Valentine’s Day on 30 Rock is usually a sordid affair where Liz gets Cupid’s ass-end instead of his arrows. This time Liz comes up rosy while Jenna gets the arrow, though she stays in love only with herself. The extended run-time of “Hey Baby, What’s Wrong?” allows for twice the jokes, but half the heart and smarts. Perhaps a good episode from a series I barely like, this isn’t the best outing from a show I love dearly. Petulant writing and weak plot lines, however quickfire, are just that. It gets away with it under the guise of being a “Happy League of Women Voters Day” episode. But only barely.
The Liz-Criss relationship wears thin. Subjectively, it’s because I’m not a huge Marsden fan, and I think of Criss as nothing but a Dennis Duffy clone. (Just playing a real guitar instead of a Casio keyboard, guitar program from a Commodore 64, or something equally dated and jokey.) Objectively, it’s because the over-used “Jack Donoghy – Boyfriend Barometer” has given way to “IKEA - possible dealbreaker.” The furniture store as a relationship graveyard, while hackneyed, shoots itself in the foot (stool) for appearing in an episode set on a holiday that already strains relationships. Sure, they need a table, but this could have happened last week, and maybe without mining Liz’s heavy menstruation for comedy.
Liz and Criss don’t agree on a table (which shouldn’t matter since Liz is paying for it), and the table she wants isn’t in stock. Aw shit! There is penance when Criss knowledgably points out that Liz gets mad about things and he gets over things, which balances them perfectly. While this isn’t necessarily true, it does highlight the inanity characters breaking up for menial differences. But Seinfeld glorified this concept over nine seasons, and last minute saving graces shouldn’t always be such a crutch.
I really don’t like how Criss is simply “the guy who starts things and doesn’t finish them.” He half-wrote Liz a love song on guitar. Awesome. I’m honestly more interested in the offscreen conversation where Liz admits to thinking the soundtrack to Major League is romantic.
On the flip side, I’m admittedly easy to please where Jenna plotlines are concerned. At this point, she works almost solely as Absurd Celebrity Punchline Riff Machine. It’s fine with me, because I know of no better mouthpiece than Jane Krakowski. (Is it a thing this season for Jenna to namecheck a nemesis in every single episode?
This week, it’s Abigail Breslin and Flo, from the Progressive commercials.) Even with solid lines, her story is shallow and similar to some in the past. Sebastian, the 102-year-old line producer for America’s Kidz Got Singing was found dead (at Guy Fieri’s), so Jenna recruits Pete, whose wife is spending the holiday at dinner with her tennis instructor. (“I’m sending Sebastian’s sweater from the morgue. Wear it!”) She’s performing live for her biggest audience ever, and is fearful of a viewer backlash if she fails. As such, her rehearsals are plagued by a raspy voice. Pete diagnoses her with “the yips,” though she’s used to performing during high-pressure situations, including stabbing alligators and escaping a burning ship. Pete eventually realizes she needs to be in pain to offset the focus on her performance. Just as she gets on stage, he uses a cheap bow and arrow to nick her arm, and all goes unhinged. It was quite surreal to watch Jenna bleed through her dress as she sang so diligently. I didn’t need the cheap flashback gag to show Pete’s history with “the yips,” however.
Jack and Charlotte Jessup, Avery’s mother, are sort of finally interested in getting Avery back from North Korea, though they’re on opposing sides. An unsuccessful meeting is set up with the U.N. Transylvanian consulate C. Cjokula, who denies being a vampire despite highly slapstick vampiric behavior. I’ll cop to thinking his name is one of the best jokes in the show, even if it’s muted by Jack actually pronouncing it. In rallying against Cjokula (including threatening to never let Transylvania see another episode of Friends), Jack and Charlotte find common ground and spend the rest of the episode fighting off massive heaps of sexual tension.
Attempts to discuss neutral subjects like baseball lead to bat length and asses in baseball pants. After a restaurant owner explicitly pinpoints why the two look like lovers, they must part ways. Eventually, Jack thwarts Charlotte’s inexplicable courting of Herb (“You are what you smoke, eh, Jackie?), a man she found fighting a dog outside a liquor store, and the duo ends up taking their sexual frustrations out hitting golf balls while moaning in exasperation. At its core, I didn’t have much of a problem with this story, as Jack was never quite faithful to Avery to begin with, and Steenburgen, acting skills nonewithstanding, is more attractive now than she’s ever been.
The “Tracy and Frank mentor Lutz’s libido” plot is somehow more sitcom-ian that the Liz-Criss story. Tracy has never shied away from his questionable sexual tastes, but I seriously doubt Frank is at a comparable level which allows him to share mentoring skills. Hearing them simultaneously repeat the episode title was enough for me to throw my remote at the screen. (A window screen, as TVs are expensive.) They share lewd sexual scenarios, including hitting up self-conscious Weight Watchers members, switching bathing suit sizes at Ray Ray’s Discount Clothes Bucket, and going to salons where white girls do black girls’ hair. As you can imagine, Lutz embarrasses himself in each scenario (he gets called a “Louie Anderson little bitch” during one conquest), finally and unknowingly hitting on Liz in the IKEA parking lot. This is when Liz realizes she is the Lutz in her own life, and flocks back to Criss. Lutz, meanwhile, gets nothing but shame. As it should be. Fuck Lutz.
