Review: '30 Rock' - 'The Tuxedo Begins': Why so SERIOUS?
A review of last night's "30 Rock" coming up just as soon as I send my daughter off to a baby leadership conference...
Liz Lemon occupies a tricky place in the "30 Rock" comedy universe. She's the straight woman, but it's a waste of Tina Fey's comic chops to just have her reacting to Jack, Tracy and Jenna, while at the same time, when they make her as crazy as the rest of the characters, it can throw the show's entire balance out of whack. So crazy Liz(*) needs to be doled out both sparingly and carefully.
(*) Like crazy Dave on "NewsRadio," crazy Michael on "Arrested Development," crazy Jeff on "Community," etc.
Fortunately, "The Tuxedo Begins" was an example of crazy Liz working very well. It helped that the "Batman Begins"/"The Dark Knight" parallels unfolded very gradually before it became obvious that Liz was becoming the Joker and Jack was trying to be Batman. Mainly, though, I think it worked because the insanity came from a very familiar, long-established quality of Liz's in her frustration that the rest of the world doesn't behave itself any longer. (This goes back to the show's very first scene, where she bought up all the hot dogs from the cart to get back at the guy who cut in line.)
Jack's Batman transformation briefly skirted another art-imitates-life moment when he launched his very brief campaign for mayor, but was primarily a (successful) excuse to do more class warfare humor(*), and to revisit one of the show's greatest jokes ever. I also liked, in both the Liz and Jack scenes, our glimpses of the various New York caricatures, from the wide-eyed girl fresh off the bus and looking to hit it big (albeit in prostitution, which she appears to be successful at by the end) to both Mr. Met and the Statue of Liberty appearing randomly after Jack's takedown of Liz.
(*) Though my favorite joke of that whole story may have been the throwaway line about Jack's contributions to "Irish Arguments Weekly, America's only all-caps magazine."
And while the Jenna stories the last few weeks haven't worked for me, I'm always glad to see Will Forte back as Paul. Even before their attempt last night at the "normaling" fetish, it's always felt like his presence weirdly normalizes Jenna, because suddenly she's placed in stories that aren't just about other people reaction to her either being socially inappropriate or overly narcissistic. Paul is just as freaky as Jenna, and he worships her, so she becomes less of a cartoon character even as she's generally being kinkier than ever around him. This was a nice flip of that, with them trying to convince themselves that standard couple stuff is the kinkiest activity of all, and the show had a lot of fun with it before Jenna realized what was happening and Paul ran pantsless through the streets. Hope he's not gone for too long.
What did everybody else think?