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Sweater Capes, Saltwater Taffy, and Gold Nunchucks: An Advance Look at the First Two Episodes of "30 Rock" Season Three

Out of every series returning to the airwaves this autumn, there was one series that I was jonesing for with every iota of my very being. That series, of course, is NBC's wickedly uproarious comedy 30 Rock. And as soon as I received the first two episodes of 30 Rock's third season from the good folks at the Rainbow Chicken itself, I tore into them with a wild abandon, eager to find out just what the denizens of TGS were up to.

After a shortened second season, I was desperate for a 30 Rock fix and the first two episodes of the upcoming season (launching October 30th on NBC) sated me in every possible way. There's deft racial comedy (Tracy and Jenna dress up as a white woman and a black man respectively as part of a "social experiment"), guest stars galore (Oprah Winfrey and Megan Mullally!), and tongue-in-cheek soap operatics (how far will Jack go to get Kathy Geiss to reinstate him at NBC?). I haven't laughed this much in a long time. Since, well, 30 Rock wrapped its second season.

I'm loath to give away too many spoilerific details about Season Three but I will say that the plot picks up a few months after the end of the second season, in which Jack--then a member of the Bush administration--engineered a spectacular career flame-out in the form of a "gay bomb." In an opening clearly meant to recall Sex and the City, Jack returns to Manhattan, where he encounters a well-heeled Liz Lemon relishing the opportunity to try to impress her adoption agency representative Bev (Mullally). It's the absolute perfect way to begin the third season of this award-winning comedy and showcases 30 Rock's ability to skewer pop culture targets as well as make use of a host of allusions. (Last season's hilarious Amadeus reference springs to mind.)

"Do Over," the brilliant third season premiere is in many ways the epitome of a classic 30 Rock episode, tangling together an assortment of plotlines that includes Liz attempting to adopt a child but being thwarted by the general inanity of her co-workers and herself, Jack working his way back to the top from the very bottom of the corporate ladder (mail room!), Kathy Geiss and Devon Banks running GE into the ground, Pete returning from anger management treatment (he did, after all, shoot Donnie in the leg with an arrow last season), and Tracy Jordan reaping the rewards of his porn video game... but not cutting in the voice actors (i.e., Jenna) who made his success possible while rewarding Frank and Pete with gold nunchucks and chinchilla coats.

In typical Liz Lemon fashion, our girl makes a fool of herself (and comes off as slightly racist) but manages to get a do-over... but not in quite the way you might imagine. Jack, meanwhile, claws his way back to the top but has to, um, make friends with Kathy Geiss in order to do so and save the company from the inept Devon. And a soap opera-inspired twist brings Liz and Jack closer than they've ever been before. Trust me, long-time 30 Rock fans do not want to miss this episode.

"Believe in the Stars," the third season's second episode brings fruition to Tina Fey's longtime plan to get Oprah Winfrey to appear on the series. In a hilarious storyline, Liz returns to Chicago to get out of jury duty (her means involves a Princess Leia costume and the promise of telepathy) and she meets Oprah on her return flight... after taking a prescription drug that promises restfulness, "sexual nightmares," and "sleep crime."

But when Jenna and Tracy nearly come to blows (or at least litigation) over their battle for profits from Tracy's porn video game, look for Liz to turn to Oprah (who also fills Liz in on her new "favorite things," including sweater capes, saltwater taffy, and Chinese checkers) to mediate their dispute when all else fails. (Look for a deliciously unexpected twist there.) All this and a storyline in which Kenneth teaches Jack the true meaning of morality, as evidenced by Kenneth's ability to love everyone and TV and his refusal to steal free cable... or murder someone in order to save his own life. Sweater capes and moral dilemmas? What other series could offer that delicious combo?

Along the way, there's the sort of witty banter, laugh-and-you-miss-it throwaway lines, and deft characterization that we've come to expect from 30 Rock, proving that there's a reason the series racked up the Emmy wins this year. Hands down, this is the very best comedy on television right now in terms of writing, acting, and execution.

"Do Over" and "Believe in the Stars" prove that 30 Rock's talented writers haven't taken their Emmy wins for granted, continuing to produce awe-inspiring television comedy that's smart, sophisticated, and a full head and shoulders above any other sitcom since Arrested Development. I cannot say enough glowing things about 30 Rock or these two superlative installments but don't take it from me. Be sure to watch and you'll thank me afterward, even if your stomach aches from laughing so much. Or from eating too much of Oprah's saltwater taffy.

30 Rock launches Season Three on October 30th at 9:30 pm ET/PT on NBC... but you can catch the season opener ("Do Over") starting October 23rd at Hulu and NBC.com.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Yay! I'm so happy to hear that 30 Rock hasn't lost any of its comedic steam. I can't wait to see how Jack tries to get his job back and how Liz will try to fit a kid into her already insane life.
Anonymous said…
I also had the (extreme) pleasure of seeing these two first eps and they are unbelievably funny. I was a little bit worried about how Oprah would fit into the show but it was done brilliantly and I am now deeply ashamed for ever doubting Fey and company.

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