A quick review of last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I learn about air-quotes...
There was a period in the second season of "30 Rock" when the show was so consistent in both its hilarity and the ways in which it was hilarious that my posts on each episode became less reviews than lists of things I found funny. With a few exceptions, this young season is shaping up to be the show's best since year two, and there are weeks like this one where analyzing why certain jokes worked and others didn't feels besides the point. It wasn't perfect, but it had so many laugh-out-loud moments (with Jack's "Lesbian Mario Brothers!" line throwing me into full-on convulsions) that for this week, at least, I'm going old school and just listing some (but by no means all) of the great jokes, along with a few stray observations and questions, in rough chronological order:
• Jenna on fashion: "It's the dream: boy on the bottom, girl on the top!"
• Liz's list of trendy New York neighborhoods, including "the Van Beardswick section of Brooklyn."
• The "Jenna Gets Hard" video snippet, and Jenna referring to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association as "Hoff-pa!"
• Every single second that John Slattery was on screen. Seriously. Every single second. In my notes, I wrote at one point "Slattery + diaper + New England accent = win," but everything about the Steve Austin character was just glorious in its absurdity(*). Often, when you introduce someone this ridiculous, the joke gets old after a scene or two, but the episode kept finding new levels of perversity to take the guy. (Though I did think his actual song at the end was much less campaign-killing than a number of the things he had said or done previously.) Jon Hamm? The gauntlet has officially been thrown in a Who's The Funniest "Mad Men" Actor? contest. You, Slattery and Alison Brie go meet in the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices for a rumble.
(*) Let me remind you, by the way, that we have a No Politics rule around here, because we learned the hard way at the old blog that people on the Internet are incapable of discussing the subject rationally. So even though you might be able to look at Austin and see a Tea Party parody, or a spoof of various fringe third-party candidates, we're going to leave that alone and just talk about a middle-aged man in a diaper, okay?
• A question: were they using a body double for all the Liz butt shots? Obviously, Tina Fey is a beautiful woman who keeps herself in great shape and enjoys all the benefits of the 21st century glamour industry. I would in no way be surprised to learn that that was her. On the other hand, though, every one of those shots (save for Liz in the hideous, unflattering, probably padded shorteralls) was edited in a way that called attention to the fact that you weren't seeing Liz's face and body in the same shot. That's part of the joke, too (ala an old "SNL" commercial where Mary Tyler Moore advertized a leg razor, in which every insert shot was of a man's hairy legs).
• Kenneth naked and covered in sushi, and later Cake Boy Kenneth declaring this the happiest day of his life.
• Pretty much every snippet of "Hard to Watch" and its lampoon of the kind of misery porn that becomes obvious awards show bait.
• The entire world being owned by or descended from Halliburton.
• Jack's line about "USA" being a Vietnamese island prison reminded me of an elementary school assembly in which some crusty middle-aged guy in a trenchcoat (I think he was a former cop or FBI agent, but may have just been a weirdo the school somehow booked) gave us kids various lessons in protecting ourselves from fraud. One of them was that many "Made in USA" labels were referring not to the United States of America, but to some foreign island whose name had been changed to USA to allow for such a misleading label. Years later, I wondered if the guy was just a paranoid xenophobe, or if such a place existed. After Jack's speech, I still don't know.
• "I'll be furious - like waking-up-next-to-Rob-Schneider furious!"
• Again, Alec Baldwin's delivery of "Lesbian Mario Brothers!" could not have been more perfect.
• Liz mixing up lines from two different bad Tracy movies in her argument with Jack.
So glad to have "30 Rock" back as "30 Rock." A season like this one reminds me why I stick it out with some other comedies I used to love that are struggling.
What did everybody else think?
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