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30 Rock

30 Rock is a comedy about "TGS with Tracy Jordan" a sketch show (based on Saturday Night Live) run out of 30 Rockefeller Centre in New York. Head writer Liz Lemon has to deal with temperamental stars Tracy Jordan and Jenna Maroney while also appeasing her boss Jack Donaghy. NBC 2006-???


Episode 9 - Klaus and Greta

22 March 2012


Synopsis: Jack got wasted on New Years and called Nancy. He and Kenneth break into her house to erase the message but then discover that Nancy’s marriage has broken down. On her holiday Liz outed her cousin Randy and he now comes to stay with her. Tracy has got Angie pregnant and his attitude toward women has begun to change. Finally Jenna met James Franco’s agent and enters into a fake relationship with him.

The Good: I don’t often get to shower 30 Rock with praise but this was an excellent episode and I was delighted to watch it.

With 30 Rock’s relaxed attitude toward character consistency and believability I often find the episodes work best when they just go all out with their nonsense. Instead of focussing on one story which becomes increasingly hard to enjoy, I say just throw everything against the wall and see what makes us laugh.

Fortunately the writing here did allow each character to follow plotlines which suited them. Jack has always been a surprisingly effective romantic lead for the show. He is the man who has everything and can achieve anything except when it comes to love. It’s a story which they have had fun telling and the continuity with his relationship with Nancy (from the previous episode) added to the reality of the situation.

So he and Kenneth go rooting around her house with Jack playing it straight, hoping Nancy might be his for real while Kenneth leaps around providing the gags. The best one being when he goes on and on explaining why Nancy’s voicemail code proves she has feelings for Jack long after Jack understands. In the end Kenneth once more provides the moral compass for Jack to follow and he leaves a mature and appropriate message to hopefully keep his relationship with Nancy alive.

Then there is Liz who frets over Randy’s wellbeing now that he is gaying around New York City. Though his story was predictable it did provide the odd good joke, such as his conservative town editing Will and Grace so much that they just called it Karen. Randy helped add to the chaos unfolding which kept the plot moving at such a good lick.

Then we had Tracy also throwing his oar in briefly for good measure. To start the episode everyone was describing their New Years with flashbacks for illustration. Tracy says he got his wife pregnant and everyone yells to stop a flashback from starting. It’s a meta joke which actually works for once because Tracy was going to describe the sex to them, so they weren’t breaking the fourth wall by yelling. Later Tracy realises that all women are daughters and makes the connection to his behaviour. I really enjoyed his lazy chat up line to one of the new dancers before he realised this: “and before you worked here, were you an ass scientist because your ass blah blah blah, you get the point!” Tracy is so consistent in his childlike behaviour that I usually do enjoy his jokes, no matter how simple, including chewing out his entourage at the end of the episode for their “bad” attitude towards women.

Finally we have Jenna and James Franco. It’s the type of plot that taps into something real but makes it as absurd as possible. What made it work for me is that Franco was excellent, playing the role pretty straight as did Jenna who doesn’t get enough credit for her acting because she is so often badly written. But the ridiculous jokes just kept coming as you would expect when Franco had fallen in love with a Japanese body pillow (see Comic Highlight). Franco says Jenna’s hands feel like “a pillow that’s been in the microwave” and claims his relationship with his ottoman is strictly business. Jenna claims the tabloids are calling their relationship “James” as a mix of the names James and Jenna. The surreal plot mixes with Jenna and James’ own desires to be free and happy to make it oddly enjoyable and the conclusion with Liz getting involved was a nice punch line. Only Liz Lemon could actually weird out her cousin enough to send him back to his hometown.

Franco’s sexual deviancy reminded one of a plot in The Simpsons where Troy McClure had an unhealthy interest in fish (719). I wouldn’t say the similarities were at all negative, in a way 30 Rock took the idea (if it was an inspiration) and made it seem more real and funnier in certain ways. Credit to them and to Franco.

The Bad: Jonathan is beginning to overplay every scene. The fun part of unrequited love is the quiet desperation. Less is more Jonathan.

Comic Highlight: I thought for sheer silliness and driving home something obvious this little speech from James Franco was the kind of comedy 30 Rock could do more of.
Liz: “Yeah, what exactly is Mr Franco covering up here?”
JF: “Liz are you familiar with Japanese Moe relationship, where socially dysfunctional men develop deep emotional attachments to body pillows with women painted on them?”
Liz: “I am not James.”
JF: “Well neither am I Liz! Which is why it’s so weird that the tabloids are running all these stories saying I’m in love with a body pillow. It’s crazy!”
(Everyone laughs)
Liz: “Then why is it here?” (pointing to a Japanese body pillow sitting on a chair next to James Franco)

The Bottom Line: If you’re going to be silly, go all the way with it. And this was, joke a minute, loads of plots mixed together and strangely likeable developments.



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