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"Never Go with a Hippie to a Second Location": And Other Great Advice on "30 Rock"

Oh, Jackie D., you are killing me.

Last night's episode of 30 Rock ("Rosemary's Baby") made me count my lucky stars that Alec Baldwin didn't follow through earlier this year on his threat not to return for 30 Rock's sophomore season. That would have been truly heartbreaking, especially after witnessing his star turn last night, virtually channeling Tracy's "parents" during a therapy session, complete with racial stereotypes and bizarre off-kilter tangents like the Jordans' Latina neighbor. I thought that this entire exchange was absolutely hilarious and had me rolling on the floor, even if this morning I remembered that Tracy allegedly grew up in foster care with two dudes and a girl with a messed up hand.

I'll just pretend that I didn't recall that bizarre fact from somewhere in the depths of my television-obsessed brain. It was a scene that truly captured all of Baldwin's skills as a gifted comedian and allowed him to truly, truly be the star of this series for a two-minute or so period. Plus, the voices were pretty damn good. And lest we forget that this is an ensemble series, Baldwin drifted right back into the woodwork after this scene, to play quippy with protege Liz Lemon (winner of the NBC Followship Award) and then subtly pour the remainder of her wine into his glass. It's small, character-defining moments like those that remind me of why I love this show.

Liz. I thought it was hysterical to see Liz reduced to a babbling fan girl when she met Rosemary (guest star Carrie Fisher) at the book signing and then have the notion of offering her a guest writing gig on TGS, only to have it backfire when Rosemary wants every sketch to "push the envelope" and take on mega-corporation GE. (I howled with laughter when we saw the "infamous" mailbox sketch from her old days in TV comedy.) And sure enough, Liz and Rosemary go too far and the two are promptly fired by Jack. Our two funny ladies end up, box in hand, walking through Rosemary's neighborhood, the delightfully named Little Chechnya, where Rosemary informs us that there are more per capita murders than Detroit and, in front of a burned-out and stripped car, a man walks with a gun.

I thought the entire scene was spot-on and brilliant as Liz slips further into her shame spiral and follows Rosemary into the very depths of hell: her rodent-infested apartment, conveniently located next to the F train. I love that the writers forced Liz to face up to the one truth that she can't escape, that this could be her future. I did think the scene went a little too far when Rosemary shouted after Liz to save her ("You're my only hope, Liz Lemon"), but that's a small complaint when faced with such a comedically rich episode. Plus, who didn't love the juxtaposition of Liz affirming that she doesn't kowtow to the corporate brass, right in front of a huge $10K check made out to her from GE? Classic.

Kenneth. I do wish that this storyline--Kenneth's page jacket is destroyed by Jenna--had been expanded into a full B storyline; instead it's given short shrift as a bit of an extraneous plot in this episode, competing with Tracy's dog-fighting/therapy storyline for that secondary position. And, let's face it, I'd had loved to have seen more of the face off between Kenneth and the evil Head Page, whose office exists somewhere around the seventh circle of hell in the NBC building sub-basements, where he's kept company by a prop from NBC's classic comedy Supercomputer, which ran from 1975 to 1975 and spun off such series as The Cosby Show and Cheers. (Ha!) I loved the idea of the page-off: tests of physical strength and stamina combined with NBC trivia and would have loved to have seen even a split-second more of this bizarre ritual (complete with NBC pages chanting "page off, page off") before it was interrupted by Pete.

Tracy. Tracy Jordan has got to be the most absurd, bizarre, ridiculous character on network television and I loves him for that. Last night's episode allowed us another glimpse into the childhood of Ray Ray's Mystery Garage child actor Tracy Jordan as he went out of his way to disregard the advice of various father figures stemming from his lack of contact with his own father. (Especially loved when he came out of the building in that red number.) So when Jack tells Tracy that the one thing he can't do is dog-fighting, Tracy naturally orders Grizz and Dot Com to find some dogs and set up some dog-fighting ("This is like the Phil Spector entourage all over again"). I was a little concerned when Jack wanted Tracy to go to therapy but, as discussed above, this ended up being a brilliant set piece of familial tensions, race relations, and absurdist humor.

Which might be why I can't get enough of this series. Sure, Jenna's weight has shrunk to her pre-fat days again, but when I comes to 30 Rock, me want more now.

Next week on 30 Rock... well, it's sadly not on next week (thanks to a one-hour My Name is Earl), but come back on November 8th for "Greenzo," in which Jack--following a GE-wide green initiative--comes up with a green mascot for NBC named Greenzo (guest star David Schwimmer), who bares the brunt of Liz Lemon's ire during a press tour appearance; Kenneth plans his annual no-show house party but Tracy decides to spread some rumors so Kenneth's party is a success.

Comments

Great episode, one of my favorites. Great blog.
michaeloboyle said…
I was really starting to think that network television would never be funny again. Great writing and performances. Carrie Fisher was perfectly cast. I liked the Star Wars reference, but then I'm a nerd.
Unknown said…
I think he did not actually grow up in a foster home - but that's part of the character...
I became concerned and did some research and came across this:
http://www.answers.com/topic/tracy-jordan
Anonymous said…
Alec B was hilarious! That scene just won him an emmy. Brilliant. He does a mean Red Foxx...

I didn't mind the toungue-in-cheek Star Wars reference. It was a little obvious, but it made me laugh (And, I think, mirroring the SW line, it was actually "Help me, Liz Lemon. You're my only hope." I am a picky nerd)

Great, great ep - I am going to miss it next week.
Last night's episode wasn't perfect (The Kenneth storyline was a little weak) but boy was it funny!

I have to admit that, last season, I saw Alec Baldwin as more of a supporting role but this season he has totally stepped up his game. His therapy session with Tracy was brilliant.

And, once again, the show proves itself to be the king of fantastic guest stars. Pairing Carrie Fisher and Tina Fey together was hilarious!
Anonymous said…
All in all, one of my favorite episodes.
rockauteur said…
I want to see 227: The Movie starring Tracy Jordan.
rockauteur said…
Also... I wish Pete hadn't interrupted the secret underground Page Off... I wanted to see more of that - and a clip of SUPERCOMPUTER could have been the next viral video hit.

Another great 30 Rock episode.

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