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Lemon Party: The Old Folks Descend on Our Favorite NBC Staffers on "30 Rock"

If after watching last night's episode of 30 Rock, you're still unclear about how much rewriting goes into polishing TV scripts before shooting, there's no saving you.

I had been looking forward to 30 Rock all week long as the comedy has become a shining beacon of hope in a primetime schedule getting more crowded by the day with reality series as the WGA strike goes on. While I thought the episode might be a little bittersweet--it being the penultimate 30 Rock until the WGA and the AMPTP can end their conflict--I wasn't prepared for how lackluster an entry into the 30 Rock canon it would be.

And it's sad because this week's installment (the untitled episode 209) had a set-up and plotline that could have been hysterical and absolutely brilliant... if only the writers had been able to rewrite the script. Instead, it was a mostly flat episode that gave me only a few chuckles, a rare feat for the indomitable 30 Rock, which typically has me roaring with laughter from start to finish. (Plus, those guest stars: Elaine Stritch, Andy Richter, Buck Henry, and Anita Gillette!)

Which isn't to say that there weren't a few glittering moments amid the mostly flat landscape of the episode, because there were. What worked? Cirie taunting Liz's brother Mitch by telling him that her parents will be out of town the following weekend; poor Mitch's sudden realization that he was forty and could have been drinking alcohol for years; Colleen's insistence that she was going to break down the Lemon family and reveal their insecurities and failures; Kenneth's Coke addiction during his Wall Street days; Jenna searching for the best place for the keyboard to be set up at the Ludachristmas party; Tracy's ankle bracelet (though not the scenes at the monitoring facility); the Sheinhardt-Universal Christmas present: a combo paper shredder/photo scanner ("Won't people just end up shredding their photos?"). Plus, how long has Dot Com been calling Liz "Beth"? Adorable.

I loved the idea of Liz's parents being so darn supportive about everything, from her taking on the high school football team in a trailblazing feminist act to Jack finishing a muffin, which sharply contrasted with the caustic parenting skills of Colleen Donaghy... only to have the truth about the Lemons come spilling out over dinner. Loved that Dick and Margaret didn't actually show up for Liz's football game and that Liz was the one to shatter Mitch's reality with a hasty comment.

But there was something missing from last night's episode, that insistent push towards a heightened reality usually so prevalent in these episodes. Gags that could have been hilarious felt slightly underwritten for a change and some jokes could have used a little more tweaking in order to land right. It was an episode of 30 Rock that didn't quite feel like... 30 Rock.

Best line of the night (and one I can't believe standards and practices allowed): "It wouldn't be a Lemon party without old Dick."

I never thought I'd say this, but last night's 30 Rock podbuster American Express ad was in fact funnier than the episode itself, especially when it was revealed that Jenna practices "The Secret." It's a rare feat that a commercial manages to be funny, timely, and canonic all at the time time. Not to mention effective: I didn't fast forward on my TiVo through the ad...

So that's nearly a wrap then for 30 Rock, which has one episode (airing in mid-January) and then will hopefully return sometime in the future with new episodes once the strike is resolved. To the cast and crew of this groundbreaking series, thanks for all of the laughs over the last 1 1/2 seasons and hopefully we'll be able to catch up with Liz, Jack, Tracy, Jenna, Kenneth, and the rest of 30 Rock's delightfully absurd cast of characters sooner rather than later.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: Ghost Whisperer (CBS); It's A Wonderful Life (NBC; 8-11 pm); Friday Night SmackDown (CW; 8-10 pm); Men in Trees (ABC);
Don't Forget the Lyrics (FOX)

9 pm: Moonlight (CBS); Women's Murder Club (ABC);
Next Great American Band (FOX)

10 pm: NUMB3RS (CBS); 20/20 (ABC)


What I'll Be Watching

8-11 pm: BBC America.

If you happen to be staying in after a long work week, why not do it in true Anglophile style with back-to-back episodes of Coupling and The Catherine Tate Show?

Comments

This episode was sadly lackluster. Usually I can't make it through an episode of 30 Rock without laughing out loud but last night's ep. had my waiting patiently for laughs that never came.

The storyline was great but it was obvious that this was filmed off an early script draft that, as you said, had yet to be reworked and tweaked into the painfully funny sitcom it usually is.

As for the strike, maybe Kenneth can stage a Christmas intervention and get things back on track!
The CineManiac said…
I actually thought the episode was quite funny, and had lots of laugh out loud moments. (Especially Kenneth's Coke Addiciton)
I did see some spots where it could use some touch ups, but I honestly don't think it was as bad as either of you are making it out to be.
Anonymous said…
Worst. Episode. Ever.

I thought it was a terrible ep and could have used a lot of rewriting and polishing. As much as I know you love the show, jace, thanks for being honest about the ep.
Anonymous said…
@cinemaniac: I thought that bit where Kenneth said that about his Coke habit was total telegraphing. We all knew he didn't have a cocaine habit and it would have been funnier to have not had that flashback at all as it added zero.
Anonymous said…
i feel really stupid but could someone explain the the lemon party/dick pun. im just not getting it. thanks in advance.
Bianca Reagan said…
I loved this episode! How can you go wrong with Elaine Stritch?
Anonymous said…
I always like coming here when I need to be assured it was not just me.

I think I liked the ep a little more than you, but not much. Lackluster, for sure.
Anonymous said…
anon: Lemonparty is a "shock site" portraying three elderly men on a couch. Tricksters fool unsuspecting people into looking at the picture.
Lemon Party said…
This episode truly sucked, just watched it on online streaming :(

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