Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Never go with a hippie to a second location."

If you're not watching 30 Rock you're missing the smartest, funniest show on network TV.

Tonight's episode featured three quick-moving plots. First, Tracy defies a request from Jack to refrain from dogfighting. Second, Lemon meets her comedy writing idol, Rosemary Howard, played by Carrie Fisher, and sees her future as a burnt out old maid, has-been, living in Little Chechnya (she says to Lemon: "you are me. . .you date cute, smart guys who leave you, because you're too complicated"), and finally Jenna burns Kenneth's page jacket and forces him into a "page-off" with the head page. What's a page-off? Well it involves feats of physical strength and NBC trivia. Of course these plots sound ridiculous without the build up, and there's certainly some absurdity in just what happens on this show. But what happens is not the best part. It's the incredible writing and acting. You almost have to watch it twice to catch all the lines and references (when Tracy messes up the National Anthem he says, "who ever knew there was so many words; it's like a Mos Def CD." See I provided that wiki link for you in case you don't know who Mos Def is. They're not afraid of quick and obscure jokes on this show. It's challenging. Hurrah!)

In one scene, Jack, who plays the head of the network, calls in the "NBC therapist" to see why Tracy has issues with authority. The therapist suggests a role play. Pretty soon Jack is simultaneously (and Baldwin is working so hard at this you can see the sweat on his neck) playing Tracy's father, his mother, "the white dude my mom left my dad for," Tracy himself, all in a sort of poor Black dialect. But wait, he also throws in a "Mrs. Rodriguez," the Spanish neighbor. This whole bit is less than two minutes. Watch it. It's brilliant! Alec Baldwin should win another Emmy for this bit alone. In this clip he graciously acknowledges the brilliance of Tina Fey and explains why he does the show.

Jack McBrayer as Kenneth the page: there is only one word: perfect. He plays the edge of gay, straight, smart, stupid like he was born all of these things, if that's possible, and it's not. He embodies the character like Jon Heder did in Napoleon Dynamite. Here's a clip of just him. Boysenberries! Get it?

30 Rock rocks hard!

Watching this episode again, with Mike, an astute and infrequent television viewer, I realized it takes two to really get all the allusions in a typical 30 Rock episode. He pointed out two things I missed: During the therapy scene, Alec Baldwin ends by quoting Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbird. And as as Rosemary leaves, Carrie Fischer wails her line from Star Wars: "Help me, Liz Lemon, you're my only hope!" As one commentator on TV Buddy pointed out: "I love how Carrie Fisher is still dining on Star Wars 30 years on.

This makes a case for watching the re-runs. You'll definitely pick up stuff you missed first time around, especially if you have a smart couch buddy!


Jeff Osteen said...

I can hardly wait for the DVD set!

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I just don't get it... I stopped watching 30 Rock after the second episode in season one and stopped reading this blog entry after the first paragraph too.

I haven't recovered yet from the demise of Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip. I cannot believe that 30 Rock succeeded (even so wildly) beyond the level of the now infamously canceled Aaron Sorkin show which was much funnier, better written, more dramatic, more interesting, more worldly, and which also had characters you could actually care about (not just laugh at)

OOPS, I think I just showed my opinionated nature to those of you who agree with Mark (blush, blush)

Mark McCormick said...

I loved that show too. Not comparing them, but I think this one is good too, in an entirely different way, and it got much, much better later in the first season.

Anonymous said...

I think I'll give it a try -- I've heard other good things about it, too. And it's available on Netflix to watch over the Internet (I love that feature!).

Anonymous said...

Definitely one of the funniest and smartest shows on TV, only "Curb" is better