Thursday, January 10, 2008

30 Rock: Damn good coffee! And hot!

Spoilers for the last "30 Rock" we're going to get until the strike ends (sigh...) coming up just as soon as I get on my treadmill...

What an unexpected treat. When the Christmas episode aired, there was some confusion about whether that was the last completed episode or not, and the general consensus was it was kind of a mess because they were rushing to finish it and couldn't do polishes. Then this one turns out to not only be done, but significantly better. Maybe it wasn't tops of the season, and maybe I'm grading on a curve because it's been so long since I've seen a new episode of any of my favorite comedies, but I was so happy (and yet sad) throughout this untitled one.

Germans and their language are just inherently funny -- as "The Simpsons" has repeatedly proved (think "Worker and Parasite") -- and so there were guaranteed laughs coming from hearing those words come out of Jack, Liz and eventually Kenneth's mouths, not to mention the bizarre shows ("Interrogation Bear!"). The co-op board as blind date was a great opportunity for Fey to play that note of romantic desperation she does so well -- if the repeated drunk dialing wasn't as painful as the brilliant sequence with Mikey from "Swingers," it was still pretty damn funny. The Jack/CC storyline was the usual right balance of creepy Too Much Information (they both view sex as a competition) and absurdity (CC missing the vote on the bill to legalize recreational whale torture), and while Kenneth getting hooked on coffee was predictable and silly, Jack McBrayer's deranged face and the "Midnight Train to Georgia" musical payoff made it totally worth it.

I'm so not objective on this one that I'm going straight to the bullet points listing the other stuff I liked:
  • Jack hears that Liz wants to wait for marriage before buying property; "Sure. Wait for that, your first home will be in the floating city of New Chicago."
  • Tracy's very Homer Simpson-esque memory of what happened the night before
  • Liz's hairstyle in the college flashback (What do you call that, anyway? A femullet?)
  • "Boundaries are made to be tested! That's why my wife and I stopped using a safe word!"
  • "We're all white!"
  • Liz back in the Laura Bush suit she wore to meet Tracy in the pilot
  • "Love. A urine mirage in a desert of fear."
  • As part of the drunk dialing sequence, Liz singing "You Oughta Know," and her boasting that "I bought a black apartment!"
  • "Blurgh!" "Yes, blurgh."
  • The moment when Jack and CC, and then Liz join in on the song, particularly Liz being the one to sing "I've got to go, I've got to go!"
  • Also, "There's an 11:45. I was misinformed about the time."
What did everybody else think?


olucy said...

I would add:

"Who's going to help me tell white people apart?"

"I wish this town weren't halfway between New York and Washington."

The look Tracy gave Jenna when she usurped his center stage during the musical number.

That whale torture bill was a great jab at the current administration. What a random casting of Edward Hermann as the co-op president, but he's always welcome on my screen.

If this turns out to be the last ep of the season, they went out on a great note. I'll be sorry to see CC go, however. I liked her and I liked Jack with her.

Anonymous said...

Of the two "predictable and silly" plots -- Kenneth the coffee junkie and Liz's blind date with the co-op -- I actually thought Kenneth's worked a lot better, while Liz's seemed ... I don't know, sitcommy. It reminded me vaguely of half a dozen Friends B-plots.

But the "black apartment" line was great, and in any case it's a minor complaint. I'm just happy about the musical number -- and the Baldwin/Falco exchange about the pig being slaughtered in front of them ("strange we didn't get any ham").

Anonymous said...

I'm so in love with this show, I can't even stand it. What I love even more is that in almost every episode I see at least one street scene in the show that makes me yell, "That's my ______!" since I used to work in Rock Center (I was in 45 Rock).

Tonight's stand up: That OTB that Jack visited was the one where I used to place all my bets on the big horse races in the summers...

Karen said...

I giggled through the whole thing.

Did you notice, when Kenneth was singing about missing the train, the backdrop changed from a train to a shack inscribed "Schmuck's Back"? I LAUGHED.

