October 21, 2010

30 Rock Recap: “Bappy Hirthday Gremlin!”

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Indeed, Liz’ inability to consummate her relationship with Carol (Matt Damon) and Jenna and Kenneth’s  “Sting”-like operation to steal cakes from Carvel may have been the darkest heights we’ve seen these characters reach.

Liz catches Jack, as he is channeling Ronald Reagan and in the midst of a “perfect game” of solving people’s problems.  He has already fixed NBC’s programming slate by pitching “Child Hell Flight” (passengers on a flight learn that their pilot is 6 years old.  Host: Tom Bergeron).  Not as great as my favorite Kenneth sitcom idea, about a Jewish man who opens an ice cream shop called, “Ice Cream Cohen.” And the drama about two cops named Cash and Carry for which he didn’t yet have a title.

Liz reveals that her intimacy issues involve a weird incident with a Tom Jones poster.  This explains the opening line of the season premiere, in which Liz wakes up to a nightmare shouting, “No Tom Jones, no!” Nice continuity, writers.  Jack is horrified, and leaves the car service that he has provided Liz to take her to Newark airport, where she is about to break up with Carol.  (She couldn’t get a cab because Greece was playing Pakistan in soccer and Jack had to speak with Rachel Maddow about redundancies in their haircuts).

Meanwhile, Jack stumbles on the set of Tracy’s commercial for the Boys and Girls Club of America.  Tracy is frustrating his former director for “Garfield 3” by his inability to deliver his lines.  He says, “Scripts get in the way of my process…Let’s just shoot 100 of these and see what we get.”  When he sees Jack, he tells the crew, “Let’s take a quick 500 so everyone can meet Jack.”  Of course, Jack remembers that Ronald Reagan was fed jelly beans to make it look like he was talking, gives them to Tracy, and does a fantastic voice-over impersonation while Tracy chews.  He uses the same voiceover that he performed when he acted as Tracy in therapy back in season 1.

Jenna and Kenneth’s story line proves to be the darkest.  Jenna has always been selfish and Kenneth has always been overly naïve and easily manipulated – these character flaws have always been played as unrealistic and over the top.  Tonight, their actions brought out a pretty ugly side of these characters.  Jenna is given a “Black” Carvel card, entitling her to free ice cream (A nice wink to the Dina Lohan scandal, where she was caught using daughter Lindsay’s black Carvel card in East Meadow, New York this summer and got it revoked in the process.  These Carvel people take these cards very seriously.)  After taking a cake back she didn’t have to pay for and receiving cash in return, Jenna and Kenneth decide to continue with their scam and enlist the support of Kelsey Grammer, in a nod to The Sting.

The scheming here wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, except for the names Jenna asked to be misspelled on the cake (“Happy Birthday Blenna!”), but it was a nice realistic turn for characterization!  It had been alluded to before that Kenneth could easily succumb to behavior he had once perceived to be amoral – remember when he stole the free cable and he was so excited to tell Jack, “There’s a whole channel on the cable that just tells you what’s on the other channels!”? Here, he is tempted to sin, does so, but then reverses course.  It was nice for Kenneth to get a meatier storyline.  I’m sure next week he will go back to being addicted to caffeine, or imagining his mother is a Halloween skeleton.  Something like that.

Also, Jack telling Liz that “she’s great,” even though he would only say so once in a decade, was a nice touch.  Their mutual respect for each other is an endearing part of the show – and 30 Rock handles their relationship in a uniquely sweet and funny way.  His eye roll when he realizes that she was supposed to meet Carol at JFK instead of Newark Airport turned the sappy moment back to classic self-deprecating humor that Tina Fey does best.

The Night’s Best Moments

Original Author: Scott Eidler