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“On behalf of the motherfucking standards board…”
I used to be under the impression back-to-back episodes were a gift to rabid fans. Then I realized real gifts should come in one big package and not two separate ones. (Jenna’s greed has taken me over). Especially for past-their-prime shows like 30 Rock, the double-episode feels like a buy one, get one free option, instead of paying in full for two equally worthy items. There are Inception-like levels of meta-meta-meta self-parody here. And if the actual viewing didn’t make it blatant enough, “Weird Al" Yankovic is a massive flare announcing that nobody on this show takes anything seriously anymore. That said, “Weird Al" is always welcome on my television, at my dinner table, and wherever else he wants to be. I just wish they’d have given him actual lines. Or possibly have released “Knapsack” as a single.
Tonight’s through-thread is Kidnapped by Danger: The Avery Jessup Story, which is brought to you with limited commercial interruptions by Pride bladder control pads. Pride: make every room a bathroom. Pride: have a private sewer in your pants. This TV movie of the week, made in just under a week, obviously tells the story of Avery’s kidnapping. At first denied the central role, Jenna cons her way into it by pretending to be Avery, returning to Jack’s loving arms. Though he sees her as too stupid at first (“There are three kinds of intelligence. Practical, emotional, and the actual kind, which is what I’m talking about.”), he soon sees her devilish and stubborn manipulations perfectly employ Avery’s essence. And anyway, every kidnapped woman Jenna has every portrayed ended up getting saved.
Jenna isn’t the only problem. Jack tasks Liz with screenwriting duties, which she does too well, including Jack’s tryst with Nancy. She’s twisting Jack’s story like Chubby Checker took traditional standing dance and corrupted it with twisting. One would think Jack had passed an eye over it before it got to the table read, which included Cynthia Nixon Boston-ifying the Nancy role, and Billy Baldwin as Lance Drake Mandrell, method acting as Jack Donaghy. Certainly Billy Baldwin should have just played himself, considering all we see of “Lance” is him acting like Jack anyway, minus a couple of actor-y lines.
The entire gist of this plotline, beyond the movie itself, is for Liz to play “The Blocker,” a sex-halting third wheel to Jack and Diana Jessup. There are no feasible reasons why Diana, who thinks standing up in a pool is crass behavior, should have returned at all, much less a handful of episodes after her last appearance. While it’s amusing to see Liz push Diana into Lance-as-Jack’s arms (and onto his four inches of steel), any other angle of Jack’s life could have been exploited here. Just watching Jack stare wistfully through a set-dressed false window from his office was near priceless. Most amusing was Diana hounding Lance, and his fighter pilot wrists, for Jack-isms. Thoughts on Obama? “Hope? More like nope.” Hybrids? “Prius is the Latin word for impotence.” Rosé wine? “Pairs well with failed suicide.”Also immaturely amusing is Lance’s repeated use of the word “boinking,” as he’s not a writer.
From here we enter Kenneth’s arc, by way of Hazel, who isn’t delicate, as she has been in many car wrecks. The first episode does a fine job of making Kristen Schaal the least funny she’s been this season, all wrapped up in 30 Rock’s umpteenth “mentor/mentee” plot. To freshen things up, “modern-day DTF woman” Liz is the mentor, eventually following grandmentor Jack’s advice that sometimes allowing people to fail is the best thing to do. Just take the amusing Apollo Theater performance from Liz “Lemonem.” (“Do the sprinkler!”)
Hazel, whose heterosexuality is constantly in question despite her relationship with chubby-chasing creepo Ramzig, liberally follows Liz’s Karate Kid 4advice to stand up for herself when Kenneth and Tracy’s friendship usurps her role as a page. She does everything wrong, from taking Tracy off his medication so that he can get drunk to buying him a crossbow and motorcycle, complete with motorcycle ramp. Though she doesn’t take kindly to Liz’s urging to dump Ramzig, she eventually realizes that Liz is right about nearly everything. But how does this fare for Kenneth and Tracy?
Kenneth realizes that the only place he can talk to Tracy where Hazel can’t get in between them is on the air. NBC is hosting an essay contest with a prized guest-spot on TGS (because people are 4% more likely to watch NBC if they’re on it), so Kenneth quits his job in Standards in order to win the contest himself, which Liz is happy to award him, as the contest has been a failure in the “gassy” past. (One of the essays was sent in inside a bloody halter top.) Kenneth interrupts a sketch of Tracy playing an infantile version of Obama to tell him that he won’t sit by and watch Tracy destroy himself. He would do anything for love, but he won’t do that. To which Tracy emotionally replies, “That girl in that video was hot in an early ‘90s kind of way.” The Meat Loaf fan inside me giggled, then I asked him to leave the room. (Gay pun intended, girlfriend.)
This carries into the second episode, as Kenneth has to enter the NBC workforce at the bottom, taking an under-utilized job as a janitor. We only get to see him mirthfully plunging a toilet and finding a sandwich he threw away when he thought executive sandwiches would always be in his future. This blind happiness, just by working for the greatest company ever created since the Earth began 800 years ago, is something Jack asks Kenneth to explain.