Liz's drunken phone calls were priceless, as well as her declining to get drunk in Jack's office ("No, there are too many phones in here").

And everything olucy said.

And literal Real Estate Porn.

And the simultaneous Jack and Liz "I have a thing that night."

And "I tried a Jewish doughnut."

And Kenneth in his Dorothy blue gingham: "Oh, Grizz; I'll miss you most of all."

And kid miners drinking beer.

And Kenneth rubbing coffee on his gums.

And the awkward post-breakup meeting on the street with Liz, the Co-op Board, and their new girlfriend/tenant.

And the photo of Jack with Cheney, that the Germans were looking at. Not to mention the way the subtitles conveyed Liz's inability to follow their German: "Hubcap(?)"

And the vote to legalize recreational whale torture was the "Lott-Specter Bill."

Tina Fey does an awesome Alanis Morissette impression.

Can you tell I've already watched this twice?

This show deserves about 700 Emmys.

R.A. Porter said...

I enjoyed, and I laughed, but man did it need some polish. Some of those jokes landed really flat. And while I do love a musical number, this one felt a lot like it was shoehorned in to fill out the episode. Not that it still wasn't great.

Also especially liked the "schmuck bait" shack. That was a nice 2%-er.

Anonymous said...

Loved the German "sitcom" and "So many types of sparrows!"

If the Alec Baldwin therapy rant was his Emmy episode, this has to be Tina Fey's.

Anonymous said...

I loved the episode -- and your Twin Peaks reference in the post title is icing on the cake... or glaze on the [Jewish] donut.
-- Paul

Anonymous said...

Loved the show tonight, but can we agree that 30 Rock uses perhaps the worst green screening in television? The Capitol background outside of Edie Falco's office looked cheap...even by NBC standards.

Anonymous said...

SO much better than the Christmas show! I enjoyed the kid miner offering Jack a beer (and I live in Pittsburgh, so it hit pretty close to home).

Do we think they care about the green-screening? I noticed the Capitol shot too (more that there aren't any buildings in DC that would give that vantage point on the Capitol)--I thought it was part of the show's pointed off-handedness.

Ted Frank said...

Worker and Parasite was Czech, I believe.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I looked it up, and Krusty introduces them as "Eastern Europe's favorite cat and mouse team," which could technically have included East Germany. But you're probably right, dammit.

So instead, I'll cite two other Germans-are-funny Simpsons moments:

1)"The Bart, The!" "No one who speaks German could be an evil man!"

2)"Oh, no, the Germans are after me!" "Please stop the pretending you are scared game!"

Anonymous said...

Strangest detail not yet mentioned: For those watching with captioning, Werner Herzog was credited with all of the German narration. I'm dubious, but then again, I would have trouble distinguishing Herzog's voice from an impersonation. Moreover, why have the credit if it wasn't him?


Anonymous said...

My favorite line was of the throw-away variety. When Liz was telling Kenneth to watch the German videos and he's just barely with her, at one point he says "Your last name is weird."


Anonymous said...

The brilliance of this episode was that even though most of it was predictable, it was still hilarious. (Loved those snarky mining-town folk -- what other show would have given us those?)

Best line: "I don't drink hot liquids of any kind. That's the devil's temperature!

Best German-related "Simpsons" dialogue, from "The Curse of the Flying Hellfish":

American military agent (returning artwork pilfered during the war to a West German jerk): "Baron von Wortzenberger, on behalf of the American people, I apologize for..."

Baron: "Ja ja ja, mach schnell mit der art things, huh? I must get back to Dancecentrum in Struttgart in time to see Kraftwerk. Hey, und dummkopf! Watch out for the CD-changer in my trunk, eh? Idiot."

Rain said...

Also, during Liz's drunk dialing rampage, her, "I'm going to the hospital! I hope you're happy!" was a shout out to those "Psycho Ex-Girlfriend" voicemails that were all over the net a few years back.

