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Letters to Santa: After Getting Scrumped, Liz is a Cranky Sue on "30 Rock"

And that's how you do a Christmas episode.

I'm speaking, of course, about last night's brilliant episode of 30 Rock ("Christmas Special"), written by Kay Cannon and Tina Fey, in which Liz attempts to do something good for mankind by participating in a charity program that pairs disadvantaged kids' letters to Santa with "lonely white ladies" who buy them presents, Jack runs over his mother Colleen (guest star Elaine Stritch) and is forced to spend Christmas with her in New York, and the TGS gang has to put on a last-minute Christmas special.

In true 30 Rock style, the episode featured allusions to nude sunbathing in Rio, Liz putting her foot in her mouth and exhibiting symptoms of mild racism with some non-rapping "rapping Black Santas," and Jack and Colleen singing a duet of "The Christmas Song" after reconciling.

I'll admit that I love it each and every time Elaine Stritch drops by the set of 30 Rock: her Colleen is so acerbic, so embittered and caustic, that she makes Jack seem positively emotionally buoyant in comparison. Plus, I did love seeing Alec Baldwin scramble around attempting to please his overbearing mother, a woman set on reminding her son that he bought her a Chopard watch instead of the Cartier one she wanted and that the damn thing stopped when he ran her over with his car. (More troubling, however, is the fact that he waited eight minutes to call 911 after it happened.) So instead of nude sunbathing in Rio for Christmas, Jack is forced to look after Colleen in New York and finds himself attending to her every whim, responding to her many bell rings, and attempting to repeatedly murder her after her titanium hip replacement. ("They’re giving her a titanium hip, like the Terminator. It’s only going to make her more powerful.")

But I loved that Jack learned that Colleen did make Christmas special for her kids, in her own inimitable way: by pretending to be Mrs. Claus, who in Donaghy family tradition would hang the stockings on the fireplace and prepare cookies for Santa, and by shagging the owner of F.A.O. Schwarz to make sure there were presents under the tree for the kids. Did your heart leap just a little when Jack and Colleen sang together after Jack told his mother that he didn't want her die? Aw.

The Liz/Tracy storyline was also fantastic as Liz thinks she's been scammed after going all the way up to 245th Street and Lawrence Taylor Blvd. with Tracy to drop off presents for the two kids, DaShonte and Marcus, from the Dear Santa letter she picked. After seeing "two dudes" open the door and take all the presents without so much as a thank you, Liz freaks and tries to get the charity shut down by going to a post office five minutes before closing. Why is it whenever Liz does something right, it always ends up turning out badly? Still, Tracy offers her some sage advice to appeal to her guilt: "Well, if all you want is a hug from a black person, maybe you should just host The Price Is Right." Wise words.

What else worked for me? Jenna loudly telling Liz in a crowded store that she wanted to get out of there before someone recognized her; Kenneth calling Liz a "c-word" (ahem, "Cranky Sue"); Grizz and Dot Com sticking to the "boundaries" set forth by their therapist; Jack telling Liz that one of Colleen's suitcases was just wigs; Sue's Christmas present bra; Kenneth's Nigerian friends that he met on the Internet; Jenna being drunk on the "spirit of Christmas" (or just some "cheap, high-proof brandy"); the TGS writing team's guesses on their Christmas presents (frozen steaks, iPod nothings, colorful sweaters); Tracy wanting to buy that little girl jet skis as she'll never grow up to be a doctor; Liz hearing sunshine on the phone and her Nic Cage/Joan Rivers impersonation; Liz calling the postal employee "Trene" instead of "Irene" and then having Irene know Tracy; the past tense of scammed; Jack admitting that every time he hears "White Christmas" he gets aroused.

All in all, a great episode of 30 Rock that also functioned as a warped Christmas episode to remember. And any holiday-themed episode that has near-attempted murder, guilt-based shopping, and a showstopping musical number is trumps in my book. Happy holidays, everyone!

Best lines of the evening: " I’m off to have a real Christmas: fly to Rio, tan in the nude, bet on some monkey wrestling." - Jack

And: "We had a falling out over the Jerry Garcia stamp. I mean, if I want to lick a hippie, I’ll just return Joan Baez’s phone calls." - Jack

Honorable mention: "Those are going to be the happiest poor kids since my brother and I went to Neverland Ranch." - Kenneth

30 Rock returns with new episodes on January 8th on NBC.


The CineManiac said…
Yes, it was just about perfect. But I also loved Tracy's greeting of "Shalom-Shazam" to Liz when she told him it was Kwanzaa not Kwanzo. (Which he clearly took to be the female version of the word.)
All in all a great episode, which I didn't delete so I can watch it again.
Definitely going to be watching this episode again for a little Christmas cheer. Liz and Tracy's storyline was hilarious but I absolutely loved Jack and Colleen and how Christmas had always been a traumatic experience for Jack. To have all that insanity plus a genuinely sweet ending with Jack and his mom at the piano really was a Christmas miracle as only 30 Rock can do!
Unknown said…
I don't know why but the Joan Baez joke KILLED me. I keep laughing when I think about it. And now I really want to see a monkey wrestling match...
Anonymous said…
We had a falling out over the Jerry Garcia stamp. I mean, if I want to lick a hippie, I’ll just return Joan Baez’s phone calls."

I almost fell off the couch

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