Dammit, Liz Lemon, don’t you remember Dennis Duffy, event horizon to your relationship black hole? Either Liz or 30 Rock’s writers are feeling nostalgic (lazy) for that particular brand of dating down, nonchalantly displayed by Criss (James Marsden), last week’s mystery date. How was I so naïve to assume her happiness would last four business days and a weekend? Am I wrong thinking this is more interesting than the headline-grabbing plot?
“Idiots Are People Two!” is Part One of a two-part episode ostensibly parodying Tracy Morgan’s views on homosexuality heard last summer. Though I rarely give a shit about a celebrity’s point-of-view, the meta-ness of Tracy mocking himself felt shallow and fluffy all at once. It isn’t as bad as David Duke playing a white supremacist, but goofy lines like “Being gay is stupid. If you want to see a penis, take off your pants,” don’t have the bite of the real-life insinuation that he would stab his son if he’d come out in a prissy voice. It’s not even an issue of bad taste that bothers me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, as with another man’s penis.
When TGS loses sponsors (the Snuggles bear is gay and dating the Charmin cub), Liz releases an apology calling Tracy an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s saying. Doesn’t he know the gay community is the most organized of all communities? (They make the Japanese look like the Greeks.) Her words offend the idiot-sympathizer Tracy enough to form an idiot-filled protest group of the Occupy variety, spearheaded by Denise Richards. This happens after he apologizes, not to GLAAD, but to the offices of Glad Trash Bags. What an idiotic move by an idiot, am I right? TGS needs idiot viewers. They’re the largest demographic, beating out black nerds, Jet Blue passengers who fell asleep with the TV on, and pets whose owners have died. This storyline is left wide open for what will surely be a conclusion full of good-natured ragtagging and tagragging next week.
The Liz/Criss story plays out as many have before. Jack, learning of Criss when Liz balks at a false proposition to become friends with benefits, knows Criss has no potential. Criss is a stupid name, like Barack. He’s been living in Liz’s apartment for a month, with goals of opening an organic hot dog food truck. His conversations, involving Tivo bloop-bloops and the possible Armenian heritage of Lando Calrissian, start feeling slight to Liz, and she hallucinates Jack’s harsh criticisms. (Crissicisms?) It’s a great series of riffs as Jack points out Criss has a tanline where a thumb ring was worn, a punch-card for a free muffin, a Sunglass Hut credit card, and a ukulele with an Obama sticker, gifted from his kickball team. I was unsure how to truly feel about thumb rings and kickball teams until Jack showed me. At Liz’s request, he promises to let up on Criss, soon twisting Liz’s world by investing $10,000 into the hot dog truck, writing “I used your bathroom,” on the check’s message line.
My favorite thing here is the combined C and D plots, which embody everything I love about 30 Rock. It’s non-contextual, involves character motivations that are non-interchangeable, and becomes increasingly more surreal. I love character arcs and everything, but give me weird gags all the day long and I’ll be just as pleased.
The story ends, and the episode begins, with Kelsey Grammar alerting Liz that Pete is in trouble; in fact, he’s lies pant-less in his office, holding a scotch bottle and a bra catalog, his head inside a plastic bag. He’s unsure of what happened. Zip to eight hours earlier, where Kenneth tells Jenna the maintenance man won’t change the light bulbs in her dressing room until Tracy apologizes for his comments. Beneath regular light bulbs, Jenna appears as Kenneth in drag, surely not something worthy of a newly- ranked-B-lister, a title bestowed in a phone call from Teri Polo and Ving Rhames. The duo breaks into the supply closet to destroy all the bad bulbs, which Kenneth does accidentally. This releases trace amounts of mercury into the air. Noir-minded Jenna is able to soothe a worried Kenneth until they later find Pete passed out on the other side of the room.
Pete, foreseeing Tracy’s protests becoming uncontrollable, goes into Hornberger Crisis Mode, which consists of downing sleeping pills with scotch before passing out in his secret napping place, the supply room. Unable to wake Pete up, Kenneth and Jenna assume he’s dying from mercury poisoning, which the Internet would run amok with if word got out. She couldn’t possibly be found with a passed out married man and an inbred virgin...again. They randomly call Kelsey Grammer, who agrees to leave a small casino in Chinatown to help them. For whatever reason, Grammer adopts a debonair James Bond look and attitude, which suits him perfectly. And now the beginning of the episode makes sense, as the connected dots create a picture where Grammer suggests they make it look like Pete died during auto-erotic asphyxiation. Amazing. I’ll go on record saying this may be one of my favorite side-stories from this show, in both style and substance. My DVR is already waiting to record a Pete spinoff, should one ever exist.
The first half of an episode combo is usually a tougher review, but only Tracy’s protests are unresolved here. Jack giving Criss ten grand will probably play out over several episodes, and there isn’t anything else to say about the Pete/Jenna/Kenneth story. Even Kelsey Grammer gets a swan song Bond parody, over a sound-alike with ludicrous song lyrics, where he fights a bear, plays chess against a computer, and removes a series of mask, ending with an eye patch which remains. Funniest eye patch joke I’ve seen in a while.
All around, a stronger episode than the pilot, though I’m sorry to see America’s Kidz Got Singing! go away so quickly. Now that Tracy’s gay-tred (trademarked word) has been sent up, I hope the Kim Jong Il reveal is more exciting, and doesn’t sort of compare offended homosexuals to idiots. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Wait, I think I messed up. I was referring to Seinfeld!
G.E.’s Microwave Oven and Random Observation Division
Kelsey: the one name you’ll be blurting during lovemaking.
Vaginal mesh. Take that, prolapse!
Pete assumed that the Snuggles bear and Charmin cub were just babies. I also shared this opinion. And I still do, except when caught by a park ranger. “I swear he said he was eighteen, officer! Is it different in bear years?” Why do I associate with Pete the most out of any character?
Is Lutz gay? Who knows? He’s a puzzler.
When Tracy offended stubborn people, it took forever to sort out. That’s a joke genius enough to become a T-Shirt that I eventually renounce my adoration for.
Idiots joining Tracy: frat guys, DJs, investment bankers, loudmouth old bitches, Parrotheads, tramp stamps, anti-vaccination crusaders, people who won't shut up about scuba diving.
Jenna’s reaction o Kenneth’s warning of bad news: “Jenny McCarthy died? But who could have been slowly poisoning her? Was she poisoned? I have no way of knowing because I'm just hearing about it.” A joke about McCarthy AND anti-vaccination crusaders? You go, 30 Rock.
This Week In Frank’s Hat: Volunteer Pilot.
Who doesn’t want Terry, the gender-neutral doll? Even if it only had one set of genitals.
“I’ll tell you what I told Phil Spector.” Slap! “It's gonna be okay, baby. We just have to get some trash bags and get back here before anyone's the wiser. Then we can keep recording my album.” Jenna probably has the funniest lines per capita of any character on television.
I assumed there were no roles that Jenna wouldn’t take, but it turns out she faked mercury poisoning to get out of Trivial Pursuit: The Musical.
Idiot protest poster: This Marker Smell Good.
Criss is pleased to get his Sunglass Hut credit limit up to $80. That is SO DENNIS!
Tracy’s outgoing voicemail turns into possible vehicular homicide. This is completely believable.