It is quite disheartening, though amusing, to hear Kenneth tell Jack that he lies to himself all the time; he wakes up and tells himself everything will be okay, but he’s lying, and doesn’t know how much longer he can take it. (Cue McBrayer’s toothy smile.) Jack now understands it’s okay to lie to himself, despite his realization that his marriage to Avery has been a sham. As not to make this public knowledge, he amends the TV movie to include a battle scene between him and Kim Jong Il on the Empire State Building rooftop, which ends in Jack being stopped by the dictator’s straight-fingered “freeze ray” before Avery is taken away. I absolutely loved the reveal when the director yells cut and it’s just Billy Baldwin standing by himself in a giant green screen set.
Then there’s the dumbest, though whole-heartedly welcomed storyline of Jenna’s “Kidnapped” theme song being immediately parodied by “Weird” Al. (I cannot name a single song from any TV movie in history.) His version is called “Knapsack,” and it’s quite catchy. In current fashion, the parasitic Tracy attaches himself to this story and helps Jenna try and create a new song that defies parody.
After some obvious clunkers, the two arrive on a zany song about pizza and the fact that burritos give people gas, which she performs to a confused crowd on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. (Give it up for a Roots cameo.) To their dismay, and honor, "Weird Al" pulls a “Normal Al" and released a soundalike song giving respect for military fathers. (Sad trombone noise.) He also comes back for the credits tag and sings and dances over an extended cut of the 30 Rock theme song. It was a fun ending, but I can’t say I haven’t sung a very similar version of it over the years, alone. So very alone. Though changing “Sussudio” to “Soupsoupio,” or something similarly spelled, is well beyond my creative means.
I can’t lie. These are laugh-packed episodes filled with zingers and zangers and Liz admitting she writes sexy Mythbusters fan fiction. I can never truthfully say any minute taken out of an episode’s context won’t have at least three good lines in it. It’s just the episode context that gets in the way of all the good lines. Avery has popped up in punchline after punchline over the last couple months, and while tonight could have given us any sign of true emotion, if not pathos, from Jack, it didn’t. He chooses to make a TV movie and then figure out the marriage isn’t necessarily genuine.
List of Quotes and Things From a Show Created by Lorne Michaels
I would love to get shithoused during a four-hour set from Matt Lauer’s band Rhythm and News. Sourpuss Jack isn’t invited.
Amnesty International: only a candle maker.
“You mean Condoleezza…” “Shut up!”
In “Which Gossip Girl Are You?” quizzes, Liz is the dad’s guitar. Shouldn’t have made me laugh like it did. That is such a “my wife” reference.
“No more Krang sketches!”
Kenneth’s oddness always shines. What’s his problem? His parents were technically brothers. He finally had a desk lamp that he controls. Tracy is always in his heart, like Nana Parcell, his heartworm. He has an old tuxedo from his grandfather’s prom, themed Enchantment Under the Jim Crow Laws. He fishes in the river for his shoes.
How adorable are Chinese babies as miners, with puppies bringing them supplies? Very adorable.
This Week In Frank’s Hat: VHS Repairer.
Mitt Rommummy is funnier than Mitt Zombie. And the gauze industry applauds you, Liz Lemon.
Jenna’s college got tipped over by Miami Heat fans. Such a strange line that got me thinking about all the examples of where she could have gone. I landed on “house boat.”
“It takes a big woman to admit when she’s wrong.” “You are big woman? You have nudes?” Fuckin’ Ramzig, everybody. What a kooky cat.
Tonight gave me a new entry into my “Top 5 List of Jenna Maroney’s Past Endeavors” in her being a topless host on Nickelodeon Mexico. It’s so unnerving to think about.
“The banking industry learned its lesson and now they’re doing amazing and everyone’s honest.” And it’s the episode after this where Jack learns how to lie to himself. Strange.
“There hasn’t been a good non-boat painting in 5000 years.”
Shamelessly, I allowed a big laugh out when Diana said she had to go freshen up because the train was disgusting. “I flew, but I saw a train from the window.” The same went for Tracy telling Jenna, “I’ll make coffee. Then you make coffee. And after the coffee contest, we can start.” Lest anyone ever think my sense of humor is refined.
“Did you just say bologna thighs? Because that’s the name of the boat Weird Al is gonna buy with the money he makes off of you. Dumb bitch!” I wish this wasn’t undercut with an apology about caring too much. Not enough people are truly honest in their treatment of Jenna. She really is a dumb bitch.
I actively avoided paying attention to Liz’s bright-ass blue plaidish shirt until Diana truth-bombed her with, “I’m glad to see the end game of feminism is women dressing like Dennis the Menace at work.” Damn you, Tina Fey, for consistently making Liz Lemon just a face without a body to me.
No holiday theme!