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30 Rock’s second episode of the season is full of a lot of half baked ideas and not many big laughs.

The show has episodes like this from time to time where they have a lot of clever hooks or good guest stars and it doesn’t really ever figure out the perfect place to go with them. Tonight’s episode was unfortunately full of these.

For starters, the week’s two big guest stars are mostly wasted and this couldn’t make me sadder seeing that they were playing Kenneth’s mom and, unknown to Kenneth, step father. Catherine O’Hara and Bryan Cranston fill those respective shoes and one wonders how the writers didn’t knock this one out of the park. They come to visit Kenneth, but get sucked into this weird subplot with Jenna basically studying them to see what “real Americans” are like to aim her next song at; I enjoyed “Balls” personally. Where we could have had this really bizarre mother/son dynamic, instead we get the clichéd “you’re not my father” routine between Cranston and McBrayer. All of this is sullied even further by the dull intrusion of Jenna and the plot line never really gets off the ground. It really is a shame too with O’Hara being perfectly cast as Kenneth’s mother; they just never let them get appropriately weird for the character. And where was Hazel in all of this? Maybe they will bring O’Hara back for a second chance at all of this. The revelation for Ken at the end was also just way to easy and I wish they would have made Ronald MacDonald earn Kenneth’s trust a little more difficult.

Things aren’t that great elsewhere either with Jack regulated to saying, basically, ‘please don’t do that,’ over and over again to Liz. They apply their own twist on the 2012 election by forcing Paul Ryan to step down because he was born in Kenya and replacing him with an idiot candidate who happens to look exactly like Tracy. Liz wants to use the comedic gold nugget on TGS, but that would of course interfere with Jack’s tanking of NBC. This all devolves in a convoluted Sophie’s choice moment for Lemon as the ramifications of keeping the character on TGS will either go against her sex life or her politics. I know, it gets pretty ridiculous, and this was all assisted by the best cameo of the episode, Cooter Burger, the simple idiot played by Matthew Broderick. Broderick gets plenty of laughs in his brief screen time, but he feels wedged into the episode. The whole dilemma Cooter brings up is a matter of ratings vs. politics for Jack and when added to the parallel aforementioned choice for Liz it all feels way too convoluted. I thought they might reference Fey’s work as Palin more directly, but no jokes were to be found referencing those moments in Fey’s life.

Liz also has trouble at home as her and her man are trying to figure out her ovulating cycle. There are some cute moments of confusion as Criss’ calendar comes crumbling down under inspection, but the eventual payoff of Liz getting off on organizing only kind of makes sense for the character and is pretty out there on top of it all. The sexual montage in the office supply shop was kind of funny, but again, it felt like the show was stretching trying to make this another weird quirk in Lemon’s arsenal. The couple finds fun in lovemaking again, but I feel like forcing the baby plot is going to be a struggle for the show this season, made even tougher by the fact that Criss’ and Lemon seem more and more different with each passing episode. Why are they together again?

With none of the stories really taking off this week, one was only able to take solace in the random one liner’s that really worked. A chuckle here and there was to be had, but it would be hard for one to watch this episode and not feel like the creative staff had quite a few swings and a miss. Poor use of guest stars, not interesting plots, and a whole lot of nothing for most everyone to do isn’t going to translate into comedy that often and it doesn’t here.

Random Ramblings:
-“Turns out he was actually born in Kenya.”
-Jimmy Fallon, yowzers.
-Gabourey Sidibe owns Black Hitler.
-Where can I download, “Balls!”
-“The FBI claimed it was the cause of a spike in summer sex crimes.”
-“You’re Glenn and I’m Sally.” Not creepy Glenn Liz.
-“My body weight crushed them to smithereens.”
-Catherine O’Hara! Bryan Cranston!
-100 Hits!
-“When they heroically tried to lubricate the Gulf of Mexico.”
-“I assumed those were all vaginal euphemisms.”
-“I hate you!”
-“Gift Basket! Pears, why?”
-“Oh, I am well aware of that.”
-“That’s the sound of Honey Boo Boo’s piling up on your DVR.”
-“Let me die in a hospital with a treatable disease like an American.”
-Jimmy Buffet reference, I can role with that.
-Printing in landscape is essential when spread sheeting.
-Cooter Burger, got to love him.
-“Take a nap in their car.”
-“Well I ate that goat.”

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