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30 Rock: The Baby Show

And everyone says there are no good family comedies on TV.

The Quick Recap

Kenneth uses lame pretense to lead Jenna into the studio, where everyone is gathered to yell "Surprise!" It's Jenna's birthday, and she breaks into a song(accompanist at the ready). Cerie runs in and announces her engagement. Jenna dedicates the song to Cerie, and starts over.

Josh announces, "There's an antique car show out in the plaza," and the gathered crowd cheers and exits.

Liz is waiting outside Jack's office. Jonathan's concerned that the phone call Jack's on is from area code 407. Jack screams from the office, then comes out.

Jack: Who let 407 through? Jonathan, we have drills for this.

Liz begins to present her request for TGS jackets. She says accounting has declined her request, "but Dateline has jackets." Jack's mood is obviously wrong for this.

Jack: Jackets? Is this what you're talking about now? Jackets? Lemon, do you realize that your little show accounts for 3% of our revenue but takes up 90% of my time?

He tells Liz to stop bothering him, grabs massive amounts of food, and goes into his office.

Josh, Tracy, Dotcom, and Grizz went to a party last night. Josh impersonates Tracy, and Tracy laughs.

Liz: Aww, sounds like another great party I wasn't invited to.

Josh: Tracy, thank you for the funnest night of my life. Love you, man.
Tracy: I love you too, J Bird. [Josh leaves. Tracy turns to Liz.] Yo, I don't like that dude. It's disrespectful when he imitates me. I want him fired.

Liz tries to talk him down. Tracy threatens to go to Donaghy, which Liz obviously wants to avoid.

Passing makep, she sees that Cerie's getting her makeup done by one of the makeup crew, who enjoys it because Cerie is "like a Barbie." The makeup artist's baby is there, and she's a little frazzled: "My babysitter got jury duty. I think I'm going to kill myself."

On gentle questioning, Cerie tells Liz how long she's known her fiance: "It'll be two months in three weeks." Liz offers parental advice to Cerie. But Cerie wants to have babies "while it's still cool."

While drinking wine with Jenna and chatting about hot celebrities, Liz breaks down and tells Jenna that she's worried she may never have a baby.

Jenna: Wow. Red wine is not your drink.

Jenna's supportive in a not-at-all-supportive way. She tells Liz that her (Liz's) worries are very founded, but she (Jenna) will help find her (Liz) a guy to father the baby she (Liz) wants. Liz refuses the offer.

Kenneth: Good morning, Mr. Donaghy.
Jack: Go to hell.
Kenneth: No, thank you.

Jack queries Kenneth regarding his persistent cheerfulness. Kenneth credits his mother's wisdom. Jack reveals that his mother has been calling, threatening to move in with him, driving him to the edge.

Kenneth: My mother is my best friend.
Jack: My mother tried to send me to Vietnam to make a man out of me. I was twelve.

He goes on. Then his cell phone rings.

Jack: It's her. It's always her.

Liz is dialing a doctor listened under fertility in the Writer's Guild Health Manual. It's Dr. Spacemen (pronounced spuh-che-men). He starts by saying he "can't personally help you conceive."

The writers come in, offering to be her "baby daddy."

Liz: Jenna had no business telling you guys that.

She complains about Jenna's infelicity to Pete, who then offers to father her child.

Liz: Didn't you have a vasectomy?
Pete: No, I just told my wife I did.
Liz: And she doesn't get pregnant how?
Pete: I fake it.

The cat wrangler (Rachel Dratch) offers to carry Liz's child.

Josh is doing his Tracy impression. Liz protests. Josh continues. Tracy yells that he's going to Jack Donaghy.

Liz (to Josh): You better fix this, nerd. Otherwise Jack Donaghy's gonna kill me, and then he's gonna kill you, and then he's gonna fold us up in a pizza and eat us.
Josh: What?

A guy from the crew comes over to get Liz.

Bobby: Hey, Liz! I heard you're looking for a hook-up.
Liz (stepping on stage to make an announcement): Oh, you know what? Everybody, stop working right now. I don't want to have sex with any of you. I have plenty of time to have a baby, and I am not looking for sperm donors.
Bobby: Okay. But do you still want a sound hook-up so you can listen to rehearsal?

Tracy's playing with bubble wrap when his phone rings. He listens to "Jack Donaghy" explain that he can't take care of the problem with Josh because his father is in the Russian mafia. Josh elaborates (as Jack) on a few other things too.

Jack has called Liz to his office.

Jack: If you insist on going all Murphy Brown on me, let me give you a tip. Don't smother your child with affection to compensate for not having a man in your life. Don't say, "You're the only man I'll ever love." Even babies know that's creepy.
Liz: Of course.
Jack: Don't put little notes in their lunch bay that say "Mommy's watching you." People find those things.
Liz: I'll bet you behaved yourself, though.

Jack goes on, getting to the problem of his controlling mother wanting to move in with him. Liz responds with a line his mother said.