Even after it’s mentioned that Angie is at a hotel dressed as a clown waiting for Tracy to dress as an elephant and interview her for a job at the circus, and that Tracy considers Lutz a work acquaintance at best (and at worst, a rival that inspires him to do better), it still seems like this whole story started out brainstorming how to get Lutz and Tracy into a storyline together. Frank, I understand. He and Lutz both “look like Far Side characters.” Not that the story would have been aces without Tracy, but at least he could have been in a more character-appropriate arc.
Finally, I love Kristen Schaal. Her addition to the cast was hypothetically the coolest thing I could have imagined. After a couple episodes in, though, I can probably imagine better shit. Hazel, a former Haunted House manager who lives in a 24-hour fitness center, came to the big city for the same reasons anyone does. But the more Kenneth shows her the page program ropes, particularly in dealing with the TGS cast, reality sets in, and she realizes this isn’t at all what she hoped for. (Fuck that whole lizard mating with her face scene. That was stupid.) That is, until wise sage Kenneth gets her to deliver a package to Liz’s house, where she sees how successful and normal life can be as a New York Woman. Unfortunately, this seems to be headed into Single White Female territory, if the credits tag is to be believed. Goofy as it was, I quite enjoyed watching her put lipstick on Liz before smooshing her own lips against the camera. “Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers. Happy Valentine’s Day to us all.” Creepy, if nothing else.
While I’m not as disappointed as Charlie Brown waiting on a card from the Little Red-Haired Girl, I still think there were too many missed opportunities here. I applaud themed shows that don’t follow themed rules, but the Pete/Jenna story had absolutely nothing to do with Valentine’s Day. If nobody had called the day out by name, it wouldn’t even be that obvious a holiday show. The long episode allowed far too much haphazard material to get in, examples being the “pistol regifting” and “Archer Pete” cutaway gags. Where’s the A-Game, guys? Where “Cupid Werewolf Bar Mitzvah?” Tell me it will be back next week, and I’ll be pleased. See you guys there.
G.E.’s Microwave Oven and Random Observation Division
I laughed the first time we saw the creepy Gollum-ish employee whose satisfaction was drawn from fighting couples. “Silence, prisoner. I mean, how can I help you?” Then they showed him a few more times and my sighs grew weary.
I’m not-quite-dying to know the details of Mickey Rourke testing out his catapult on Jenna.
“Why is your bathroom full of wine bottles?”
The last time Jack heard classical music Schubert, on a TV commercial. Why would they use music from a man who died of syphilis to sell douches? This may be the only time I’ve heard the word “douches” in its intended form on network TV. Maybe not, but I’m not starting a drinking game with it.
Jenna doesn’t want a female doing her hair. She needs someone named Trentance, or Beeno. Also, she attacked Nancy Kerrigan.
“Tonight, the judge becomes the opposite of a judge. A little effort, guys.” How is Billy Bush going to produce such laughter? I feel I’ve made a bet against this in my past.
Dr. Spacemen’s two great probably misquoted lines: “If those teeth were in your vagina, you’d be considered a monster.” and “There’s no field of medicine for the brain, but I can give you this pamphlet for a cult.”
The thought of highly respectable Jack Donaghy using a series of hokey accents at the U.N. wasn’t nearly as funny as…almost everything else. Are Australian accents still funny, really?
The sound of Liz’s labored breathing as she walks up the stairs is enough to kill Jack’s sexual arousal. This is where Jack and I part ways. I also don’t mind that she calls sex “Mommy Daddy Sheep Monster,” nor that she uses Love Boat reunions to masturbate to. I’m what you call an equal-opportunity pervert.
Last night, Kenneth had a dream that a baby ate his hair. It made me gag on the hair that I myself was eating.
The restaurant owner tells Jack and Charlotte they go together like pasta and a mouth. As a selling point, he tells them of the restaurant’s unisex bathroom with no locks and extra mirrors.
Jenna fires the live composer because she’s had sex with him, and he has no rhythm. He seems fine with this.
Before Jenna goes on stage, one child brings her flowers…for her grave.
Cjokula, clearly a genius, is relieved no one is there to talk about the little boy lost in his castle.
Crowd signs during Jenna’s performance: America Kill Gigantic Skank, R.I.P. Sebastian 1910-2012, “Jenna, jump back up your mother!”
This Week in Frank’s Hat: Feet
Tracy thinks the last six years of Liz and Lutz is like watching Moonlighting. I assume because they work for a detective agency. No, wait…
“Mashed potatoes in a martini glass? What are you, the President….of France?”