Or am I the only who remembers those?

Anonymous said...

It's a testament to the brilliance of this show when an episode like this -- which I thought was average compared to other episodes -- still manages so many funny lines and moments.

It's fun to come here after each episode and read everyone's comments, because 30 Rock contains so many jokes, that it's easy to forget many of them.

So, even a B- episode (for me at least), still has me marvelling at things like...

"Who's going to help me tell white people apart?"

"safe word"


and the musical number, even though it kept Gladys Knight from getting her sleep lol.

30 Rock, like The Simpsons, Arrested Development, and Scrubs on most nights, is so good, and so packed with jokes, that an average episode is better than just about every other comedy.

And I know this is the wrong thread, but I just had to say that considering the double meaning -- and yes, I now know way more than I wanted to about the topic after being unable to ignore certain websites on the topic lol -- I think that the line "You can't have a Lemon party without old Dick" uttered (appropriately?) by Buck Henry in the Christmas episode has to be one of the riskiest/funniest lines I've ever heard.

K J Gillenwater said...

This was an excellent episode. I'm still trying to figure out what makes a good episode for me, because I don't always think they are this funny.

Perhaps it was the minor part of Jenna and Tracy in this one. I don't know.

I'm glad everyone remembered the jokes...I usually remember only the funny visuals. The coal mining kids were my favorite.

And the subtitles when Liz couldn't keep up with the German. SO funny! I've been there.

I like CC, too. Their romance brought about many funny moments.

Anonymous said...

30 Rock, I'll miss you most of all.

It was a great surprise to have this bonus funny pre-strike episode.

IIRC, Worker and Parasite was definitely not German, since it used Cyrillic characters on screen. But Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk showed the humor inherent in the German language. But everything about Liz speaking German-- and especially the subtitles not keeping up with the speakers-- was very funny.

And the musical number took this over the top for the win, with the look on Tracy's face as Jenna waltzed in to sing the lead, Jack and CC singing with CC on the television in the background, and the I was misinformed about the time" line.

Anonymous said...

I thought this was a pretty weak episode, and it seemed so cobbled together. Some of the shots were so obviously worked up without other actors - a Jenna and Liz conversation stands out. But, even though it was unpolished, it made laugh out loud as much as usual. "It's like my heart is trying to hug my brain!" I'll miss ya' 30 Rock.

Anonymous said...

I am so in love with this show. After all of these comments, no one has mentioned that, despite being mentioned a half dozen times in the episode, and the bulk of the cast singing one of her biggest hits, Gladys Knights never actually sings a single word. A fantastic use of a guest star.

Some lines no one has mentioned:

Grizz: Who is going to be my wingman for speed dating?

Jack: Say, what is there to do around this town?
Miner: Beat on uppity outsiders. We also have a lovely museum of minatures. (Or a close approximation)

Jenna: Did you know they replace the Pips every five years like Menudo?

Unknown said...

I agree with mike that this ep was a B-, but I'd still rather watch this show than anything else on TV. Loved this exchange--

Jack: I've missed so many weddings, funerals, karate demonstrations...

CC: ...birthdays, Lilith Fairs...

Anonymous said...

Everyone have covered the major points.
Let me dive into two small points:

The theme music/score of 30 Rock doesn't get the attention it deserves. It captures the carnival-like madness of the show. It's great in episodes when the same piece is repeated, rearranged for different moods. Even with an Emmy nom, it still doesn't get enough ink. Richmond does a great job.

Curb Your Enthusiasm had great music, and it worked as a sorbet to transition from Sopranos to CYE.

The coal miner kids drinking beer is a good gag, but it's made better by the direction/timing. Camera cuts to the kids, then (beat) they lift the beers to their mouths.

What a treat during the strike. Come back soon 30 Rock.

Ted Frank said...

What's the curve? This episode is a B- against other 30 Rock episodes, but it will be the funniest thing I see on tv this month.