Jack: Is this what you want, Lemon? To breathe life into another human being just to spend the rest of your days slowly sucking it out of them.

Liz insists that her brain will beat out her body, and she won't do it. Jack's mom calls, and, on Liz's advice, he tries to be nice. It doesn't last long. Liz is treated to Jack screaming, "You cut Pop's balls off! And left him in the street to die!"

Cerie shows Liz her wedding dress, which is of a style indicating that she's going to be married in a pool.

Liz: Absolutely not, young lady.

She then comes upon Tracy trying to call Jack, stops him, and takes him aside to explain that he can't bother Jack. Tracy says Jack already called. Liz does some mental arithmetic, then goes to confront Josh.

Liz recruits Josh in a shell game. He calls Jack, imitating Tracy. He's imbecilic. But, as that's Tracy's usual state, Jack just says, "Go back on your meds, Tracy." Liz calls Josh an idiot. Because he's been repeating her cues, Josh says "idiot" into the phone, as Tracy, to Jack. Jack hangs up.

Jack: Idiot.

Liz then has Josh call Tracy as Jack, before she goes to find Jenna in makeup. The baby's there, ends up in Liz's arms, which end up in her apartment.

Liz: How did I get home. [to baby] Why didn't you say something?

Tracy approaches Jack with advice. Both of them go to wait for Josh. Josh, predictably, is punished by being forced to imitate Jack on the phone in conversations with Jack's mother. In the first call, he's almost holding his own, but pleads to Jack.

Josh: I can't do this.
Jack: Every day, for the rest of your or her life, and she will outlive you. She's like Castro.
Tracy: And when you're done with that, call my wife, and tell her I'm sorry for what happened with me and Keith and them.
Jack: What, who?

Liz is back, and explaining to Pete that she didn't mean to steal the baby.

Liz: It was like highway hypnosis. You know, when you pull into your driveway but you don't remember driving home?
Pete: Oh, right, right. And you have someone else's baby in your car.

He takes the baby and goes to smooth things over.

Again, Liz and Jack ruminate over the lessons of this week's show.

Jack: Where are you going? You have a rehearsal about to start.
Liz: I stole a baby, Jack. I'm taking a half day.
Jack: Fair enough.

Liz proclaims her assurance that she can figure out the whole career-family equation, even if no one else can. Jack points out that she has boarded the elevator going the wrong way.

Kenneth talks to his mother in his apartment. We see a skeleton wearing a wig and clothing.

Kenneth's Mother: Do you have me on speakerphone again?

He thanks her for sending the Halloween decorations.

The Brief Review

It's good to have "30 Rock" back.

The ongoing Liz's-neuroses issues, which appear to be the bedrock of the show, tread near the edge. The ongoing Jack's-neuroses issues, although predictable, were new enough this week to send no major warning signs. Of course Jack has Mommy issues. The lack of surprise wasn't problematic. Liz's even-more-predictable career-woman "baby crazy" hit near the 50-50 mark.

It was amusing to watch Liz become more motherly throughout the show, chastising Cerie and even moralizing at the end. But it's been done in other episodes, and Liz's role among the writers, and with Jenna and Josh and Tracy, is very maternal. She holds things together (despite not holding herself together). So an emphasis on her parenting the staff, which occasionally glimmered throughout the episode, may have been more satisfying.

Tracy's psychosis was used to excellent effect this week. I hope later episodes pursue Tracy's problems with being dismissed all the time because he's crazy. I'm picturing him bringing news of, say, a cougar loose in the building, coworkers not taking him seriously, and Tracy being proved right.

Points in Favor

1. Tina Fey's performance as Liz baby yearning/not. It was silly, funny, stupid, and still real. The first tearful confession to Jenna may not have gone far enough in the over-the-edge arena. But her on-stage meltdown when the sound guy offered the hook-up was the high point of the episode.

2. Verisimilitude. Josh's impressions actually were decent. I've remained neutral on this actor, but this was his episode. (Sorry I didn't have a press photo to use here; I'll look into that.)

3. Referring to "407," then Jack's mother, then the home he bought her, then Florida, was well paced (which is one of the highest compliments for screen or stage). They could've used "689," which was allocated as a future overlay of 407 (but may already be in use). For some reason, I think that would've been funnier, provided 689 isn't actually in use yet. (Obviously, I'm not from Orlando.)

Points Against

1. I sense that there's supposed to be a running joke that Jenna loves to break into song, and none of her coworkers want to listen, but she's neither bad enough nor good enough for it to work for me.

2. Fewer one-liners = fewer laughs.

3. Rachel Dratch's recurring character was painful to watch this week.

4. I don't like not knowing a characters' names for so long. I don't think we knew the name of Anna (the makeup-artist mother of the kidnapped baby) until the very end. People use names a lot, so writing them in isn't that hard. Bobby's didn't bother me, except when I was writing this.

Two Words

Welcome back.

Posted by on January 5, 2007 6:51 PM
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