after all it is nbc and what else has he been doing lately?

Unknown said...

30 Rock is definitely the "go-to" show for funny these days. I can't even tell you how many times I watched and re-watched the Alec Baldwin/Tracy Morgan therapy scene from last week!

I've got to agree with Undercover Asian Man, too, about the worn out shtick of "The Office" and "My Name is Earl." I'm still a fan of "The Office," but it hasn't kept my interest the way "30 Rock" has.

Jeff K. said...

Brandon wrote: "Also, anyone know what happened to Rachel Dratch?"

I certainly don't have inside info, but it seemed like Tina Fey was doing her friend a solid by giving her work in the show that she was supposed to star in until the network wanted the more "sitcommy" Jane Krakowski instead of the "sketch-oriented" Dratch... so Fey wrote in a bunch of stuff for Dratch to do... but for my money, they were the falsest notes on the show since they seemed designed solely to give Dratch something to do. (Not that the Blue hallucination wasn't inspired.)

So perhaps Dratch found other work...?

I will say one of the funniest things I ever saw was "Dratch & Fey" at the UCB theatre in NYC before Fey was doing the news, tho they were both involved in SNL at the time.

I remember seeing them on the street before the show talking with friends. I didn't recognize anyone.

But it was the funniest 60 or so minutes I ever saw live; and only one sketch ever made it to SNL, retooled to the point of not being nearly as funny ... the "Mr. Willoughby" sketch with ScarJo which was funny with the two of them (to the point where the friends and I would quote it -- "Some say he's ill tempered, but I say he's just mean!"), made less funny having to flesh it out to put it into context ("It's a movie parody!") and to then insert the host -- two's company....

I think that may have the first time I crushed on Tina Fey...

internet lurver said...

I know this is really late in coming, but I was just watching old episodes and I decided I had to figure out why listening to Schubert and watching Canadian porn was ironic. I think I found it.

Essentially, Schubert Cherry and Canada Red Cherry are both types of a fruit bearing tree related to cherries. Sounds like something Jack would find ironic, no?