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30 Rock Fodder

30 Rock: Jack the Writer Lacks Focus

Unrelated storylines fail to tie together, leaving the viewer unsatisfied. But the laughs--fewer than delivered by the last few episodes, but more than many sitcoms--keep "30 Rock" on the at-least-worth-TiVoing list.

The Quick Recap

Liz tries to get the writers engaged in work, but they're all watching Cerie (evidently it's Cerie, not Cerise as I originally thought; my bad), whose top is cut to show off her cleavage. Cerie's making the most of it.

Liz: I think we need to change this Donald Trump joke. ... Because Donald Trump was eaten by a lion this morning on the international space station.

No one is listening. She asks that question, knowing the answer. She attempts to divert Cerie by giving her a new task, but apparently the boys find Cerie's rear view even better. Frank attempts to high-five Liz, but she remains the only one not interested in watching the show. (Nice follow-through from last week's "Liz isn't a lesbian" theme.) Liz must resort to sending Cerie out of the room.

Frank, now undistracted, looks at the script and says they have to change the Trump joke. Thus breaking the show's three-week streak of making me laugh during the teaser.

Kenneth the Page brings Tracy his car keys (saying that he's had the car washed) and a Baby on Board sign "to help you get tail." (I would think Tracy would require that the car be detailed. I'm fine with Ken not knowing the term, except that he's obviously focussed on doing what Tracy tells him, and even quoting his new idol.)

Ken: It's my pleasure and my job, sir. Anything you ever need, just ask.
Tracy: But I want you know something. You and me, it's not going to be a one-way street. 'Cause I don't believe in one-way streets. Not between people and not while I'm driving.

Back at the writer's meeting, they have a one-minute dance party during a break. Toofer cranks some Chamillionaire (evidently; I know only "Ridin'" and this isn't that). Liz is dancing (badly) when Jack Donaghy enters. He says he's going to observe. Because of SIx Sigma, "the elite GE executive training course," which Jack makes sound like yuppie ninja training. He says "a manager must understand every aspect of the business he or she oversees," so he'll be there every day. He informs the writers that they're to act like he's not there.

Each day, Cerie offers coffee in progressively more suggestive attire. Each day, Jack makes another writing suggestion.

Jack: Now, I'm not a writer, but maybe there's a skit in that.

Liz comes to work one day after this has been going on for some time to find Pete waiting for her. He encourages Liz to evict Jack from the room. She insists that she can't tell Jack what to do. She gets distracted by Cerie in an even skimpier outfit. Not in that way; she's upset about the unprofessional attire. She says she's going to speak to Cerie about it. Pete protests vehemently, begging Liz to leave his entertainment alone. Pete gets the pratfall this week.

Tracy sends Ken to get nachos from Yankee Stadium.

Liz begins her conversation with Cerie with "You need to wear a bra." Cerie bounces to prove that she's fine without one. Cerie explains that her career goal is to marry rich, so Liz's argument that Cerie needs to dress more professionally doesn't hold water. Cerie says she thought Liz had several kids, based on food stains on her clothes. Liz bails on the whole conversation and heads to her office, where she finds all the writers waiting.

Liz: Boy, we as a group might not smell great.

(Ha!) The writers complain that Jack's presence in the writers' room is adversely affecting the writing.

Liz agrees to talk to Jack, who's in the writers' room. Liz blurts out that he can't be in the room because he's driving them all nuts. Jack takes it disturbingly well.

Ken is at Yankee Stadium, which is closed. He scales the fence in his pursuit of Tracy's nachos, gets his tie stuck, and flails a bit. Seeing either a small rat or a big mouse, he says, "Go get help, girl."

Jack's assistant's name is Jonathan. He's helping Jack dodge Liz with blatant lies.

Ken rubs Tracy's feet, surrounded by aquariums.

Tracy: You did real good the other day with those nachos, but I need you to do something of a different nature. Would you agree when I say that a man's freedom only exists when he's free to pursue his desires.
Ken: Yes, I suppose I would.
Tracy: Which means when the law conflicts with our desires, then we must operate outside the law. You following me?
Ken: Otherwise, we would no longer be free.

As Tracy sends Ken on an undisclosed mission, Cerie tells Liz that she's wearing a bra. Which is obvious because if she's wearing a shirt over it, it must be transparent. Jonathan pulls Liz aside to tell her to apologize to Jack.

