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"I Want to Go to There": White Haven Witch Liz Heads to Her High School Reunion on "30 Rock"

Ah, 30 Rock. You're always good for several dozen belly laughs after being let down each week after yet another tepid episode of The Office.

Last night was no exception to the rule with the latest episode of 30 Rock ("Reunion"), in which Liz debated the merits of attending her high school reunion and gets dragged there by Jack, reeling from Don Geiss' decision to remain CEO possibly forever, who tags along for some booze when he's stranded in Liz's dry-docked hometown of White Haven. And, oh, we learn that nerdy girl Liz was actually the school bully. (Nice twist, that.) Meanwhile, back at TGS, Tracy is irate when Kenneth gets more laughs than he does in the NBC elevators and enlists Jenna to enact a bitter revenge.

While still a great episode, I do have to say that I enjoyed the first half of "Reunion" more than the latter part, which dragged more than a little with the White Haven stuff after we learned that Liz was a mean girl in high school. Still, even a half-fantastic episode of 30 Rock is better than any other comedy on television right now, so I'll take what I can get.

While 30 Rock has been particularly canny with its stunt casting, I also really enjoy the episodes where it's just our beloved TGS staffers interacting amongst themselves. And while this episode didn't feature the writers room or much in the way of on-set shenanigans, it felt a bit like coming home to me, which was why the reunion segment felt slightly too long. Still, I absolutely adored the scene at the hotel where the clerk explains to Jack which areas of "Little Hanoi" he should avoid now that the neighborhood has been taken over by Vietnamese immigrants.

This week's episode--which featured shoutouts to Outback Steakhouse and Dove Anti-Aging Acne Cream--also proved that 30 Rock knows how to seamlessly work product integration (or, ahem, "product intergortion") into its plotlines and dialogue. (Unlike, that is, The Office, which this week featured painfully obvious product integration mentions for TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory. Ouch.)

I loved the hilarious quarterly report photo shoot with Kathy Geiss in which she posed next to a stuffed unicorn and held an Etch-a-Sketch that read "Kathy=CEO." What else worked for me? Tracy and Kenneth's high school reunion flashbacks (particularly Tracy's, in which a nun tells a hysterical Tracy, "Sir, this is a school for deaf girls!"); Jack wishing there was a Princeton reunion coming up so he could "wipe that smug smile off Michelle Obama's face" and referring to Liz as "vaguely ethnic swan"; Geiss' energy beam vision during his coma which could have been an alien, God, or "an unborn Incan king"; Jenna's delivery of a ham sandwich ("hold the bread") to Kenneth in a page uniform and telling a sobbing Kenneth to "keep crying" so he will never again try to upstage them; Liz's telephone messages; Rob Sussman asking Liz if she still thinks he's "gayer than the volleyball scene in Top Gun."

Guest star alert: Yes, that was The West Wing's Janel Maloney who played Jessica, Larry Braverman's high school sweetheart who, apparently, had a child with him, while Robin Lively (Savannah) played Kelsey and The Hogan Family's Steve Witting played Rob Sussman.

Best line of the evening: "One time I laughed at a blind guy eating spaghetti! Sometimes I pee in the shower if I’m really tired! I saw my grandparents making love once... and I didn’t leave right away!" - Liz, upon believing that the NBC corporate jet carrying her and Jack was about to crash

Which has to be tied with: "Suck it, you whittling IHOP monkeys!"

And... scene.

Next week on 30 Rock ("Christmas Special"), Liz's parents ditch her for a couples-only retreat over Christmas; Liz decides to participate in "Letters to Santa," a charity program that helps underprivileged kids; Jack tries to plan a vacation away from his overbearing mother Colleen (guest star Elaine Stritch) and takes out his frustration on the TGS staff when those plans fall apart; the crew has to throw together a last-minute Christmas special.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Liz's high school reunion wasn't quite as funny as I'd hoped it would be. I liked that fact that Liz was actually the high school bully but, after that was revealed, the rest felt a little predictable. Still a great episode, though...especially after that miserably boring episode of The Office.
Brad said…
At least the Office's plot, the surplus, was realistic and Office-centric. I also really liked Pam's vague threats to Jim over the copier at the beginning. Both it and 30 Rock had good first halves, then dropped off. That said, "Lemon Out" was a great ending.
As for the product intergortion, at least The Office and 30 Rock writers don't use placements completely glowingly. Being treated like a king at Burlington Coat Factory for just $650 doesn't sound that great. Same with comparing the Outback Steakhouse to airplane popcorn and commenting on Dove Cream having a weird taste. I'll stomach placement if it's realistic; I think the Office gains realism and context by shooting scenes in a Hooters rather than that faceless bar where Jim and Roy fight.
Jace Lacob said…
Brad, The Office used to deal better with product integration but now it just seem to be sticking mentions wherever they half-fit rather than using them creatively. Michael droning on about how cheap his clothes were at TJ Maxx doesn't compare to how well they used Chili's in Season Two, which used the "realism" and "context" rubric that you mentioned. Burlington Coat Factory and TJ Maxx? Not so much.
The CineManiac said…
I still find myself wishing they could have worked Blake Lively in as the younger version of her big sis. Oh well.
mB said…
I think I've used "I want to go to there" more so than any other 30 Rock soundbite (and there've been a few: "Me Want Food!"), but then again Tina can pretty much sell me any line by now... even as you say, the episode was not quite as stellar as we're accustomed :)
Melany said…
the office rules and i find the characters far more involving than the tongue-in-cheek humor of 30 rock. 30 rock is just too aware of itself and all the self-mocking it does of snl.

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