30 Rock Recap | Give Me My Remote

30 Rock Recap

November 19, 2006 by  

NBC’s 30 Rock returns on a night of supersized comedy. Between this and The Office, I’m convinced that if you give a talented team of writers an extra 10 or so minutes to play with, they’ll reward you with brilliance. (NBC is on to something here, and I hope it catches on.)

Right off the bat I felt good about things. Opening with a Liz/Tracey (Tina Fey, Tracey Morgan) scene reassured me Tracey would play a big part this week. His screen time directly correlates to my enjoyment of this show.

It seems the weekly grind is getting our leading man down. He’s skipping orgies and birthday parties for rehearsals. But he’s part of a team now, Liz reminds him. She also chides him for veering off-script, which he says goes against his improv style. It’s the first clues that maybe he can’t read.

As good as it was to see Tracey right off the bat, it was an equal downer to see Jenna (Jane Krakowski) back after an all-too-brief hiatus. She pitches Pete (Scott Asdit) the idea of her performing “Muffin Top,” a dance-pop-techno hybrid single she cut with her Persian ex-boyfriend, on the show-within-the-show. Pete is less than impressed with the Israeli chart-topper (number 4 in Belgium) but gives her the OK.

Jack (Alec Baldwin), meanwhile, is pitching a GE spiel about product placements called PosMens (which Office watchers saw for real last night). Liz balks. They’re artistes. They have integrity? They are not schills.

Liz: No Jack, come on. We’re not doing that. We’re not compromising the integrity of the show to sell—
Pete: Wow, this is Diet Snapple?
Liz: I know, it tastes just like regular Snapple, doesn’t it?
Frank: You should try Plum-egranate. It’s amazing
Cerie: I only date guys who drink Snapple.

Brilliant. Where Studio 60 preaches, 30 Rock laughs at itself. Maybe its apples and oranges, but after only two months I’m not ready to stop comparing the two.

On the set of TGS, Jenna raises the idea to Liz that maybe Tracey can’t read. So Liz asks him to read off a cue card. He makes an excuse and cuts out – right through a clearly labeled emergency door. So you have to start to wonder if there’s anything to it.

Meanwhile, Frank and Toofer realize they haven’t messed with Jenna’s head in a while. So they aim to rectify that by planting the idea with her that Jack’s going to fire an actor to cut costs. She might not have fallen for it if she’d seen The Empire Strikes Back, by the way. These guys are cruel.

Toofer: It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
Frank: Yeah, if the fish had daddy issues.

When the writers come up with a product-placement sketch, Pete protests to Liz that the show is not a commercial. Then he steps aside as a man in a giant Snapple bottle costume steps out of an elevator and asks the way to human resources. They’re going to hammer this joke home, it’s clear. Liz runs the idea of Tracey’s potential illiteracy by Pete, who agrees it’s possible. This triggers a political rant by Liz that starts to set off your preachy alarm until she equates Iraq War spending with graduation rates in US inner cities versus Sudan.
This show has levels of funny, and that’s what’s making it great.

Getting even for the product placement sketch idea, Liz and Pete convince Jack to star in it. He resists. It’s not his thing, though he is studying comedy by watching season DVDs of Friends.

Liz takes Tracey’s full mailbox as a sign that he can’t read rather than the more obvious possibility that he’s just ignoring her memos. Jenna runs the downsizing rumor by Liz again but assures her she’s not worried about her job. She has a secret weapon, after all: her sexuality. It couldn’t get her a table in a restaurant, but she’s convinced it can save her job.

In his dressing room, Tracey is complaining to a friend about his grueling work schedule. Liz decides to lay it on the line and ask him if he can read. She’s supportive and condescending and gullible, and Tracey plays it to the hilt. He can’t read, he proclaims. That’s why he’s always walking into the ladies’ room and why he accidentally voted for Ralph Nader. Liz is feeling proud of her intervention until, just as the scene ends, she spots him on an elevator reading The New York Post. “Damn,” he says, “George Will just gets more and more conservative.”

Jonathan, Jack’s uncomfortably doting assistant, begs Liz and Pete not to put Jack on the air. He shows them the 142 takes over five days that it took to make the GE product integration spiel. Too late, though. Jack’s gung ho for the challenge. After all, he’s climbed Kilamanjaro and showered with Greta Van Susteren. Hearing that Jack has gone into a conference down the hall with his boss, Jenna figures this is her chance to parlay her booty into job security.

Back on the set, Jack is a mess, flubbing cues and staring at the camera. He blames the writing, which prompts Liz to decide she’ll let him hang himself.