Jonathan: He can't know that I told you.
Liz: But he sent you hear to tell me to apologize.
Jonathan: Exactly. I penciled you in for three o'clock. This conversation never happened.

Kenneth bikes to a graffiti-covered evidently bad part of town to see "Qiang Dang." He returns with a fish in a baggie, singing Broadway tunes.

Liz goes to Jack's office to apologize. Jack says it's no big deal, then fishes for compliments, getting Liz to say she likes him. The fish lands in the aquarium, and Tracy sends Ken on another errand.

Jack gives Liz tickets to Chamillionaire, with backstage passes.

Jack: You could take the writers, or a friend. Whatever.

The closed captioning said "You could take the writers, or a lady friend." Another throwback to last week; could've been funny, but Alec's delivery of the new line is typically sharp.

Jack: I'd like us to be friendly.

Liz enthusiastically agrees. As she walks away, Pete joins her, and she tells him that Jack's getting buddy-buddy.

Pete: Did we just go in a circle?
Liz: Yeah. I was following you.
Pete: I was following you.
Liz: No, I'm going to wardrobe.
Pete: OK. Good walk-and-talk.

Liz, in wardrobe, hands Cerie somethnig to cover herself up with. Cerie then gives Liz a trashy outfit. She gets Liz to wear it by suggesting that she (Liz) is a size 4. Liz struts through the hall in the outfit, until she gets to the writers' room, where she is not well received. When Frank goes on about how disgusting it is, Liz insists it's a joke.

Jack's showing two corporate suits around while the writers are having pizza. The writers want to eat on the roof.

Jack: This is where my writers write. Don't mind the odor.

Liz tells the writers that she'll ask Jack about the roof. Liz then chats up Jack, and tells the suits that Jack "rocks." Jack pulls her aside and yells at her for the benefit of his colleagues, apologizing to her under his breath. He says he didn't mean any of it.

Liz: Well, I don't like you anymore.
Jack: I don't believe you.

That could've been a good ending. But Jack follows it up with "Go easy on the pizza."

The Brief Review

Definitely not as good as last week. Maybe they let a VP into the writers' room. But there were moments (Kenneth on the bicycle holding the fish) and lines ("Ann Coulter's 60th birthday") that redeemed it as a half-hour of primetime television.

Points in Favor

1. No Jenna, no Josh. It's not that I think Jane Krakowski as Jenna is bad for the show. Actually, she''s good. So the other guy. But I like that the show can handle a balance of characters, even allowing major characters to spend some time on the bench. Each absent performer was paged to the set a few times.

2. The sketches are there but not there. "Who Wants to Eat a Dictionary" I believe was one, and "Homophobic Gays" another. It's a good balance, keeping us aware that they're working on a comedy show, without getting too bogged down in actual detailed sketches.

3. The Jack/Liz dynamic. Alec Baldwin is great. Tina Fey is best when Alec Baldwin's in the scene. Jack's a great character. Liz has her moments. This is a relationship (at work only, please) that has real potential.

Points Against

1. Disjointedness. The major storylines--Cerie's outfits, Tracy's control of Ken, and the Jack/Liz relationship barely intersected. I like the themes to be subtle, but here the scenes had completely different tones, topics, and characters. If it hadn't been for Pete asking where Kenneth was, these bits may have been from different episodes.

2. Weight jokes. One noticeable continuing theme is jokes about Liz's (Tina Fey's) weight. If she were heavy, they might play. If she were an absolute stick, on the order of Cerie, they might play. But she's close to the stick side, not quite there, perfectly normal (which is considered a bit heavy for a performer in Hollywood, most likely, but certainly not for a writer) -- and that's probably the intended joke, but it's getting old.

3. Liz acting stupid. I've been championing Tina Fey's self-deprecating humor and ability to make her character look bad, but unless she turns out to have been drunk, revealed in a future storyline about her serious drinking problem handled in a surreally humorous way, she was just too stupid at the end of this episode. Neurotic is funny. Believably stupid is funny. Her "diva" outfit and embarrassment by the writers for wearing it is funny. The ending lacked.

Two Words

Rocky patch.

Posted by on November 2, 2006 7:46 PM
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