The show is so *dense* with jokes; it really is the heir to Arrested Development.

Anonymous said...


That's exactly how I meant it with the B-

Compared to other 30 Rock episodes, it was ok, not great -- altho the musical number at the end was very entertaining.

But, as you agreed, even an average/good 30 Rock episode is better than almost any other comedy on TV

olucy said...

And as a salute to writers everywhere, let's not forget:

"Are you looking at porn? I know a great site that's dirty without sacrificing story."

Kenrick said...

"I don't drink hot liquids of any kind. That's the devil's temperature!" was my favorite line too. I LOL'd at that one.

olucy said...

I also loved CC's singing from the TV--in harmony, no less--with Jack.

And the fact that not once, in CC's entire run, did I think of Carmela Soprano. Such a treat to see Falco doing comedy, and doing it so well.

Adam said...

My girlfriend noted after the episode that not a single writer character was in the show. I thought that was pretty clever.

Anonymous said...

This probably wasn't the funniest episode of 30 Rock, but it may well have been the warmest. With the exception of Liz and, up to a point, Jack (and Pete, I suppose), I'd always found the characters lacking in depth. So they mostly came across as vessels for delivering one-liners and sight gags. But this episode had a genuine affection for the characters and the world they inhabit, and really seemed to expand the possibilities of the show.

A lot of that has to do with the musical number at the close, which did a remarkable job of having character inform action (and had a freshness to it that Scrubs used up long before they ever got to their all-musical episode). But the rest of the show leading up to the song also did a nice job interweaving the theme of career vs. personal life, and examining how much all these characters have sacrificed with their devotion to their work.

It's heartbreaking that the strike hit right when this show made the leap to another level.

Unknown said...

Definitely could have used some polish, but "Interrogation Bear" and "New Chicago" are already high points of the show for me.

I also have to say -- is it just me, or is Tina Fey becoming more and more brash about, um, displaying the goods?

I can't decide if it's supposed to be a reflection of Liz gaining more confidence because of her tutelage under Jack, or if in real life, Tina Fey is realizing she's actually pretty darn attractive and isn't afraid to show it off. (And I'm sure the Emmy didn't hurt.) I definitely don't remember so much cleavage being on display first season.

Any thoughts?

R.A. Porter said...

I was wondering. When Liz lives in the floating city of New Chicago, will Twiki be her robotic manservant?

Anonymous said...


I've caught up with a lot of Season 1 recently, and Liz/Tina flaunts her cleavage from the start. I noticed because I thought it didn't jibe with the character, but most likely did jibe with Tina Fey and/or the network's notion of Tina needing to be appealing and attractive enough on-screen to be the show's star. (In no way do I mean that as a personal attack on Tina's looks. I'm merely noting that there are calculated reasons why TV and movie screens are filled with disproportionately good-looking people.)

Unknown said...

Thanks, On the Dole. I guess we can file Liz Lemon with Chuck and Seth on the OC as "TV nerds".

Anonymous said...

I was watching season 1 for the first time in a while recently and I too was surprised to notice that Tina's cleavage was even more on display early on than it seems to be now. I remember reading somewhere that it was just after giving birth and she "didn't feel like she looked like herself" or something...maybe that had to do with it.

Anonymous said...

I found on the dole's comment interesting because I felt like this was the 30 Rock episode that most resembled an Office episode, in terms of slower pacing and a sadder undercurrent running throughout the episode. But I do think that also translates into taking a different look at the characters that doesn't always happen under the show's normally insane, damn the torpedoes approach (which I love and hope to see when the next episodes come out). Still, I was really happy that despite the strike influence, this one turned out so well.

And I absolutely loved the twirly hand motions the Germans made upon buying(?) NBC. Although isn't Sheinhardt already a German company? What will happen to Jack's job? Can we look forward to more German TV jokes?

And, sadly, is this the last 30 Rock we'll ever see? NBC is at least on the hook for the rest of the second season, right?