Afterward, Liz runs her theory by Pete that Tracey only pretends he can’t read to get out of work, prompting him to call her a racist. She counters that Tracey took advantage of her white guilt, which should only be used for overtipping and supporting Barack Obama. Seriously, Tina Fey must be smarter than 99 percent of the people she meets in a day. To try and catch him, they show Tracey a promo poster declaring he has “the smallest penis in show business.” He doesn’t even blink, though he’s clearly not cool with it.

Jack calls Liz to the set at 3 a.m. He’s flustered over his impending performance and admits he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Turns out it’s been a lifelong struggle. Cut to a kid in a corn-on-the-cob costume for a school play screws up his lines and swearing. Jack asks for Liz’s help. Her pep talk is inspiring (and kind of insulting to all her writers), and it works.

The next day Jenna gloats to Liz that she succeeded in applying her feminine charms. But it is in a moment of Three’s Company-esque zen that we realize Jenna mistook an extra on the set for Jack’s boss. In her defense the guy looked a lot like former GE chairman Jack Welch. But he’s just a guy named Ron. Jenna apparently doesn’t learn her lesson. She resolves to get even with Frank and Toofer (wait for it…) with her sexuality.

Meanwhile, a sign for “hot lesbian auditions” lures Tracey into Liz and Pete’s latest trap. He’s busted. But while everyone agrees Liz is a racist, Pete lectures Tracey on his professional responsibilities.

Tracey: But this job is hard. I just want to be able to do what I want to do. You know I once shot a whole movie without even getting out of my car.Pete: Yeah, I paid to see that movie. That was supposed to be a Western.

Liz: You’re not a big-shot movie star anymore Tra. You’re the star of TGS. You will read the lines, as written, starting tonight because this show is important. I set a very high standard for myself, and I expect the same from the professionals who work with me.

Josh: When Gay-braham Lincoln gets hit in the crotch, can I go cross-eyed?

Liz: Oh yes. Do that. That’s hilarious.

Then there’s a weird scene where Jenna runs a couple of sexy moans from her song by Pete to see which is more offensive. It could have been funny, but it wasn’t. I blame Jane Krakowski. And where’s Kenneth the page. More Kenneth, less Jenna, I say.

Anyway, after Liz gives Jack a quick pep talk backstage, Jenna approaches Toofer and comes on to him, telling him about her fantasy of getting it on with him up on the roof. He’s not stupid, though. He tells her he knows she found out he and Frank were messing with her, and now she’s just trying to strand him on the roof without his clothes. Nice try.

Cut to Jack playing and replaying his scene, to big laughs, on his office TV. Liz walks in and tells him good job, realizing he was watching the show despite his denial. She leaves and Jack glances over to the French doors that lead out to the balcony, where Frank is wearing his hat and nothing else.

I know I’m hard on Jane Krakowski. I’m sure she’s talented, and she’s very pretty. I just don’t think she fits this show. And the fact that she replaced the funny Rachel Dratch will probably forever irk me. That said, Jenna gives a dose of funny in the capper scene, performing the raunchy and ridiculous Muffin Top, with lines like “Whole grain, low-fat. I know you want a piece of that.” and “I’m an independent lady, so do not try to play me. I run a tidy bakery. The boys all want my cake for free.”

Pete: Does she know we went off the air two minutes ago?
Liz: No she does not.
Pete: Smart move.

With more of this, paired with the awesomeness that is The Office, Thursdays are going to kick ass. Seriously, super-sized episodes work. They shouldn’t just be for special occasions. Do you hear me NBC? Cut them down for syndication later. If you do, I’ll even give My Name Is Earl another try.

When he’s not recapping “30 Rock” or obsessing over “The Office”, Brian holds down a newspaper reporting job in NY that is only slightly more lucrative than his GMMR gig. And he is still mourning the defeat of his beloved New York Mets. 

Filed under 30 Rock, TV News

Comments

4 Responses to “30 Rock Recap”

  1. srah on November 19th, 2006 11:03 am

    I have reallly been pleasantly surprised by 30 Rock since I watched one episode just to see how awful it was. I was expecting something even worse than the terrible Studio 60 but it turns out it’s funny (I love the part about Tracy making a Western from his car). I hope NBC continues to support it and that being opposite Grey’s Enormous Head won’t kill it.

  2. cindy on November 20th, 2006 11:17 am

    loved this ep – you totally forgot about Ghostfaced Killa’s cameo. hahaha. Jenna, Ghostface Killa and Yo Yo Ma to the stage for Muffin Top.

  3. Michelle on November 20th, 2006 2:38 pm

    Continuing to love this show. Alec Baldwin gets better every week, too.

    And you should give “Earl” another shot. Every time I watch it, I can’t help but wonder why it’s not more popular. I’m not kidding.

  4. John D'arc on November 20th, 2006 4:03 pm

    scrubs should get 40 minutes too.